According to The Progress Paradox: How life gets better while people feel worse by Gregg Easterbrook, the average westerner lives better than 99.4% of all human beings who have ever lived. By any measure of affluence – health care, leisure, technology – the average American enjoys a quality of life beyond anyone’s wildest dreams even 30 years ago. We have more of everything except – happiness! The percentage of Americans who characterize themselves as ‘happy’ has been in decline since the 1950’s. Those who rate themselves ‘very happy’ is lower still. The percentage of Americans suffering from depression has risen above 25%! How can that be??!
I’m sure there are many factors involved, but I believe the decline in our spiritual orientation is the biggest factor. Fewer Americans are seeking God and connecting with him in life-giving relationships through faith in Jesus. That faith connection enables us to tap into an endless flow of joy and gratitude. As Josh and I were working on the message for Bethany’s 133rd Homecoming celebration, I couldn’t help but notice that in Colossians 3:15-17 (our text) every verse concludes with a challenge to express gratitude to God! ‘Give thanks, give thanks, give thanks!’ Right in line with one of my favorite Bible passages, I Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” There is an undeniable connection between seeking God in ‘gratitude and joy’ and describing oneself as ‘happy’ or ‘very happy’ in life!
What troubles me is that I engage Christians who are clearly ‘unhappy’ with life. How can that be??! Unless we are physically depleted or living in unrepentant sin (both legitimate causes for feeling unhappiness) how can we not be filled with ‘joy and gratitude’ in the Lord?! Do we not realize who we are, what we possess, and where we are headed?!
We are unique creations of God…we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made!’ (Psalm 139:13, 14) We are forgiven of all our sins and filled with God’s Holy Spirit! (Acts 2:38) We are ‘new creations in Christ!’ (II Corinthians 5:17) We are ‘God’s workmanship (his masterpieces in the making) in Christ Jesus!’ (Ephesians 2:8-10) Our past is forgiven (Hebrews 8:12), our present in empowered (Colossians 1:29), our future is assured (John 14:1-3). ‘We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us!’ (Philippians 4:13) We are able to live life to the fullest through Jesus (because of him!). (John 10:10) In eternity we are going to experience a quality of life that cannot even be imagined in this world! (I Corinthians 2:9; II Corinthians 4:17; Philippians 1:21; Revelation 21 & 22!) Life, literally, could not be better for those who are in Christ! (John 15:1-11) How can any of us not be filled with joy and gratitude, regardless of our current circumstances??!!
I really don’t get it. We complain and grumble and worry and fear and gossip and moan as if God has somehow let us down, in spite of all the blessings he has lavished on us. If you understand this please explain it to me! If not, then let’s just ‘stop’ living beneath our calling! (Ephesians 4:1) And let’s “do everything without complaining or arguing.” (Philippians 2:14) And let’s “be joyful always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus!” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18) As Jesus said, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:17) Celebrate life in Christ every day…and let’s celebrate Homecoming together this Sunday! And let’s try to bring a friend with us!