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The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9

I recently listened to a podcast sermon by Timothy Keller on the Lord’s prayer, specifically the first two words, “Our Father”.  He was preaching about the incredible blessings we have because God is our Father. He talked about the inheritance we have because God is our Father. Normally the father must die before one receives the inheritance, but with God, we receive the inheritance when we die. And that inheritance is mind blowing. It is really difficult to understand how great it is.  Keller used two examples to try and explain it, as it relates to our earthly life and how it should shape and inform our view of heaven and our inheritance.

In one of his illustrations he asked his listeners to imagine that they had a trillion dollars in a Swiss bank account. Then he said to imagine that you are pick pocketed and lose 5 dollars. What would your response be? Would you fret and moan and feel despondent because you lost 5 dollars?  No. You probably wouldn’t give it a second thought because of your huge Swiss account.

Keller reads the Romans 8 verses and says that’s what we should think about anytime something bad happens to us. Even when tragedy strikes in some way.  We shouldn’t be too concerned about it, because of our eternal inheritance. It is not even worthy to be compared to the glorious bliss and eternal happiness and joy that awaits all Believers when they get to heaven.

In another example he mentioned the word molecule. I do not exactly remember what he said about “molecule” .  But it got me to thinking about how small a molecule is. Perhaps what Keller was getting at is that no matter how big our problems seem to be, in reality they are as small as a molecule compared to the glorious riches and peace and hilarious joy we will experience in heaven when we are in the direct presence of God.

I thought of another example on my own. While it’s not as good as Keller’s, it helped me sharpen my perspective on this matter. I thought of the sun. The sun is huge. The sun is incredibly hot. Sometimes the painful experiences we have to endure seem as big and as hot as the sun. We wonder how we can ever survive the terrible situation we are going through. We cry out to God, “Why?” We scream, ” Help me! ”  We trust he is with us, walking beside us in some cases, carrying us in others, as we go through burning turmoil.

Perhaps God is also asking us to have some perspective. Our sun is a star, one of trillions in the universe. Our sun seems huge to us, but it  is only average size compared to the multitude of stars that fill the sky. Likewise, the horrific situations that we may be enduring, are nothing that overwhelm our omnipotent Lord. They are a shock to us, but didn’t catch God by surprise. And he assures us with his Word, that they are not worthy to be compared with what we will experience in our eternal glory that awaits.

So far we have been contemplating how to think correctly about all the negative life experiences we go through, but I would like to look at the other side of the coin. I believe C.S. Lewis somewhere wrote to his readers that they should imagine a happy time. A supremely joyous experience that they could enjoy in their lifetime. He doesn’t say think about a time when you were really happy, but imagine the happiest event that you can possibly dream of.  Lewis says that that imagination, that that blissful dream, cannot compare to the reality of the joy, peace and wholeness that we will have We we receive our glorious inheritance in Christ Jesus.

Meditating on these scriptures has helped me look at my own life experiences and expectations. It helps me to soberly consider the highs and lows that I either rejoice in or endure, and realize that no matter what, none of it can come close to comparing to the happiness I will enjoy when I am in the eternal presence of my good, good Father.

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Who doesn’t want to be be peacefully happy? All the time. In every type of circumstance and situation. I think we all know at least one person who is always serene and smiling, no matter what they are going through. And we want to know, “What’s their secret?”

The Apostle Paul was that kind of guy. Always full of joy. Always rejoicing. He wrote the book of Philippians. In this book he tells his readers to rejoice always. He tells them this because he knows it’s possible. He is living proof. He writes this letter that is so full of joy and hope, from a prison, while in chains (1:14), and he is rejoicing. (1:18)

So Paul, what is your secret? What is the secret to living a life of peaceful happiness.

Paul writes in chapter four, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.”

The definition of “content” is “the state of peaceful happiness”. And there is a secret to attaining that state of mind – that state of being. It is not something that just happens to a person one day. It is something we need to learn. Something Paul needed to learn.

Paul wasn’t always peacefully happy. At one time in his life he was a religious zealot, full of anger and condemnation at all those around him who were not living up to the high standards of the Torah, the law. It was bad enough all those Jews who were lax in their obedience to God’s Holy Word, but then come the Followers of the Way, who were proclaiming the Messiah had come, and his name is Jesus.

Paul set out to destroy them and their belief in this false Messiah. Paul writes to the Philippian Christians that he had learned to be content; he had learned to be peacefully happy, and that education began on the road to Damascus, where he had a life changing encounter with Jesus, the Messiah.

The first key to unlocking the secret of a life of peaceful happiness is having a life changing encounter with Jesus. It’s usually not as dramatic as a bright, shining light and an audible voice from heaven, as Paul experienced, but it is a deep and meaningful revelation of the truth that God loves you and wants you to be happy. It’s an understanding that Jesus, the Son of God, humbled himself by coming to earth as a human baby, served humanity, died on a cross to forgive our sins, and rose to life so that we could live in right relationship with God and with our fellow human beings.

The second key to living in a state of peaceful happiness is found in Philippians chapter 2. Paul says that we should be like Jesus in his humility, in his servant attitude. He says we should do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but, in humility, should value others above ourselves. (2:3-8)

That can be mighty difficult in the competitive world that we live in. We are taught from a young age to win, to be the best, to get ahead. Our pride tells us to look down on others, climb over others, bury others. Indulging in all that” getting ahead” stuff usually leads to sad, angry lives, rather than happy, peaceful lives. Jesus says that we should “love one another as we love ourselves.” That includes valuing others above ourselves. Doing that is freeing, invigorating and enlightening.

The third key that opens the door to a lifestyle of peaceful happiness is thinking. Think, think, think. Paul admonishes the Philippians, and all believers, in chapter four to Think about whatever is true. Think about whatever is noble. Think about whatever is right. Think about whatever is pure. Think about what is lovely. Think about whatever is admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. When we think about these things, the God of peace and the peace of God will be with us (4:7-9)

This is an important key. If we primarily think good, happy, peaceful thoughts, we will live good, happy peaceful lives.

This is also a difficult key, because in our world we are conciously and unconciously thinking negative thoughts, or unproductive thoughts. We think alot about family, our job, our financial situation. Sometimes we think about politics and the news. With social media we think more and more about what other people think about us. We are bombarded by advertisements that try to get us to think that we will really be happy if we buy what they are selling.

Paul tells us that thinking good thoughts is the secret to peaceful happiness. That can be hard work, and not necessarily fun or exciting. It’s a learning process. Paul says twice that he had to learn it.

If someone wants to be a doctor, they have to spend a lot of time learning medicine. If someone wants to be a lawyer, they need years of studying law. To be a great chef, you go to a culinary academy and recieve instruction in cooking and baking. It takes a lot of time to be good at anything. Same with living a life of peaceful happiness. We need time, alone time in silence, normally, to think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.

So, as I read Paul and his letter to the Philippians, I see three main keys to enjoying a lasting state of peaceful happiness:

  1. Encountering Jesus and establishing an intimate relationship with him and our heavenly Father.
  2. Having a humble attitude like Christ had when he came to earth and lived and died among us. In humility, valuing others above ourselves. As C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less.” Think about God and others more.
  3. Take time to think about the good things of God, His Word, His creation and His love. Those things that are right, true, pure, noble and excellent.

When we consider the situations, circumstances, and difficulties of our lives, we can ask ourselves, “Am I truly peacefully happy, deep down inside?” If the answer is no, then perhaps we should look at the three keys above and make some changes in our lives, knowing that God will help us because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

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