Sermon on Philippians 4:10-20
7th Sunday after Pentecost
The Secret to Happiness
Text: Philippians 4:10-20
Ten years ago the world had a plethora of opportunities to spend a few dollars investing in a new trend in business and in the stock market—internet start-ups. If you had desired to invest $1,000 in one of these new internet companies, you could have chosen companies like Yahoo, AOL, Google, or Amazon. If you invested in Yahoo or AOL, you investment would have shot through the roof, only to fizzle back down to less than twenty dollars a share today. But had you chosen Jeff Bezos’ new company called Amazon, your $1,000 would be worth over $100,000 today. Or had you chosen Larry Page’s new company called Google, your $1,000 would be worth almost a half million dollars today. But how could you have known? How does any investor know? What’s the secret?
If you invested in American or Florida or Palm Coast property 10 years ago, you would have been a very happy seller five years ago. But if you bought or fixed-up a home five years ago, today you would likely be right alongside many other Americans (or Palm Coastians) as your interest rate is way too high, your value is way too low, and your options are few and far between. But how could you know? How could anyone in real estate know? What’s the secret?
In fact, it would appear as though most things in life are like—a big “if only.” If only the economy was better, then life would be better. If only I had more job or financial security, then I wouldn’t worry so much. If only I didn’t have so many problems with my friends or with my family, then I wouldn’t be so sad. If only my loved one were still with me today, then I wouldn’t have this empty hole in my heart.
How can anyone be happy these days? Everywhere we turn there are problems and disasters. Everything we do seems to result in heartache or pain. Everyone we know, including ourselves, seems to be sad, lonely, or depressed. How could anyone ever be happy? What’s the secret?
Well guess what! You came to the right place today! You don’t have to pay for a seminar. You don’t have to buy a New York Times bestseller. You don’t have to go through a seven-step process. Simply open your ears and open your hearts and listen to what God has to say today through the apostle Paul. You are about to hear The Secret to Happiness.
We live in a world of self-dependency. Respect is given to the self-made man who works his way up from poverty to the penthouse. Articles are written about the entrepreneur who sold purses out of her garage but has now built her own handbag empire. Athletes are rewarded for their individual achievements in scoring or stats. Scientists who are smart enough to figure out impossible problems are heralded for ages in history books. This is a world that relies on and praises self-dependence.
Satan knows that. Satan loves that. Satan wants to use that against us. All of us have built into us a little inkling and idea that, “I can do this myself. I can handle this. I can figure this out on my own.” It’s an opinion that is part of the sinfulness we are born with. But this opinion is more than a simple can-do attitude. This opinion we are born with is more of an, “I can do and I don’t need God attitude.” And Satan just loves to use that idea against us all the time.
For some, the temptation is that we don’t need God to get to heaven. “I’m a pretty good person. Maybe I’ve done some bad things. But I’m not as bad as that person. And surely I’ve done more good than bad. I will do one good thing right after another and climb my way right to heaven.” Actually, most religions of the world—even some mainstream religions in America—instruct their followers that this is the way to heaven. This is a self-dependent, works-based way to heaven.
But this is simply impossible. God’s standards for heaven are far beyond what we could ever reach. God demands perfection and holiness. He wants us to be just like he is. He doesn’t just want us to try to be holy and perfect, God wants us to be holy and perfect. Yet not one of us is. The Bible reminds us that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” and that “there is no one who does good, not even one.” Satan loves to tempt us to rely on ourselves for salvation because there is no way we can do it. Any attempt to work our own way to heaven will simply result in us joining Satan in hell.
That isn’t the only way that this self-dependent attitude rears its ugly head. Sometimes it’s a more subtle and deceptive temptation from Satan. Maybe we understand that we can’t save ourselves. But the devil will tempt us to think that we can do everything else ourselves. We think that we are the ones who have to earn all our money. We have to earn our living. We have to provide for ourselves. We have to make things right in our lives. We have to hold all our relationships together. We have to take control. We have to make it happen. Those are subtle thoughts of self-dependence and self-reliance. But at the same time those thoughts are pushing God out of the equation. All this reliance on “me” and what “I can do” causes us to forget that it is God who provides and God who is in control. The temptation to believe that, “I am so great, I am so smart, I can do so much,” is just the start of the same temptation to believe, “I don’t really need God.”
Then somehow we are suddenly surprised when things go bad. We are surprised that we aren’t happy. We are frustrated that things aren’t better. We are angry with God that things aren’t going well. We aren’t sure if he really loves us, and we aren’t sure if we really need him.
