To be like Christ, to be Christ like. That is the goal of most Christ followers, if you ask people who are serious about their faith where they want to go in their spiritual journey they will tell you they want to become more and more like Jesus. But what does that mean? One of my favourite descriptions of Jesus comes from his teen years, believe it or not, and is found in Luke 2:52 Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and all the people.
In other words Jesus grew up and people liked him. Have you ever stopped and thought about the people in your life that you like? You know, people who are likable people that other people like to be around. People who attract people. Jesus was like that, he attracted crowds wherever he went even little kids liked him.
And I think, in my humble opinion that people like to be around people who are happy and upbeat with a positive outlook on life. For the most part. And if you read through the gospels Jesus seemed to be that type of person, he touched people, he encouraged people and he made people laugh. Who wouldn’t want to be around him? So if you want to be like Christ are you the type of person that other people want to be around?
For those who are guests this week I am part way through a seven week series that is based on Andy Andrews’ book “The Traveler’s Gift.” For those of you who aren’t familiar with the author or the book, or who haven’t been here for a while here is a quick update. Andy Andrews lived a normal middle class life until he was 19, that year his mother died of cancer and his father was killed in a car accident. And overnight he became homeless with an attitude. Andrews himself said “I took a bad situation and made it worse.” Within a couple of years he was doing odds jobs to survive and living under a pier. It was at that point in his life that a complete stranger challenged him about his attitudes and the direction his life was taking. This man whom he only knew as Jones encouraged him to read a series of biographies on famous people, Winston Churchill, George Washington Carver, Joan of Arc and others and seek what it was that successful people shared.
From living under a pier Andrews went on to become a comedian, author and motivational speaker. I first heard him at a leadership conference in 2008 and went out and bought a copy of his book. Since then I have bought close to a hundred copies, some I have given away, others I have loaned out but the majority I simply acted as a broker buying in quantities for other folks. And on my book shelf I have an signed copy, right next to my signed copy of Yogi Berra’s book, “I reallydidn’t say everything I said.”
The Traveler’s Gift is a novel about a man by the name of David Ponder. Ponder has arrived at a problematic spot in life, he has lost his upper management position and has a sick daughter, he is struggling with the hand life has dealt him when he is involved in a car accident and through means never explained to us he travels through time to meet with seven individuals who each offer him a gift, not a tangible gift like a puppy but a gift nevertheless.
Ponder meets Harry Truman at the very end of the Second World War and the President tells him “The buck stops here.” And he encourages Ponder to accept responsibility for the choices he has made in his life. With that chapter I spoke about Adam and Even and their failure to accept responsibility for the choices they had made and I challenged each of us to realize that we are where we are in life because of choices we have made a various junctions in our lives. How we would study, where we would work, who we would marry, how we would spend out money. That if we are going to move on in life and take control over our future we first have to acknowledge that we had control over our past and stop blaming our parents, society and circumstances. That is “The Responsible Decision.”
As our hero continues on in his story he meets King Solomon who tells Ponder that he must choose wisdom. And that week I preached on King Solomon and how when God offered him his hearts desire he choice wisdom. And I challenged you to seek wisdom, though the books you read, the people you choice to associate with, through prayer and the reading of God’s word, the Bible. That is the guided decision.
Then Ponder finds himself at the Battle of Gettysburg where he witnesses the heroic charge of the 20th Maine at Little Round Top. Under the command of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, a 34 year old school teacher from Bangor Maine against all odds the 20th Maine defeat the superior forces of the 15th and 47th Alabama Regiments. A charge that altered the course of the Battle of Gettysburg and that historians tell us was the pivotal point in the US Civil War. And Chamberlain’s advice to Ponder? Choose action.
My message that week focused on the story of Peter in the storm on the Sea Galilee, and how when he was confronted with Jesus walking on the water said “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” And how he alone among the disciples walked on the water with Jesus. The point of the message, choose action, take a chance take a risk and change your world. This is the Active Decision.
