Get Caught Up:
Click here to read Part 1 of this series: An Attitude of Gratitude
Click here to read Part 2 of this series: The Perspective from Paul's Pulpit.
So, let’s quickly recap what we’ve talked about over the past couple of weeks…
So, I want us to continue looking into the life of this great apostle whom I deem the “professor of perspective.” These first three lessons are based on the fact that happiness is not a state of being; happiness is a state of mind. In other words, we are not a product of our circumstances; we are a product of our choices.
THINK YOURSELF HAPPY
Do you remember the story in Acts chapter 26 when the Apostle Paul was brought before King Agrippa? We see Paul’s response to King Agrippa’s invitation for him to speak for himself in verse 2. He said, “I think myself happy.”
The word used to translate “happy” here is makarios and Strong’s defines it this way: “blessed (receiving God’s favor), fortunate, good (in a position of favor), happy (feelings associated with receiving God’s favor).” The word used for “think” literally means to count or consider. So, yes, this phrase would be better translated like most of the other translations do, as so: “I consider myself fortunate and blessed…”
However, I believe there is a lot of truth to the way that the King James Version’s translated it - “I think myself happy”- because how many of you know that this is exactly how happiness comes - through our thought life. In other words, if someone is thinking on good, positive things like all the grace, mercy and forgiveness that they have obtained in Christ, the glories of heaven and the rewards that they will receive there, how much they have to be thankful for in their lives, etc., etc., etc., they will just naturally be happy. But on the other hand, if that same person is worrying about tomorrow, murmuring and complaining about all the negative situations in their life, etc., then they will be unhappy. And the only thing that you can attribute that happiness or unhappiness to is what they are setting their minds on. Amen?
You see, when we think on things that the Bible teaches us to think on, a natural by-product will be that we are happier people. Why? It is because we are thinking only on happy thoughts! How can we possibly be unhappy when we are only thinking on these things? No, we only experience unhappiness when we deviate from thinking these happy thoughts. This is certainly not as easy as it sounds, but it certainly is this simple.
So, this is good news! Because if you don’t like your emotional make-up, then the process of changing it begins with “washing your face” (i.e. cleansing your thoughts) with the washing of water by the Word! Amen.
You see, when this life’s winds and waves are crashing into our boats, it is easy for us to give them our attention. This is certainly when our joy begins to sink. But what if we could just learn to fix our focus and channel all of our mental energy over on the things of God? I can guarantee you that our joy and happiness would walk on water, baby! In other words, when we learn to fix our minds, our focus and our attention on the Lord, like Peter, we can do things that we never thought were possible, including be happy all the time! So, begin to today to “think yourself happy.”
On a side note, let’s consider this - Why did Paul consider himself happy and fortunate? Wasn’t it because he had the opportunity to testify before this king? Likewise, we should consider ourselves happy because we get to stand with and before the King of kings all the days of our life! Amen?
FALLING INTO TRIALS
Pastor James said something similar in the first chapter of his letter: In James 1:2 he said, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials…”
First of all, allow me to make an important point regarding these various trials that James is referring to: Notice that James refers to us “falling” into these various trials. Now most of the time when one “falls,” it is unintentional. There are, of course, those crazy people who intentionally throw themselves off of cliffs or out of airplanes and “fall” for recreational reasons. But when most people fall, it is unexpected and they don’t mean to. Well, that’s the way these various trials come into our lives. They sneak up on us. They catch us off guard. If we would have seen them coming, we would have done something to avoid them, if at all possible.
Well, this is how trials and tribulations come too. We “fall” into them. In other words, they come unexpectedly. They usually catch us off guard. They pull the rug out from under us. The list could go on and on. And if we let them take us by surprise like this - meaning we are not mentally prepared for them and understand that in the world, we will have these tribulations - then they can devastate us.
This is why the Bible says do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you. 1 Peter 4:12. What this means is that we shouldn’t get caught off guard when we fall into various fiery trials because it comes with the territory.
No, we are supposed to be sober and vigilant, knowing that the devil is all the time trying to destroy us. And if we are not “mentally alert and watchful” then we are susceptible to letting him shipwreck our faith. Amen?
