BOOK SUMMARY OF ‘THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS’
BOOK SUMMARY OF ‘THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS’, The Pursuit of Happiness; Without question, it is an amazing document amazing for several reasons in that it says something I have never heard of in any other foundational document for any other country on the planet. You know the words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The pursuit of Happiness
- That phrase really arrests my attention. Actually written in the Declaration of Independence is the statement that we as Americans have the right to pursue happiness.
- It’s as though the founding fathers laid down the gauntlet way back in 1776: the pursuit of happiness is part of being an American.
- A lot of time has passed since then. Americans live better than any other people on the planet.
- So why do we feel so bad when we have it so good?
- Why do more Americans go to psychologists and psychiatrists than those in other nations?
- Why is the teenage suicide rate higher in the United States than anywhere else on the planet?
BOOK SUMMARY OF ‘THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS’
DID YOU KNOW ABOUT HAPPINESS?
- What is the problem? An Endless Cycle
- By and large, we can boil it down to this: we are seeking to be happy, but we are going about it in the wrong way.
- For many of us, our happiness is entirely contingent on good things happening.
- When things are going well, we are happy,
- When the career is going well, we are happy.
- Or When it is not going well, we are not happy,
- When we get a new toy (I am not just talking about kids here), we are happy.
- When something goes wrong, when a newer version comes out,
- or when your neighbor gets one that is a little bit nicer than ours, suddenly we are unhappy.
- This is a cycle of life of sorts because no matter how much we accumulate or how much we accomplish,
- we are always going to come up a little bit short.
BOOK SUMMARY OF ‘THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS’
No matter how handsome or beautiful you are,
- you will never be as handsome or as beautiful as you want to be.
- If you’ve ever spent time around an incredibly beautiful or strikingly handsome person,
- you have probably heard them complain about how flawed they are.
- Or maybe you’ve thought, If I just had the perfect wardrobe,
- then I would look wonderful and I know I would be happy.
- But the clothes never will be fashionable enough.
Just when you have completely revamped your wardrobe,
- and you are totally on the cutting edge of style,
- an entirely new trend will come along.
- A noted fashion guru will declare that everything you have in your wardrobe is hopelessly lame and out-of-date.
- It is no different when it comes to what we drive.
- Cars never will be fast enough.
- I am amazed at how fast people want their cars to be.
- “This thing only does 200 miles per hour,” someone will say.
- Where exactly are they planning on driving the thing?
- But they want it faster.
Why? Just so they can say it is faster than yours,
- Or you might go down to the electronics store and get that new stereo system you’ve been wanting.
- The sales associate tells you, “You’ll want to get this system, and it will cost this much. But if you put in some sub-woofers,
- this baby is going to rock! It is going to be great!”
- As you start to get your checkbook out, he continues. “Now, you need to have a video system to go with it.
- You can get this big TV, or you can get a rear-projection unit.
- We have the latest model out. It is 40 feet high. You mount it on the side of your house.”
So you basically go into bankruptcy buying the 40-foot high rear-projection unit and the killer stereo system.
You have it all set up. You are happy.
- Then your neighbor tells you, “I just got HDTV!”
“Oh? What is that?” you ask.“Haven’t you heard about high-definition television?
- This rear-projection stuff is out.” It goes on and on.
- Houses never will be large enough or elaborate enough.
- Relationships never will be romantic enough or fulfilling enough.
Life is never full enough.
- This is the way life goes.
- Our happiness ebbs and flows with the events that unfold in our lives.
- This is why Solomon said, “The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing” (Ecclesiastes 1:8 NIV).
- No matter what you see, you want to see more.
- No matter what you hear, you want to hear more. It is never enough.
A Different Approach
BOOK SUMMARY OF ‘THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS’
- The answer is to avoid chasing after the kind of happiness that I have just described because you are always going to come up empty.
- The problem with that kind of happiness is that it overlooks one very important factor:
- God. C. S. Lewis said, “God designed the human machine to run on Himself.
- He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn or the food our spirits were designed to feed upon.
- There is no other, God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.
There is no such thing.”
- God offers something better than happiness, at least the world’s version of happiness.
- But it is the kind of happiness that can only be experienced by the child of God.
- It is called joy.
- Joy is the theme of Philippians, probably the most buoyant, joyful, and happy letter that the apostle Paul ever wrote.
- It is not that happiness and joy are absent in his other writings.
- But these themes simply jump out more in this epistle.
- At least nineteen times in Philippians’ four chapters,
Paul mentions joy, rejoicing, or gladness.
