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contentment faith happiness joy Uncategorized

Happiness Guaranteed!

Neal Pollard

Who wouldn’t find that appealing? Many years ago, Hugo McCord wrote a book entitled, “Happiness Guaranteed.” In it, he wrote, “Is happiness difficult? Yes, to those on the wrong road. Is it elusive? Yes, to those who want it without a price. But to the simple, plain folk of the earth, willing to walk God’s road, willing to pay God’s price, happiness is, like God, not far from every one of us.”  Many spend a lifetime in a desperate, elusive attempt to be happy. What if there was a formula for true happiness? I believe we find it in Psalm 37:23-26. This text tells us what we need to be happy.

We need a direction mapped by God (23). If we make life a self-guided tour, we can guarantee ourselves a life of misery. Even a Christian’s heartaches often stem from our trying to “go it alone” without His guidance. He guides us through the Word (Psa. 119:105,133). He knows everything at the deepest level of comprehension. He understands what kind of life will make us happy and miserable. David says life without God’s guidance is chaotic and disorderly. I read about an optometrist who examined an elderly patient and asked, “Can you read the fifth line of the chart?” “No.” “How about the fourth line?” “No.” “Hmm. Try the second line.” “No.” “Surely you can read the first line.” The old man said, “Truth is I’ve never learned to read.” Have we learned to read? Have we gotten into the regular habit of consulting God’s divine roadmap?

We need a delight in His way (23). In a matter of minutes, you can find out what a person enjoys in life. It could be sports, politics, travel, shopping, mechanic-ing, nature, reading, fishing, horseback riding, or stamp-collecting. Kept in proper place and priority, these can be good, healthy, and legitimate. But way too many people get their thrills in illegitimate ways. They enjoy the unwholesome, filthy, perverted and vulgar. To many, “The word of the Lord is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it” (Jer. 6:10). Solomon adds, “A fool does not delight in understanding…” (Prov. 18:2a). God’s outline for living, when followed, leads to delight. Other ways are paved with the heartache of others who foolishly paved those same paths previously.

We need a dependence on God’s providential care (24-25). Seven times in the Psalms, the writer tells God, “The righteous trust in You” (5:11; 9:10; 17:7; 25:22; 31:19; 55:23; 56:3). Your faith can be built if you trust that God, even when things seem doubtful, will provide what is needed and what is best. Not just materially, but in times when spiritual decisions must be made (cf. Gen. 22:8; Rom. 4:18-21). When we place our future, fears and fortunes in God’s almighty hands, we find true happiness (1 Pet. 5:7). David challenges us to find a case of a true follower forsaken by God. Satan wants us to think God doesn’t care about us. That’s what he wanted Job’s problems to do to Job—make him turn against God. If you are suffering right now, be assured that God hasn’t left you.

We need a duty to others (26). Norman Vincent Peale said, “The way to happiness: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Scatter sunshine, forget self, think of others. Try this for a week and you will be surprised” (The Power of Positive Thinking, 54). Psalm 37:26 mentions two responsibilities we, being richly blessed by God, have to others. The  first, mercy, should express itself through acts of kindness. The second, lending, shows generosity. God ties generosity to true conversion. We give our money, our time, our talents, our heart, and ourselves. Listen to the joyful words from those spend themselves serving others. They say, “We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done” (Lk. 17:10).

We overcomplicate life with needless worry, harmful actions, and heavy burdens. So many people, from a financial, social, and physical perspective, have every reason to be happy but are miserable! The opposite of that is true, too. One may be drained of every resource but faith, but no one can rob them of their joy (Ps. 128:2; Pr. 3:18; 14:21; 29:18)!

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Categories
attitude happiness sadness

Are You Stuck In The Doldrums?

Neal Pollard

According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, “The Intertropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ, is the region that circles the Earth, near the equator, where the trade winds of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres come together” (via http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov).  The ITCZ (“itch”) is a major weather player, affecting rainfall, storms, and wind currents across the world along the equator but also extending north and south as the position of the earth to the sun changes seasonally.  Another feature of the ITCZ is the dead calm it can cause at sea, a weather event sailors long ago named “the doldrums.”  A sailing ship that gets caught in that area of the world can be stuck there for days due to windless conditions. It is said to be from an Old English word that gives us the modern word “dull” (via online Etymology Dictionary, http://www.etymonline.com).

Have you ever heard someone say that they were stuck in the doldrums?  They mean they feel a prolonged sense of sadness and depression. Sometimes, this can occur and the sufferer does not even know exactly why.  Since we live in an imperfect world, times like these are inevitable. People disappoint us, discouragement paralyzes us, sadness overwhelms us, and anxiety overtakes us.  What can be done if we find ourselves “stuck in the doldrums”?

Smile.  A dose of determined joy and deliberate happiness may be necessary.  Proverbs 15:13-15 says, “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken. The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness. All the days of the afflicted are evil, but he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.”

Serve.  Distracting yourself from the doldrums may remedy them. There is no better way to accomplish this than by seeing someone in need and helping them.  As Christians, we have been called to “through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).

Supplicate.  No earthly power may be able to put wind in your sails, but the power of God in heaven never fails.  We should ask, when in our doldrums, have I spoken to God about it?  Paul says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).  Supplication is a noun meaning “to make known one’s particular need” (Zodhiates, δέησις).

Hang in there!  The winds will resume and push you forward.  Just be alert when they begin to blow so you can leave those doldrums behind you!

Categories
attitude happiness

“Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now”

Neal Pollard

When did I first know I wanted to be a preacher? I’m not sure, but I remember the day I addressed the city council in Cairo, Georgia.  I was only nine.  We were walking home from school.  Every day, we’d make the trek from 10th Avenue across Broad Street to our house on 12th Avenue.  It was a straight shot, but there was a penny candy store if you went south.  A couple of blocks south, between us and the store, was the court house. Of course, every self-respecting boy looks for shortcuts. Mine was through the court house that day.  It appeared empty to me, so I was singing the far out, new McFadden and Whitehead hit, “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.”  Just one more set of doors between me and the back door, I thought. So I burst through them bellowing, “…We’re on the move.”  With that, I brought the city council meeting to a stop and in the instant before my beet-red face welled up with tears of embarrassment, I think I saw looks of irritation as well as amusement.  For some reason, I was feeling really good that day…until that moment.

Do you ever feel unstoppable? Maybe you are bounding with energy, excited, or happy without even knowing why.  It may cause you to sing, exercise, eat, kiss your spouse, give exploding knuckles to a stranger, or pause in grateful thanks to God.  Every moment cannot feel euphoric and golden, but how wonderful when it happens.

Depression is a real malady that many people, including good Christians, experience.  Some deal with clinical depression, physiological and demanding chemical treatment.  However, some without such an excuse seem to have a hard time finding joy in their lives.  It could be because they have conditioned themselves toward negativity, constantly complaining, bemoaning, wallowing in self-pity, and being their own one-person thunderstorm.  Some seem to stand there, waiting for the lightning strike on a cloudless day.

As Christians, we are not expected to be out of touch with reality or even our own feelings.  Yet, only we can choose our outlook and attitude.  Isn’t it amazing that we are all exposed to national politics, economic uncertainties, sickness, disappointment, and betrayal, but some are resilient while others are resentful.  Some count blessings, but others court burdens.  May we, as God’s children, always focus more on what we have been given by Christ, what we have through Christ, and what we look forward to with Christ.  I tell you, it will make you feel unstoppable!