Then, notice how James called these things that we fall into, various trials.
Have you ever considered why the adversity, suffering, persecution and tribulation that we go through are sometimes called trials?
The word that is used here for “trials” is defined as “experiment, attempt or proving.” So, you could translate James 1:2 as- “…count it all joy when you fall into different kinds of experiments.”
Now that provides a totally different slant on that word, doesn’t it?
In fact, other than the religious usage of this word, what do you think of when you hear the word “trial”? You think of a court case, don’t you? And did you know that is all life’s difficulties really are? They are trials that determine the truth of the case in question. Amen! Likewise, the adversity and afflictions that we fall into can either condemn us or prove us.
If we allow ourselves to be overcome by the trials, we can be condemned and are guilt-ridden. However, if we successfully overcome those trials, it has “proven” our faith. And this is the whole point.
Let’s look over at 1 Peter 1:6-7 and see how Peter tells us to view these “trials”…
He begins by saying in verse 7- “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.” Notice that Peter said that “In this you greatly rejoice…” In what? In the fact that God knew you before you were formed in your mother’s womb, that He chose, selected and picked you out, that He set you apart, washing you in the blood of the Lamb (verse 2). In the fact that He showed you great mercy and that you are a born-again child of God (verse 3). In the fact that you have an inheritance in heaven to look forward to (verse 4). In the fact, that God is keeping you even right now, protecting and sheltering you (verse 5). In this you can and should, greatly rejoice!
Then, he goes on to describe the “various trials” as being “for a little while.” In other words, they are temporary in comparison to eternity. And this is the way we must learn to view the difficulties of life or our joy and happiness will be up and down like these temporary afflictions. Amen? So we are not products of our circumstances; we are products of our choices, and how we have chosen to think and believe as a result of our circumstances.
Then, Peter adds this short little phrase- “if need be.” What did he mean by this? As his letter will go on to explain further, some “trials” we go through are not necessary. In other words, we cannot blame every struggle and difficulty of life on the devil. Some “trials” we are going through don’t “need be!” Amen. Some are self-inflicted because of dumb decisions we make and are not a part of God’s plan for our life nor are they devices from the kingdom of darkness that Satan is using to oppose us.
But then notice how Peter acknowledges that they had been “grieved by various trials.” Now the same terminology is used here as in James 1:2 (i.e. “various trials”), but here Peter says that their various trials had “grieved” them. The word “grieved” literally means “to be sorrowful, sad, distressed or sorry.” But notice that the “grieving” here is in the past tense; the “rejoicing” is in the present tense because the realized joy of the coming salvation makes present grief seem like something of the past. It also indicates that there is a time for the grief to be referred to in the past tense and not to always stay in the present tense. Amen!
So, when are these things that cause grief and sadness going to be in the past tense in our lives, and when is rejoicing going to be in the present tense? When we choose for it too!
But then in verse 7, the Apostle Peter goes on to teach us what these various trials’ purpose are…
He begins by saying, “that the genuineness of your faith.” The word “that” implies the reason and purpose for these trials, namely that our faith “may be found to praise, honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The word “genuineness” comes from the Greek word dokimion and describes “the act of putting someone or something to the test with a view of determining whether it is worthy of being approved or not.” The test being made with the intention of approving if possible. It was used of the act of examining candidates for the degree of a doctor of medicine. In other words, the purpose of these trials is to find out what our faith that we profess is made of.
In fact, he goes on to describe our tried and true faith is “much more precious than gold that perishes” In other words, our faith is more valuable than anything of this world because it’s benefits will last eternally, wherein the things of this world are corruptible.
The next phrase is, “though it is tested by fire.” So just as gold is tried in the fire to remove impurities, to test durability, and to test genuineness, likewise our faith passes through the fire to bring to the surface our impurities, imperfections, and defects for the purpose of going from glory to glory and faith to faith. Therefore, just as it is not the taking of a test that makes you smarter, it is not the going through trials that make you stronger. It’s passing them by using what you know that makes you stronger.