- Ironically, Paul is writing about joy when he is in a place where one normally would not be very happy: in prison.
- How could Paul be so positive, so jubilant, and so joyful in such adverse circumstances?
- We find an important element running through this epistle that tells us how we can experience this joy.
- It is the word “mind.” Paul uses “mind” ten times and “think” five times in Philippians.
- Add to these the word “remember,” and we find that Paul makes a total of sixteen references to the mind.
- So we see that the secret of Christian joy is found in the way a believer thinks.
This doesn’t mean you can wave a magic wand over your life and make your problems go away.
- You will have problems.
- You will have conflicts.
- And also You will have difficulties.
- You will have times when your health gives out.
So what are you going to do?
- If you want to be joyful, you will need to learn to look at things differently.
- This is not to suggest that Paul is advocating,
- mind over matter, positive thinking, or possibility thinking.
Paul is teaching something more theologically sound than that.
- It is something very realistic and applicable.
- It is in the way we look at things.
- We are going to get into that more as we go deeper into the book.
- Essentially Paul is saying to us that if you want to live happily and joyfully and in harmony with other people,
- you need to apply the principles in this epistle.
The Place to Start
BOOK SUMMARY OF ‘THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS’
Paul begins by reminding us of the fact that we must come on God’s terms.
- A lot of people want the benefits of the Christian life without giving anything on their part.
- They want to experience the blessings, but they don’t want to meet the criteria. But it doesn’t work that way.
- The first few verses of Philippians are the door that we must walk through.
- And if we don’t walk through this open doorway, then we are not going to experience the joy that is found inside.
- There are some clear conditions to experience this joy.
- Let’s start with verse 1: “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippe,
- with the bishops and deacons.”
- It would be very easy to breeze casually over this verse and miss a foundational truth, not only for understanding and appreciating this book but the rest of the New Testament as well.
This is the opening statement about the life of joy: you must be one of the saints.
- If you want to be joyful, then you must be a saint.
- You don’t have to live in Philippe.
- You can be a saint in Los Angeles, a saint in Dallas, a saint in New York City, a saint in Jerusalem, a saint in Melbourne, or a saint in one of the most obscure places on earth.
- You might think, Well, that rules me out. I’m no saint.
- But let’s understand what the word means.
- In our modern usage, “saint” is a word we reserve only for the holiest people.
We say things like, “Mother Teresa was a saint,” or, “My sainted mother,
- God bless her ” We think of the people who do a lot of good deeds as being saints.
- They may be. Or they may not be.
- We have to consider what the word really means in biblical terms.
In the Bible, “saint” simply speaks of a true believer.
- It is a word that can be used interchangeably with “Christian.”
- A literal definition of “saint” means “one who is set apart and consecrated for God’s service.
- If you have dedicated your life to following Jesus Christ, then you are a saint.
- I am a saint too. You don’t have to call me Saint Gregory, but I am one.
- We don’t think of saints that way, however.
- We think saints are required to have done a certain number of miracles and go through a special process and be canonized.
- But that is not what the Bible teaches.
- The Bible teaches that if you are a true believer in Jesus Christ, you are a saint in the eyes of God.
THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
- Yet there are people today who want the blessings of the Christian life without giving anything in exchange for it.
- They want to be happy and, if possible, joyful, but they want it their way, on their own terms.
- They want to have the goodies, but they don’t want any other part of it.
- Paul was saying that you can’t live that way.
- If you want to experience the promises of joy, then you must first be a saint, a true believer.
God promises you a deep-seated joy that can be with you no matter what you are going through.
But that joy can only be found if you are a saint. So how do you become a saint?
- First of all, you must admit that you are a sinner.
- You must come to God, be sorry for your sin,
- and be willing to turn from it and put your complete faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord.
- Then He will pardon you and forgive you of every sin you have ever committed.
- He will make you a saint, a true believer.
Then you can start experiencing the promises of joy that Paul talks about.
- Paul didn’t say, “When things are going well, I am happy.
- When they are not going well,
- I am not happy.” Rather, he said, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Phil. 4:11).
- Paul’s contentedness came not from what he had, but from whom he knew.
- That is where your contentedness will come from too.
- We don’t venture far into Paul’s epistle before arriving at this wonderful promise:
- “Being confident of this very thing,
- that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).
- God always finishes what He begins.
- He never leaves something half-done as we do.
- With human beings, you find unfinished books, unfinished songs, and unfinished buildings.
Why? Sometimes it is a lack of resources.
- Sometimes it is even a lack of desire. Several reasons, or possibly excuses, could be cited.