The apostle Paul understood some of the things that we go through in our lives. Look at Philippians 4:12, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.” Paul was a man who went through all the ups and downs that you and I go through. At times had had plenty. He had food. He had housing. He had enough money. At other times he was in need. Last week we heard about all the troubles he went through—the beatings, the imprisonment, being shipwrecked, going hungry, going naked, and much more. It could probably be said that Paul suffered much more than you and I could ever fathom.
But Paul learned from all that he had been through. Look at the rest of verse 12: “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.” God revealed to Paul the secret to being content and happy. Here it is in verse 13: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
You don’t have to travel to a mountaintop in Tibet to speak with a monk. You don’t have to read a new and popular book. You don’t have to work hard to figure it out. In fact, The Secret to Happiness isn’t really even a secret. God tells us clearly in the Bible, and Paul tells us clearly here. The Secret to Happiness is Knowing your Savior Jesus Christ.
I can do everything through him, because he has done everything for me already. I need not worry about my sins and my shortcomings because my Savior Jesus has lived the perfect life God demands of me. I need not worry about my guilt and the punishment I deserve because my Savior Jesus died on a cross to wash my guilt away and endure my punishment for me. I need not worry about working my way to heaven because my Savior Jesus cried out from the cross, “It is finished,” and therefore completed my salvation. I need not worry about providing for myself or just making it or surviving in this world because my Savior Jesus promises to always be with me to the very end—watching, protecting, and providing.
It’s really quite simple and it’s really not that much of a secret. The key to being happy and content in this world is know your Savior. Know that you are sinner. Know that you have fallen short. Know that Jesus came for you. Know that he has saved you. Know that you have heaven to look forward to. That is The Secret to Happiness.
This world is certainly filled with an emphasis on self-reliance and self-dependence. Besides that, this world also has a very strong emphasis on personal strength and achievement. The famous Nike commercial tells us to, “Just do it.” Another famous Nike commercial featured Michael Jordan and soccer legend Mia Hamm. As they played multiple sports together in the commercial, the background music was, “Anything you can do I can do better.” The highest achievers in various fields receive Nobel Peace Prizes. The best athletes receive MVP awards. The Olympics crown those who are the fastest, strongest, and best. This world also praises and rewards strength and achievement.
We can get caught up in this thinking too. How many times have you thought: If only I could . . . I remember when I used to be able to . . . Before I used to make so much more money . . . How come I can’t do this like that person can? And so on and so forth.
Satan just loves to take our eyes off our Savior and off his cross and put them back onto ourselves. We are failures. We are sinners. We don’t meet all of God’s standards and demands. We can’t earn our way to heaven. So if Satan can get us to rely on ourselves and our own strength and our own ability, he is well on his way to having us join him in hell.
That’s why we thank God for revealing the secret to us in his Word. Paul learned the secret, and we have too. The Secret to Happiness and the secret to being content in this world is to Know our Savior and to Know our Strength. Listen once more to Paul in verse 13: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” The key to being happy and to being content in this world is not just knowing Jesus, but it is also knowing that he is the one who gives us strength.
Paul is not saying that Jesus will give us the power to make millions of dollars. Paul is not saying that Jesus will give us the strength to be professional athletes or to work extra overtime without getting tired or to never every get sick or get diseases. But Paul is telling us that God will give us strength. He will give us the strength to cope, the strength to be patient, the strength to endure, the strength to keep our eyes heavenward. That is The Secret to Happiness, knowing that your strength comes from the Lord!
Paul learned the lesson, and I suppose you could say he learned it the hard way. He suffered a lot in his life. In fact, while writing to these Philippians Paul was in prison. But yet God provided for him and took care of him. That’s what the rest of the verses in this section are about. Paul mentions that God provided for him through these Philippian Christians who sent him aid again and again. God used them and their gifts to take care of Paul. And Paul assured the Philippians that God would do the same for them in verse 19: “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
God will do the same for you. He will meet all of your needs. According to his glorious power and riches, Christ Jesus will provide for you. Your Savior has already provided for you forgiveness and salvation—freely and fully. Now he will continue to give you strength and support you all the days of your life.
How can my life get better? How can I deal with all my problems? How can I be happy? How can I be content? The secret is not “I.” It’s Him. Know your Savior. Know your strength which comes from him. Then you will know you can do everything through him who gives you strength.
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