It has been said that the Eastern goldsmith kept the metal in the furnace until he could see his face reflecting in it. Likewise, God watches us closely to make sure the fire doesn’t get too hot but just hot enough that He will eventually be able to see Jesus reflecting in us.
Therefore, the various trials that we go through are just that - they are trials. They either prove us as worthy to go to the next phase of God’s calling on our lives or they condemn us to going around the same mountain.
You see, the devil is a gambler, and he will bring circumstances in our lives betting that we will give up and quit. But he knows that if we make the correct choices and respond the way God has led us to, our faith will be refined. Amen.
Then if you look ahead to verses 8-9 you see practically how we can get from the beginning of our faith to the end of our faith, which is the salvation of our souls…
Now, while this phrase “the salvation of our souls” obviously is referring to cashing in on the salvation package we possess in Christ once we die or Jesus returns, let’s look at it from the standpoint of our souls including our mind, will and emotions. What would the salvation of our mind, will and emotions be? How about the deliverance of our mind, the healing of our emotions and the freedom of our will?
You see, this is something we would all desire to have - complete victory over every part of our soul and the experience of having total freedom, wholeness and salvation in our mind and emotions. This would obviously cause us to be us be supremely happy people, amen?
So, how do we get there? Well, look at what is sandwiched between the beginning our faith and the end of our faith? It is joy unspeakable and full of glory! Amen! Yes, our mind is delivered, our emotions are freed and our soul delights itself in happiness when we learn to rejoice all along the journey.
So, this answers that question of: What is the correct response to these various trials? It is choosing to rejoice with super exuberant joy! James echoes this sentiment back in James 1:2…
COUNT IT ALL JOY
Here, James is referring to our choice to think a certain way even when we have fallen into various kinds of trials - and that attitude is “all joy.”
In fact, the word used for “count” here is the same Greek word that was used in Acts 26:2 when Paul said, “I think myself happy.”
Now what do you have to do to count something? You have to use your head! In other words, your thinking faculties are involved. So, like that phrase “I think myself happy,” we have to use our head to calculate any, all and every joy. Amen! Therefore, our thought life is certainly involved in experiencing all the joy that is available to us.
Therefore, when we fall into a trial of our faith, we don’t need to just let our emotions take us down whatever road the situation dictates. Rather, we should settle ourselves down, sit down and calculate everything like we would do a budget. We should add up all of our “spiritual income” and all of “natural expenses” and count all our blessings versus our difficulties. If we would just do this when we fall into these various trials, oftentimes we will come out of that budget meeting rejoicing because we will again see just how blessed we truly are! Amen!
Do you remember the story of Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles chapter 20? How he got the bad report that these nations had united against him? And how they were positionally very close? Well, what did Jehoshaphat do? The Bible says he feared. But then he didn’t stay there. It goes on to say that he “set himself to seek the Lord.” This means that he got control of his natural emotions and settled himself down so that he could seek the Lord. This is so key.
Well, a good question is, “How did he set himself?” Practically, how did he get control of his emotions? The Lord gave me the following statement - You set yourself by setting your mind.
You know, we have verses in the New Testament that encourage us to set our minds on things above, being spiritually minded, etc. This is a major key to consistent happiness - learning to set our mind on happy things. Amen!
Let me give you an example: Say you had someone unexpectedly betray you. Your heart is hurt. Your emotions are in a mess. How can you not let that situation steal your joy? Well, you set yourself down and get yourself together and then you begin to channel your thoughts in a different direction. You might do this like so - “Father, even though I am extremely hurt right now, I am deciding to count it all joy right now. So, I am asking for the grace that I need right now to do so… Lord, thank You for forgiving me when I’ve betrayed you. I thank you that, although my sins were what put Jesus on the Cross, You forgave me of all of my sins that brought more hurt on Your Son. Father, and I thank You that not only did You give me a new start, but You “loaded me up” with benefits! God You’re so good, and I just want to take a moment to praise and worship You for your goodness in my life….” This is how you settle down those emotions.
This should be obvious to us for two reasons: