By: Carl A. Trapani
Happiness is in short supply. I recently took a vacation with my family in Florida. It was nice to get away from the third coldest summer in Wisconsin history, and we looked forward to some hot, sunny days. A lot of other people must have had the same idea, because the Orlando area was packed with tourists. Most of these folks were families who had come to the sunny South to rest and find a few days of happiness away from their daily grind. Based on their expressions and comments, they had failed in their quest. The majority of people actually appeared to be quite miserable. I was especially impressed with the grim looks on most of the people at the world-famous recreation attractions. I saw very few smiles on anyone’s face, including the children’s. This may have been due in part to the scalper’s rates for admission tickets and food, the heat, and waiting in lines that stretched to infinity. But, more importantly I recognized that
even the “magic kingdoms” can’t make people truly happy. I went with the slight expectation of seeing thousands of happy people enjoying themselves at a clean wholesome family center. Not so, Even if they were aware that it takes 72 muscles to frown and only 14 to smile, most of my fellow-vacationers were determined to give their poor faces a work-out.
Yet it is a fact that people want to be happy. Just ask them what they want to be, and inevitably they will say, “I just want to be happy.” How tragic that so few of them ever enjoy that condition for more than just a moment or two, now and then. It must be part of the tragedy of the human condition that a simple joyful state of existence eludes most of us.
Happiness is so elusive and rare that many folks don’t know how to deal with it even when they find it. A few years ago I baptized a fellow who told me this was the happiest moment in his life. And all he could say, was “Hot dog, hot dog, hot dog.”
WHERE DOES ONE FIND HAPPINESS?
People have sought happiness in many places but most have proven to bring disappointment.
* Not in UN-belief. Voltaire, a famous 18th-century French writer and atheist wrote, “I wish I had never been born.”
* Not in Pleasure. Lord Byron lived a life of pleasure then wrote: “The worm, the canker, and grief are mine alone.”
* Not in Money. Jay Gould, an American millionaire said when dying, “I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth.”
* Not in position and fame. Lord Beaconsfield, a prominent 18th-century British politician and statesman wrote: “Youth is a mistake; manhood a struggle; old age a regret.”
* Not in military glory: Alexander the Great of Macedonia, conquered the known world by the time he was 30, then wept in his tent because: “There are no more worlds to conquer.”
In the Bible? If one is looking for happiness in the Bible, you’ll be disappointed again. It’s an amazing fact that the word “happiness” is never found in the King James version of the Bible. The word “blessedness” is used instead. Is God trying to tell us something? That it’s better to be blessed than happy? My studies have led me to conclude that happiness is bound up with blessedness and that they are compatible terms. Jesus Christ taught that one would be “blessed” or happy by doing certain things,
And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when we was set, his disciples came unto him:
And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Matthew 5:1-11
NOTICE THAT IN EACH CASE, THE PERSON WHO DOES SOMETHING, OR GIVES OF THEMSELF, IS GIVEN MORE, OR BETTER, IN RETURN.
This Scriptural principle is found throughout the Bible. “…For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. Galatians 6:7,8
Even the proportions or measure in which one gives is part of the process of determining the amount of blessing returned.
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. Luke 6:38.
DON’T BE MISTAKEN: IF YOU ONLY GIVE TO GET, YOU WILL BE MORE MISERABLE THAN EVER.
A few years ago a businessman called to tell me that he was in a terrible financial crisis. He admitted that he had been dishonest and unethical, and cheated a lot of people. Now the bottom of his corrupt enterprise had dropped out, and he was being hounded to pay his bills. I was flabbergasted when he told me that he had figured out a way to save his business: He was going to give his way out of debt! He said he was going to give the church a lot of money, and that God would then honor his sacrifice and give him a lot more back! I responded that it would be better if he changed his way of doing business, quit lying and cheating, and try to make good on his
promises to his old customers. In the end he did neither. He didn’t give the church a lot of money and he didn’t change his ways. Not long after our conversation he filed bankruptcy and moved away, a very unhappy man.
SELFISH PEOPLE ARE NEVER HAPPY. ONLY IF YOU GIVE BECAUSE YOU HAVE A GENUINE LOVE FOR THOSE YOU GIVE TO, WILL THEY TRULY BENEFIT. WHEN YOU GIVE TO MAKE OTHERS HAPPY YOU CAN’T HELP RECEIVING BENEFITS BACK YOURSELF, BUT REMEMBER, REAL LOVE DOESN’T DO THINGS IN THE EXPECTATION OF A REWARD.
THE SECRET OF HAPPINESS IS GIVING TO MAKE OTHERS HAPPY.
Happiness and giving always go together. Receiving a gift is thrilling and pleasurable. The happiness and thrill is even greater when the gift is unexpected or undeserved. Jesus surprised men by teaching them that it is a happier experience to give than to receive.
