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God loves us and wants us to be happy. This verse from Romans emphasizes that truth. Notice it does not say, “May the God of misery fill you with all despair and anguish as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hopelessness by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

No, it is all about being filled with all joy and peace and overflowing with hope. If there are three words in our vocabulary that are the essence of happiness, they must be joy, peace and hope. And Paul’s prayer is that his readers would not just possess a little bit of joy here, and a taste of peace there with a smidge of hope thrown in. No. He wants his readers to be filled with all joy and peace and overflow with hope.

How is that accomplished? Paul says it comes from trusting in God. Trusting in God like a little baby trusts in its parents. Trusting in God so deeply that, like a baby, you don’t even realize how much you are trusting him. Sometimes when I am praying, I will all of a sudden say “Goo, Goo – Ga Ga”, just to remind myself of how much I truly depend on him for every little thing I have, like bread, breath and water. It also reminds me of my insignificant knowledge in comparison to the infinite knowledge of our omniscient Father. There are so many things that I don’t understand about life and God, that I would like to understand, but I can’t. Then I get this image of Einstein trying to explain the theory of relativity to a toddler. There is no way the toddler can understand. Like me. There’s no way I can understand a lot of the things that I would like God to explain to me. So I say, “Goo, goo – ga ga”, and go on happily trusting God.

So let’s trust in Lord; taste and see that God is good, all the time, and celebrate the fact that our Father in heaven loves us and wants us to be happy.

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians he writes in chapter four, “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, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (12,13)

There is a progression here that could be helpful to us in our world today. That progression is Knowing, Learning and Doing.

Paul writes that he Knows what it is to be in need, and he Knows what it is to have plenty. There is the Knowing. He tells his readers of his basic experience in life. He has experienced want and abundance. He Knows what it’s like.

What does he do with those basic experiences of his life? With his knowing? Well, he Learns from them. He has Learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want. Now that is quite a useful secret to Learn – contentedness!

As a result of learning to be content, Paul is able to write that he can Do all this through him, Jesus Christ, who gives him strength. What is “all this“?

All this” is life. Paul is telling the Philippians, and ultimately all of Christendom, that he can Do life! He can Do riches and poverty. He can Do sickness and health. He can Do being praised and being persecuted. He can Do it all because he knows the Creator of life. Jesus Christ, who created Paul, walked with Paul and loved Paul, gave him the strength to be content Doing life in all its ups and downs, good times and bad times, successes and failures, beauty and ugliness.

The word “content” is an adjective used to describe a state of peaceful happiness. It means to be satisfied with a certain level of achievement, good fortune, etc., and not wishing for more.

I think with everything that is going on in the world, we could all do with a heaping helping of contentment. There are a lot of people who have known a lifestyle of excess, and now they know what it is like to not be able to pay the rent. There are a lot of people who have known wonderful health, and are now suffering the painful effects of the virus. There are a lot of people who had close relationships with family and friends, and now they are separated from those loved ones either because of quarantine or death. There are a lot of people who know what it is like to be respected in their community, but they also know what it means to experience racism.

What if we all learned what Paul learned? The Secret to Being Content in any and every situation. What if, come hell or high water, we were able to live in a state of peaceful happiness? What a wonderful world that would be!

God wants us to have such a world. Jesus gave us a prayer to pray everyday. In that prayer, we are to ask our heavenly Father to make this life on earth like the happy kingdom in heaven where everyone does God’s will. Or, in other words, to do life, with a feeling of satisfaction that everything will work out in the end because we walk with Jesus, the creator of the universe, and the creator of us. He made us and loves us and wants us to be happy, by trusting him in every situation. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future! Paul learned that secret. Hopefully we can too.

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It seems that coronavirus has turned everything upside down. We are supposed to go to work, and now we have to stay home. For some, we are supposed to have a job to go to, and now we don’t. We are supposed to go to church today and celebrate the resurrection, but now we are at home watching a live stream of a pastor preaching to empty pews. We are supposed to have a big family dinner with friends and loved ones; now it is us four and no more. Indeed, everything seems upside down.

But take a moment to think about what happened Easter morning. Consider the empty tomb and how that has made all the difference. It turned everything upside right. Because of Christ’s resurrection, those living in darkness have seen a great light. Those who were slaves to fear are now children of God. Those who were dead in their trespasses and sins have been raised to life!

The effect of covid 19 pales in comparison to the effect of the resurrected Messiah. Covid 19 constrains us to our houses. Easter sets us free to live lives of joy and happiness no matter where we are. Covid 19 causes illness, anxiety and depression. Easter brings contentment, soul healing and a peace that passes all understanding. Covid 19 keeps us from family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Easter connects us to all of humanity through the power and love of the Holy Spirit. Covid 19 turns our world upside down. Easter turns our world upside right.

My wife and I see this everyday. We are part of Foundation For His Ministry’s outreach to needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico. We live in a community with 50 children and about a dozen staff members. Our lives are relatively the same now as before the coronavirus struck. We are one big family – a family in God. An Easter family, you could say. Things that were important and vital to us before the virus infected Mexico are still important to us now. Things like making disciples and making children smile. Sharing the love of God and sharing cookies. Meeting felt needs and meeting to watch movies. We still hug one another, encourage and pray for each other, and share meals together. Sure, we don’t go out into the community as often as we used to, and we are restricted from visiting friends and family members who live outside our Casa Hogar ( home for children). And we wash our hands a lot more! But overall, we are living the same Easter upside right lives that we enjoyed before. Lives free from the bondage of sin and guilt. Lives lived glorifying God and enjoying Him, still believing that He loves us and wants us to be happy.

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In Matthew chapter 8, Jesus makes two remarks about people’s faith. One man, he says, has great faith. Later in the chapter he tells his disciples that they have little faith. Each account, by itself is remarkable, and by comparing them we can possibly get some incredible insights about faith.

In the first story (5-13), a Roman centurion comes to Jesus and asks him to heal his servant. Jesus asks the centurion if he wants him to come to his house. The Roman leader tells Jesus “No. Just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”

Jesus was amazed and told his followers that he had not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.

Towards the end of chapter 8 (23-27), we find Jesus fast asleep in a boat with his disciples. Matthew tells us that a furious storm came up on the lake and that the waves swept over the boat. The disciples were afraid and woke Jesus up, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

Jesus said to them, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” And then Jesus rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

In comparing these two stories, naturally the question comes up, why did the centurion have such great faith, and the disciples such little faith? It seems to me that it should be the other way around. The disciples should be the ones with great faith. They traveled with Jesus and everywhere he went he healed people and cast out demons and taught the multitudes about the Kingdom of heaven. The disciples were somewhat intimate with Jesus and not only learned from him about faith, but also saw faith in action.

The Roman centurion on the other hand was not even a Jew. He was a gentile. Probably hated by most Jews because of the Roman occupation. What little knowledge he had of Jesus probably came second hand from a few stories and rumors told him about this miracle worker. Not exactly the makings of great faith.

So why the great faith of the centurion and little faith of the disciples? Who knows? God knows, but he isn’t telling. Or is he? Maybe there are a few clues in these stories to enlighten us about their faith and perhaps ours as well. Here is my theory.

Matthew indicates that the Roman centurion knew a little something about authority. A Roman centurion was in charge of 100 soldiers. He had authority over 100 soldiers. He was also a man under authority. When his superiors said “Jump!”, he asked “How high?”. By the same token, when he gave orders to the men under him, they obeyed him or died trying. The whole Roman army was under the authority of Emperor Caesar. He had a goal, and a plan for reaching that goal, and every soldier in his army had a role to play in achieving that goal.

In the same way, I believe, that the centurion had an idea about the way Jesus was able to heal people. He either had super-natural authority to heal people, or was under the authority of someone who had the power to heal people. And what was the goal of healing people? To relieve human suffering. People were miserable when they were sick, and happy when they were healed. Hence, the ultimate goal of Jesus was to make people happy. The centurion must have believed that either Jesus was God, or was working under the authority of a God who loved people and wanted them to be happy. If this was the case, then there was no need for Jesus to go to his house or lay hands on his servant. All he had to do was just say the word, and his servant would be healed, and many would be made happy. The servant, the servant’s family, if he had one, his friends, and the centurion.

The disciples,on the other hand, the “little faithers”, were freaking out in the boat, in the middle of the lake as waves surged over the side. Was Jesus panicking? Not so much. He was sleeping. The disciples woke him up screaming, “Lord save us! We’re going to drown.”

Ultimately they didn’t believe that God, or Jesus, had ultimate authority over everything. They didn’t really believe that God loved them and wanted them to be happy. The believed in the Evil Powers that lurked in the depths of the sea, that caused big storms which chewed up little fishing boats and spit them out, just for the fun of it. If they would have believed that God loved them and wanted them to be happy, they would have had a terrific time enjoying the wind and the waves and the wild ride, much like thrill seekers do on an exciting water ride at an amusement park. But, alas, they were full of fear, and their little faith was abundantly clear.

So what about us when the storms of life hit our little boats with fury. Do we grab on for dear life and scream for Jesus to help us, or do we grab on for dear life and enjoy the ride, knowing that the God of the furious storm is right along side us, laughing all the way?

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