Chasing Happiness

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Spring in Dallas just doesn’t make sense to me.  On any given day we may have a freeze warning at nightfall and 80 degree temperatures by the very next afternoon.  It’s crazy! They say if you don’t like the weather in Texas, just stay around for a couple of hours and it’ll change.

One March morning several years ago,  I stepped outside to get the newspaper and was hit with blizzard-like conditions. Well it may not have been that extreme, but it was one of those take-your-breath-away cold fronts that felt like a blizzard to this thin-blooded Southern girl.  By mid-afternoon of that very same day I was sitting out in the garden reading and enjoying some good ole Texas sunshine.

Personally, I love to be outside and love to read, so when I can find the time to enjoy both it is a happy afternoon. On this particular spring day, my personal reading agenda was the book of Philippians in the New Testament of the Bible.  Written by the apostle Paul while he was a prisoner in Rome, one could easily assume Philippians would be a real downer of a book.  On the contrary it is quite a delightful and uplifting read. In fact, the theme of joy sort of oozes through the pages from this unlikely author.

As I relaxed and tried to picture how Paul could possibly write such a positive message from a prison cell, I glanced up to see a white butterfly dancing around our garden. It was amusing to watch this fluttering creature touch a flower here, then off again to another flower there, then here, then there, then back to where it started again. It never stayed in one place for more than a few seconds as if it were pursuing something it would never find. Just as quickly as it appeared in my garden, it was off to the next field of flowers.

Observing the illusive dance of the white butterfly made me think about how illusive life’s pleasures can be. Just like this flitting creature, I realized how easy it is for me to flit, flutter and fly from one activity or person to another trying to find sweet nectar to satisfy my longings for significance and joy. I’m guessing you have felt those same feelings a time or two as well. The pursuit of happiness is common to us all.  The question is where does the chase stop, or does it? Are we fooling ourselves into thinking that there is something out there that will enrich our being and fill the hunger of our souls?

The irony of my butterfly encounter on the Spring day in Dallas, was that I was sitting there reading a book which highlights enduring qualities which transcend shifting circumstances and fleeting feelings. Paul (yes, from his prison cell) described a resilient joy, a consistent contentment and a peace which passes all understanding in his letter to the Philippians. Unlike the flitting butterfly, Paul taught the early Christians how to experience a true satisfaction of the soul.

So we must ask ourselves, “Does God call us to pursue happiness or to pursue Him and His purposes in our life?” I am convinced that our pursuit of Him leads us to experience a heart full of joy and true contentment as we live out His purposes in our lives. I want to encourage you to read the book of Philippians this week and consider what God teaches you about Himself.

“To seek God is to desire happiness; to find him is that happiness.”

Augustine

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This is an excerpt from A Woman’s Passionate Pursuit of God. The DVD is on sale this month for $5. Click Here for more information.

Who Do You Admire?

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Recently, I was involved in a conversation with a few other couples, chatting about the importance of having mentors in our lives. One friend shared the story of a person he had long admired and considered a mentor, and yet that same esteemed mentor ended up having multiple extramarital affairs with other women, falling off the moral pedestal on which he claimed to stand. We all agreed that there is a healthy balance when it comes to mentors, and that we must be guarded about who we revere or elevate in our lives.

So what place does a mentor have in our lives? We know that no one is above reproach. All sin and fall short of God’s glory, as we read in Romans 3. Only Jesus walked this earth without sinning. Should we look to other’s example and be inspired and encouraged, or are we only to look at Christ? Interestingly, the apostle Paul encouraged believers to follow his own example as well as other believer’s examples. Perhaps you are familiar with this passage in Philippians 3:

Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.   Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.

The point that stands out to me is that Paul is in the pursuit of living for Christ- he’s not there yet. He recognizes that it’s not his righteousness, but Christ’s righteousness that saves him. He admits that he isn’t perfect, but he presses on toward the goal to win the heavenly prize that God is calling him to in Christ Jesus. In light of Paul’s words, how do we pick someone to mentor us? Who should we admire in the Christian arena? It seems to me that those who humbly recognize that they are not perfect, but rather place their faith in Christ’s righteousness –  is a good place to begin. I also get the sense that this passage points to those who are not stagnant in their faith, but rather pressing forward in their relationship with Christ. So as we look to Christian mentors, let us look for those who continue to humbly pursuit a deeper relationship with Christ in their personal lives.

Here’s my prayer: Father, thank you that you have given us the perfect example in Christ. May our focus be on Him. Thank you for the believers in our lives who inspire us to pursue Him with our whole heart. Guard us from an over-admiration or dependence on people, and help us to have a healthy balance when looking to others as our mentors. Direct us to those people who would be good mentors, and help each one of us to be a wise and godly mentor for others.

If you are interested in more about Philippians, check out my study called, A Woman’s Passionate Pursuit of God in the resource section.