Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, Australia)

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Pastor's Piece - Happiness is Having Faith

by Dr Barry Wright

In 2002-03, Anglicare, along with the National Church Life Survey, Edith Cowan University and Deakin University, conducted a wellbeing and security study involving 1514 respondents.

It was found that people with a spiritual orientation tended to score much higher on many of the survey's wellbeing measures showing greater optimism and a greater sense of purpose in life. It was also found that those with a spiritual orientation tended to have a higher self esteem, higher personal growth and tended to register slightly higher levels of satisfaction with life. This was particularly with their own achievements and their place within the community. They were also more likely to contribute to others by donating to charity, doing voluntary service or by contributing informally in daily life.

Happiness has also been found to play a significant role in longevity. Drs. Beloc and Breslow in a study of 7,000 people in Alameda County, near San Francisco, USA discovered that the age of death seemed to be associated with certain health habits.

It was interesting to find that diet and exercise, although important, were not the greatest contributors towards longevity. It was found that happiness was to play the greater part and this state of mind seemed to result from a life of sharing and unselfishness.

Many of the diseases that inflict society today are believed by many heath professionals to be the results of the breaking down of the life forces thus inviting decay and death. Extreme and prolonged grief, anxiety, remorse, guilt, distrust and hate are some of the everyday hazards that we all have to face. On the other hand, courage, hope, faith, sympathy and love are the attributes that tend to promote health and prolong life.

Proverbs 17: 22 makes clear that a merry heart (or a happy mind) does good like a medicine. In other words a contented mind along with a cheerful spirit is health to the body and strength to the soul. 

In the beginning, after God completed His six days of work, He looked at all he had made and saw it was very good. Man was seen to be in a state of well-being.  He was seen to be happy. It was sin that eventually disrupted that perfect state and God has been working ever since to bring us back to that desired position. He knows that the desire for happiness can never be completely satisfied except in Himself. We all have a 'Christ-shaped' emptiness that only He can fill.

Joy and happiness need to be exercised if they are to become a lifelong habit. We need to make sure that we don't allow circumstances, no matter how morbid and distressing, to kill joy and contentment.

When we look at the circumstances that the apostle Paul was in when he wrote the book of Philippians, we find in this book an amazing piece of work. At the time of writing he was incarcerated in a Roman prison and yet his book was later to be called the 'Joy Epistle'. Paul's secret is found in the words he expressed in Philippians 4: 11, 12 (The Living Bible) where he says, 'I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of contentment in every situation.'

These thoughts are confirmed and expanded in a creed for living that was written by the well-known author, Robert Louis Stevenson. This is what he had to say:

Make up your mind to be happy. Learn to find pleasure in simple things.

Make the best of your circumstances. No one has everything, and everyone has something of sorrow intermingled with the gladness of life…the trick is to make laughter outweigh the tears.

Do not think that somehow you should be protected from misfortunes that befall others.

You cannot please everybody. Don't let criticism worry you.

Don't let your neighbour set your standards…be yourself

Do the things you enjoy doing, but stay out of debt.

Don't borrow trouble; imaginary troubles are harder to bear than actual ones.

Since hate poisons the soul, don't cherish enmities.

Have many interests and, if you can't travel, read about new places.

Don't hold post mortems, don't spend your life brooding over sorrows and mistakes, don't be the one who never gets over things.

Do what you can for those less fortunate than yourself.

Keep busy at something…a very busy person never has time to be unhappy.

We all need to be reminded of the words of Jesus in John 15: 11 where he says: I have spoken thus to you, so that my joy may be in you, and your joy complete.'   


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