Living the Good Life

I Thess. 2: 1-9

Are you living the good life? 

What does that mean to you? 

Go to recliner – talk about the normal way people perceive the good life. 

People      possessions      power  

I just want to be happy.

“The pursuit of happiness.”  It’s a phrase with which every school child is familiar.. . . a phrase that is foundational to our national identity and part of the introductory insistence of our Founding Fathers’ Declaration of Independence. Life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Did you hear that the Girl Scouts of America just revamped their merit badges? The Girl Scouts’ new merit badges reward skills that reflect 2012 more than 1912, the year GSA was founded. Accordingly there are now merit badges in computer programming, web site design and ecology.

Among these new merit badges is one called “The Science of Happiness.” To earn this badge girls must work for one month on a careful strategy believed to increase personal happiness. The girls must practice specific behaviors — such as intentionally being forgiving towards others — and then “evaluate” the effect of those behaviors on their over-all psychological well-being.

The “pursuit of happiness” may be proclaimed as an “inalienable right” by the Declaration of Independence. But it continues to be an elusive quarry for most of us. That’s why we are eager to embrace a “scientific” equation that might get us to that hard-to-attain state of happiness The happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they make the best of everything they have.

In one of the syndicated “Bottom Liners” cartoons, a worried looking businessman is sitting across the table from a fortune teller. The fortune teller says, “Happiness is just around the corner. . . However, there is an extra charge if you want the street address.” We know the street address. At no extra charge.

Is the pursuit of happiness really the key to the good life? the Bible gives us some direction about how to live the good life.

Jesus used the word in one of his speeches:  happy are the poor in spirit for they shall see God   His formula for happiness seems quite odd and different than our expectations of what is necessary for us to be happy.

Paul speaks about it in various places but in I Thess. 2: 1-9 he gives us some insight that tells us that living the good life comes from pleasing God.

1 Thessalonians 2: 1-9

1 You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. 2 We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. 7 Instead, we were like young children[a] among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 9 Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you

Happiness is not something we “find.” Happiness is woven into the tapestry of our life as an infusion of God’s grace. Happiness is something we cultivate on a daily basis, not for itself, but as part of a larger mission in life Happiness is a byproduct of living a life that is pleasing to God. So how do we do that?

I.  live a life of integrity 

Often when we use the word integrity – we think it means telling the truth – it does mean that – but it means a whole lot more than that.  Integrity is living your life in such a way that it reflects a Godly value system.  Paul says I am not doing this to please you or anyone else; I have no ulterior motive, I am not trying to trick you or deceive you.  I’m not going to flatter you or be caught up in the greed cycle. I just want to live my life to please God – a life of integrity. 

To live a life of integrity is to stay grounded in the midst of both criticism and praise.

Criticism  verse one evidently someone had suggested that his visit was a failure.  Have any of you ever been criticized?  Told you were a failure? 

Paul knew what it was like to be criticized. after he left Thessalonica, it is clear that someone had started rumors questioning Paul’s motives in preaching the Gospel in the first place, that he was just in it for the money. This may have hurt Paul more than the floggings. To give his all for the Gospel, to take nothing in return in order to be able to preach without being a burden to the young churches that he was starting--to have given so much of himself and then to have someone start malicious rumors that he was in it for his own gain--that surely hurt Paul most of all. But Paul was an amazing man. He had a faith of great maturity and depth.

For Paul to please God it meant being rejected, beaten, imprisoned, tortured, killed, for the sake of proclaiming that one simple truth.

In the midst of all this, Paul writes the book of Philippians and say:  rejoice in the Lord in all things. 

Have to learn how to handle praise.  Some people will flatter you with their talk out of a motivation to get something from you.

Story of Cavett Robert and the young salesman

Would you like to live your life regardless of the criticism you endure or the praise you receive. Live your life to please God.  He is your primary audience.

II. live a life of love  reread verse 8

Why would Paul put himself through all of these problems, endure this suffering and undergo strenuous hardships.  Because he loved them.

Real love involves sacrifice.  Parent child relationship when we really love our children, we are willing to be inconvienced. Sacrifice, put off things we would rather do. 

Men when we really love our wives, we are willing to be a partner, not a dictator – to realize their opinion, their priorities, their goals are important to.  This means sacrifice some of yours.  Women the reverse is also true.

When we really love the lord and the church, we are willing to sacrifice for it.  Give money – time – volunteer hours which we would normally use on ourselves.  

III.  live a life of purpose  vs. 9

Paul says my purpose in life is to preach the gospel.  I’m not looking for praise, honors, and material rewards.  I want you to join me in heaven some day.  I want you to hear and understand this marvelous message about the grace of God.

What gets you out of bed in the morning? 

Tony Compolo – a dynamic preacher and educator says:  “What you commit yourself to will change what you are and make you a completely different person. What you commit yourself to will determine your future more than anything that has happened to you in the past.”

When we have no intentions of helping others, no passion for life, or no direction for our future, we might as well stay in bed.

Thaddeus Stevens story

Author and pastor Tony Evans says; “my passion when I get up in the morning is this:  how can I make God look good today; it transforms my everyday experience into an exciting adventure.”

Whats your purpose – why do you get out of bed?  What makes your life worth living.  People possessions and power or is it something else.  Is it that inner drive to make God look good today?  

Proclaiming Christ. preaching the gospel  praying for his people  those are the only activities that so fill Paul’s heart with love, and joy, and human happiness that he is “delighted” by life because he lives to please God. To Paul: That’s living the good life.

Life is tough. We struggle to find some equation that can bring us the end we crave—-true happiness. There are challenges with our health, on our job, in our homes. Paul was no religious guru holed up in a cave away from the problems of the world. He was out there facing opposition every day of his adult life. You think you have a hard job. Has it ever left you physically beaten up by mobs, thrown in flea-infested prisons, shipwrecked far from home?

Friends, here is the secret to dealing with life when it gets tough. Take the focus off your problems and place them on Christ. If you keep your eyes focused on your problems, all you're going to do is wallow in self-pity. You will be a burden to yourself and everyone around you. But if you will focus on Christ and on the people around you, then there is hope that you will find the real meaning of life. You will be living the good life.

If you really want to live the good life, our greatest commitment is the one we make to Jesus Christ.

In 1986 Lisa had her firstborn son – 12 weeks premature originally told he would not survive– he somehow made it, then she was told more dark news – he had cerebral palsy and would likely never walk; may be blind and mentally handicapped.

The dream of living the good life seemed like a nightmare. Growing up was tough for him.  16 surgeries were necessary. Teasing by children – unable to participate in various activities, insurance company fights over coverages.  His balance was so poor, he fell many times injuring himself. He eventually learned to walk haltingly and as a teen discovered the joys of a Segway scooter.

As he grew, he defied the odds, learned to hit a golf ball, shoot baskets and go diving.  Using a special dog to help his balance and a Segway he went to USF where he graduated magna cum laude. 

He wanted to be a doctor but was turned down five times because the authorities said no one would want a disabled doctor.  He didn’t give up – went to a school in the Caribbean where he majored in pediatric and hyperbaric medicine.

Finishing his clinical rotations in the United States, he passed all of his medical boards and is presently interviewing for a medical residency.  He is a medical doctor specializing in pediatrics.  His name is Tyler Sexton, you may recognize him as the grandson of Dick and Jeanne Norris. 

Tyler is living the good life despite his limitations. He has a strong faith in God and what God can do through him.