Ponder is transported from Gettysburg to the deck of the Santa Maria, where he meets Christopher Columbus. For 19 years Columbus had suffered disappointment after disappointment as he sought a sponsor to pay for the trip that would prove his theory that that world was not flat but was indeed a sphere. And finally he found those sponsors in the form of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. Columbus admonishes Ponder to not give up on his dreams, to hold firm even in the face of disappointment. Last week I took you to Joshua and Caleb and the disappointment they felt when the majority of the Israelites refused to enter the Promised Land after escaping from Egypt. And I spoke about working through your disappointments and remaining committed to your dreams and visions. It was The Certain Decision.
So where to next? Upon disappearing from the Santa Maria David Ponder finds himself in a small attic in Amsterdam in October of 1943. The Nazis are in control of the Netherlands and Jewish businessman Otto Frank, his family and four friends having been hiding from the Gestapo for over a year and half, food and clothing being provided by Frank’s secretary and husband.
It is in this situation that Ponder meets 14 year old Anne Frank, who challenges him to choose happiness. Happiness! A strange direction from a 14 year old hiding from certain death. And yet there it is. In her diary, published after the war and after she died in a concentration camp a month before it was liberated by the Allies she writes “I have often been downcast, but never in despair; I regard our hiding as a dangerous adventure, romantic and interesting at the same time. In my diary I treat all the privations as amusing. I have made up my mind now to lead a different life from other girls and, later on, different from ordinary housewives. My start has been so very full of interest, and that is the sole reason why I have to laugh at the humorous side of the most dangerous moments.”
And so today we look at the “Joyful Decision” in other word “Choose to be Happy” and I am sure there are people who are sitting here today who are thinking, “How can I choose to be happy? It is related to my circumstances.” In the novel Anne tells the traveler, “Our lives are fashioned by choice. First we make choices. Then our choices make us.” It was Abraham Lincoln who said “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
But what does it mean to be happy? British Author Joseph Addison said “Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.” Which was repeated by Tom Boddett when he said “They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world. Someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.”
Ingrid Berman said “Happiness is good health and a bad memory.”
Daniel Boone said “All you need for happiness is a good gun, a good horse, and a good wife.” And Alan Alda said “It isn’t necessary to be rich and famous to be happy. It’s only necessary to be rich.”
But however you define happiness it is a decision you make. Leo Buscaglia states “Happiness and love are just a choice away.”
So why choose to be happy? It will make you more successful. Don’t discount this. Do you believe that opportunities and encouragement come into your life through people? Andrews writes “People want to be around happy people—not whiners, moaners and groaners. Happy people get more opportunities because opportunities come from people, and people are attracted by happy people.”
If you are happy, people will like you more and want to be in your company and that will provide you with more opportunities to be successful. Doubtful? If you were an employer and had to hire someone and you had two candidates who were equal in every way accept one was grumpy and negative and hard to get along with and the other one was happy and positive and easy to get along with, which one would you hire.
If you were a call centre service rep who would you go out of your way to please the customer on the other end of the phone who is being a jerk or the happy positive polite person?
And it is good for you. Honest it is, and if you don’t believe me then listen to what Solomon has to say in Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.
This has actually been substantiated through scientific research. Hey I mean Solomon knew it 3000 years ago, but we had to prove it before we would believe it was right. They have proven that laughter changes chemicals in our bodies and releases endorphins promoting a feeling of well being. It doesn’t even have to be genuine or spontaneous laughter, it can be forced of contrived laughter and it will still work. We’ve known the opposite for years, after all what does worry produce? Anxiety, sleeplessness, and large gapping holes in your stomach
So the question is how do you choose to be happy?
By Choosing to Not Complain. In every situation that comes your way there will be something to complain about, and whether you do or not will be your choice. Because complaining is an activity, just like watching TV is an activity or going for a walk is an activity.
So you ask yourself, what am I going to do tonite? And you decide that you are going to watch TV, so you settle down in your favourite chair and turn on the TV and decide what you are going to watch. And in the same way you can say, What am I going to do? And then you decide you are going to complain about things. Here is the great secret if complaining is an activity than like any other activity it is a choice, a choice you make or don’t make.