- I am the kind of person who starts projects around the house and often doesn’t finish them.
- I get bored with them, especially if they are more difficult than I thought they would be.
- I wish I was Mr. Fix-It.
- I wish I was the kind of guy who could go down to the hardware store, buy the right tools, come back, and make anything work.
- But I am the antithesis of Mr. Fix-It.
- I want to be Mr. Fix-It in my heart, but I am not.
As a result, I will get into a project that overwhelms me, and I will abandon it.
- God is not that way. God does not start something and then loses interest.
- God doesn’t say, “I am going to change Greg Laurie.
- I am going to mold him,” and then come back later and say, “Oh, he is so boring! I’m moving on to something else.”
- God will bring to completion that which He has begun in my life and yours. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that He is the author and the finisher of our faith.
- It was God who started the work, and it is God who will finish it.
- Sometimes you may feel as though you are not going to make it.
If you are resisting and not meeting the criteria of experiencing God’s joy, that is one thing.
- But if you are a Christian and are ready and willing to move forward spiritually, then you will. You will cross that finish line.
- In Philippians 2, Paul tells us, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,
- for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (vs. 12– 13 NIV).
- Here we see a balance. God is the one who is working for you.
- God is the one who will bring it to completion.
- So why does Paul tell us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling?
Because there is God’s part and our part.
- “Work out” could be better translated, “carry it to the goal and fully complete your own salvation with self-distrust.”
- In other words, we recognize that we don’t have the ability to do this on our own.
- Yet at the same time, we want to apply these principles in our lives as we appropriate the power of God that He has made available to us.
- God wants to complete this work, but He is looking for our cooperation.
- At the same time, we can become overly introspective, spiritual hypochondriacs.
Hypochondriacs always think they are ill.
- They are always going in and getting checkups, but sometimes they need to just kick back and not worry about every ache and pain.
- Some represent a problem and need to be checked, but many of those things just go away.
- Hypochondriacs can go overboard that way.
Just Be Patient
- As Christians, we can overdo it and always be taking our spiritual temperature: How am I doing spiritually today?
- Five minutes later: How am I doing spiritually right now?
- We need to recognize that it takes time to be conformed to the image of Jesus.
- It is like going on a new diet.
- At first, you wonder if you are losing any weight, so you end up weighing yourself every hour, noting every half-pound gain or loss.
- What you need to do is stick to your diet and then someone will come up to you one day and say the nicest thing a person could say,
maybe other than “God bless you,” which is, “Did you lose some weight?”
- Your new diet is working, but it takes time.
- In Philippians 1:6, the words “has begun” and “complete” represent the bookends of life: “Being confident of this very thing,
- that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (emphasis mine).
- From the original language, the word “complete” used here could be translated, “to perfect or finish.”
- One who has started this work in your life will finish it.
- But when will this happen?
- When will you reach this state of perfection?
- I can tell you one thing: it won’t take place this side of heaven.
- And anyone who tells you they have reached perfection is not only lying to you but is also deluded.
The British preacher Charles Surgeon,
- who was known for his eloquence and great sermons as well as his pranks and humor,
- was approached one day by two men who told him they had reached sinless perfection.
- As they were making their case,
- Spurge noticed a pitcher of very cold water sitting nearby.
- He picked it up and dumped it on both their heads.
- When the men reacted as any mere mortals would,
- he knew they had not reached the state they claimed to have reached.
If anyone could have reached a state of perfection,
- if anyone could have reached a spiritual plateau beyond all of us, it certainly would have been the apostle Paul.
- After all, Jesus called him on the Damascus Road.
- Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote a good portion of the Bible that we read today.
- He was caught up in the third heaven and saw things that he could not even describe.
- Yet Paul himself said, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected;
- but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Philippians 3:12).
- Paul was essentially saying that we need to keep moving forward spiritually.
We need to keep growing and learning. There is always so far to go.
- If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you will reach perfection when you stand face-to-face with Jesus Christ.
- This is described in 1 John 3:2–3:
- Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will have not yet been made known.
- But we know that we shall be like him when he appears, for we shall see him as he is.
- Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. (NIV)
- It will all come into focus on that final day when you stand before Jesus Christ.
- It is then that you will be in that perfect state you have been aiming for but not until that day.
God will complete this work He has begun in you.
- There might lapse. But God will complete His work.
- That should bring joy to your heart.
- It means you don’t have to do it all.
- You just have to do the best that you can and apply yourself to living this Christian life.
- God will bring to completion the work He is doing in your life.
The Pursuit of Happiness: A Book of Studies and Strowings Paperback – 1 October 2018