(“…remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” Acts 20:35).
The Reader’s Digest had an article about a widow who moved to Miami. It was sunny there most of the time, but the sunshine was around her, not in her. When Christmas came, she became very low in spirit. She went to a recreation center for retired persons and became even more depressed. Everyone else seemed drab, and unfriendly. Bored, and blue because no one would even speak with her, she went over and picked out a few notes of “Silent Night” on an old piano in the corner. Then she sat down and really began to play. Soon people began joining in with her, applauding after each song. The atmosphere changed. Joy, happiness, and peace filled the room. Her first impromptu sing-along concert was such a success, that the retirees begged her to come back and play again. She did, and became a known in Miami as “Miss Sunshine.” She found happiness in giving to others through her talent.
WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO GIVE? MONEY? THERE ARE THINGS MUCH MORE PRECIOUS THAN MONEY.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.”
ALL REAL GIFTS START FROM THE HEART. A French proverb states, “He gives nothing who does not give himself.”
GIVE IMPULSIVELY WHEN YOU FEEL THE URGE. DON’T WAIT OR PUT IT OFF!
THE $20 THAT BECAME $320,000!
Back in 1974 I preached a revival at Bro. Benninghoff’s church in Bloomington, Indiana. On the way to service one night, I told my wife that I felt impressed to give a friend of ours, Jerry Walden, twenty dollars. (That was a considerable amount back then!) He was a struggling home missions pastor, and I felt impressed that he should use the money to take his wife out to dinner. We got to church and to my surprise, Bro. Walden was there as a guest. Before I got to give him the money, or even tell him about what I wanted to do, the service started. The pastor asked Bro. Walden to take the offering. To my chagrin, he told the audience that the offering was for me, and that during prayer, God had told him to put five dollars in the plate. He held up the five, and called for the audience to join with him in giving more than their custom. After the service I gave Bro. Walden the twenty dollars, and thanked him for his own generosity. He hugged me. We both kind of laughed and cried and then I drove back to Indianapolis and went to a late-night reception. I was assisting Bro. N.A.
Urshan at that time and he was at the reception. I almost fell out of my chair when he said, “Bro. Trapani you’ve been doing a good job here, I want you to go pick yourself out a new suit, and I’ll pay for it!” Happily, I went shopping the next day and found a real nice one that cost $100. The next Friday night was a Sectional conference, at which Bro. Dennis Croucher made a motion to give Bro. Urshan, who was our Presbyter, $400 to use on his first trip to the Holy Land. The motion passed unanimously. And Bro. Urshan was given a check that night for $400.
Wow! Bro. Walden’s $5 had come back to him 4-fold from my $20. My $20 came back 5-fold in the form of a $100 suit from Bro. Urshan. Bro. Urshan’s $100 gift came back to him four-fold from Bro. Croucher and the Sectional ministers. What next? Two years later, Bro. Croucher had just finished a new building addition when he got a phone call to meet a certain businessman in front of the bank. When he got there, the man asked him how much money the church owed on its mortgage. Bro. Croucher told him $320,000. The man wrote a check for the full amount and gave it to Bro, Croucher! And what of the businessman? Mr. Rust went on to become the 4th largest egg producer in the United States! I still get happy and excited by what God allowed me to see about how he blesses money that is given freely.
DON’T BE SELFISH. IT STEALS LIFE’S REAL JOYS.
PLANT A FRUIT TREE IN YOUR OLD AGE – ALL YOUR LIFE YOU ATE APPLES AND PEACHES FROM TREES YOU DIDN’T PLANT.
Share happiness with others who will never get to thank you, and thus lay up treasure in heaven.
ALL OF US HAVE SOMETHING TO GIVE THAT WILL BRING US HAPPINESS. The Christmas carol “The Little Drummer Boy” is an example of giving our talents to bring happiness and joy to others, and finding it for ourselves. “Shall I play for you? Ta rum ta rum tum.”
MOST IMPORTANT IS WHAT WE GIVE TO GOD. THE SECRET OF TRUE AND LASTING HAPPINESS IS A LIFE THAT IS GIVEN TO GOD EVERY DAY.
You can find happiness in giving yourself and your possessions to others, but the greatest joy is in surrendering your life totally into the hands of the Lord. When we give ourselves to Him, He takes our lives and fills them with joy and everlasting, never-ending happiness.
THE TIME TO BE HAPPY IS NOW. AND THE PLACE TO BE HAPPY IS HERE. AND THE WAY TO BE HAPPY, IS TO MAKE OTHERS HAPPY, AND HAVE A LITTLE HEAVEN DOWN HERE!
(The above material appeared in the October 1992 issue of Wisconsin District News.)
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