If you want people to enjoy being around you and present you with encouragement and opportunities than here is the secret, you ready, get a pen and write it down because it is important: Quit your whining. Francis Jeffrey said “The tendency to whining and complaining may be taken as the surest sign symptom of little souls and inferior intellects.”
Here is an excerpt from Anne Franks’ diary “Mrs. Van Daan’s grizzling is absolutely unbearable; now she can’t any longer drive us crazy over the invasion, she nags us the whole day long about the bad weather. It really would be nice to dump her in a bucket of cold water and put her up in the loft.”
Too many of us echo the words of Joe Walsh in his song “Life’s been good to Me” when he writes. “I can’t complain, but sometimes I do.”
You know as well as I do that the more you complain about something the worse it seems to get. It’s like the tough piece of meat that the more you chew it the bigger it gets until it’s too big to swallow and too big to spit out and you don’t know what to do with it.
If you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it. It is time we all learned the lesson that Paul speaks about in Philippians 4:11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. And remember: don’t complain that you aren’t getting what you want just be thankful you’re not getting what you deserve.
By Choosing to be Grateful This is the opposite of the first point. And like complaining gratefulness is an activity. It is something you choose to do, you look around you at what you have in your life and you can either choose to be grateful or not to be grateful, it’s as simple as that. Going back to the words of Paul again the Bible tells us in Ephesians 5:20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As a matter of fact almost every complaint can be turned into an opportunity to give thanks. Car won’t start? You should be thankful that you have a car that starts most of the time. Service slow in the restaurant? How about being thankful that you can afford to go to a restaurant in the first place. I remember when I was in college Dad was fishing at the time and was having his taxes done at the end of the year, this would be thirty years ago. And he was excited because he had to pay a considerable amount in tax and he told me “Do you know how much I had to make to have to pay that much in tax?”
We live in a blessed country, and the things we complain about the most are some of our greatest blessings, our health care, our roads, our politicians and the taxes we pay. Benjamin Franklin “Constant complaint is the poorest sort of pay for all the comforts we enjoy.” And if you don’t believe me than plan on travelling with me to West Africa in January or with Robin Churchill the next time he goes to Haiti.
And don’t just have a grateful heart, have a grateful mouth as well. Take time to thank people for the things they do in your life and not just the “big” things. Don’t forget to thank the person at Tims who pours your coffee, or the person at Sobey’s who bags your groceries. When was the last time you thanked your garbage man? Do you realize what a mess we’d live in if it wasn’t for our garbage collection?
And show your gratitude to your family, your spouse and your kids. Thank them for what they do.
The last point is by far the simplest to implement and yet I think it’s the one that will benefit us the most, both internally and externally.
We become happy By Choosing to Smile. You understand the power of a smile, right? A smile actually has the power to make you feel better. Medical research has shown that smiling causes the brain to release endorphins, which is the chemical in our bodies that gives us a feeling of wellness and fights pain. As well research tells us that smiling increase your blood flow, reduces your blood pressure and lowers stress. And it doesn’t even have to be a real smile, you can trick your body simply by smiling.
You say, “what if I don’t feel like smiling?” Smile anyway; my philosophy when it comes to smiling is “Fake it til you make it.” If I’m not happy I still try to smile when I’m around people. And you realize the power of your smile? Smiles are contagious so when you smile others smile and that release endorphins in them, making them feel better. You literally have the power to change someone’s day and that may change their life.
That’s part of why I use humour when I preach, I want people to feel better when they leave church than when they arrived and if I can get you to laugh and smile you will.
I think Jesus smiled a lot, why? Because people wanted to be around him, because little kids wanted to be around him and I don’t think that would be the case if he had of been a scowler.
Andy Andrews says “Your smile is your calling card. It is the most potent weapon you have. With your smile, you can forge bonds, break ice, and calm storms. Use your smile constantly. The power of who you are is revealed when you smile.”
So where are you at today? Are you ready to choose to be happy? Let’s read this last scripture together, making it our closing prayer.
Psalm 9:1-2 I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.