Success, Happiness, Purpose
Sermon delivered at Glen Cairn United Church, Kanata, Ontario
October 24, 1999
by Tony Copple, Alpha Course leader

theme conversation (for the children)
What does anyone here want to Do when you grow up?
What would you like to Be when you grow up? . . . (rich, happy, famous?)
What's the most important: success or happiness?
Is anybody planning it or do you think it just might happen?
Our Lord: give me purpose in my life, so that I will be happy and successful.

Thomas Jefferson wrote: "Every man is created equal." Don't you believe it!

Photo - Chi Fung
Success in life or any particular field is not correlated with race, affluence, religion, hard work, experience, intelligence, learning or happiness.

My theory is that success in human or (animal) society depends on the ability to think fast: the speed of thought.

Our brains can only handle one conscious thought at a time, so we are limited as in a kind of venturi tube of the mind. Most of us have encountered men and women of ability so superior to our own that they seem almost like another species. Some who never learned to read have awesome vision. I see natural human capabilities on a continuum like a ladder stretching to the sky, with me on a low rung on that ladder. To climb, I certainly need more knowledge and to work smarter and delegate more. But also I would have to increase my speed of thought, which may not be possible to do. Most of us have experienced methods of slowing down thinking speed (alcohol, fatty food), but our performance on a good day is something we may each be given at conception.

Don't we all strive after success? In business, in any employment, in self employment, we chase success. Money is the universal incentive. Every company I ever worked for wanted me to be more successful (ie. generate more money for the company) No company has allowed me to work less hard and earn less so I could put energy elsewhere. We attend school after school,...some succeed, some do not. Some are supremely wealthy, some are not.

The wealthy are generally less happy than those with adequate means! (I know, from professional experience as a financial planner). And many who become successful succumb to temptation and fall, and the higher they are the further they fall.

We are told by motivational speakers that all we need to do to be successful is to want something enough. This is a lie - or at least a logical fallacy. Certainly, a person of ability in a given field will not succeed without such determination. But some do not have the ability in that field. I'm afraid some do not have it in any field. It is very frustrating apparently to fail in every endeavor, while seeing others succeed. It's time we stopped measuring people on these artificial standards.

Some seek success for their children. How well they perform in sports and in the classroom seems paramount. It is normal routine to take their kids to hockey practice, the ball diamond, the pool, and drop everything else in ones life to do so. Children desperately seek their parents' approval, (and parents sometimes fail to praise them for their efforts.)

Do not read too much significance into your place on the capability ladder if happiness is your goal. A happy person is content to appreciate the universe from whatever level God has seen fit to place them. We are all equally loved by God, as his children, and that surely is far more important than our paltry achievements.

A hedonist is a seeker after happiness. It's a Greek word and it derives from the time when the Greece was top nation. I have a vision of a toga'd Greek lying in a hammock on a beach surrounded by servants and concubines, yet still unsatisfied with a never ending succession of fine dining and excesses of lifestyle.

Are you happy? What makes you happy? I went to Sams and bought Paul McCartney's latest CD Run Devil Run. The thrill I got was the same as when I bought his Beatles albums thirty years ago. We all have ways of getting a buzz. But is that happiness?

Happiness is a state. You don't get it from possessions, or stimulations, or even relations. Or anything external. You can sometimes get it from relationships. True happiness comes from within and once you have it, you can't lose it, even when external events go wrong.

The best example I can give of happiness in life is the contentment given by children to their parents and grandparents. This is no short-lived hedonism. Those who give in return, time to a child, will receive their rewards. Conversely, a failed relationship with your child is one of the saddest things to have to bear. But even this can be handled if you have the building blocks of true happiness in your heart.

Those who seek happiness as a goal seldom find it. But happiness can be found, without being looked for.

St. Paul wrote in Philippians 4-12: "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." The word content, here, from the Greek autarkes, is also translated as sufficiency, or better: Christ sufficiency.

What was Paul's secret? One thing about Paul; he knew his purpose in life. Despite the jeers of many of the other leaders in the Church, Paul knew his calling, to evangelize the gentiles. That's us.

Do you know what your life's purpose is? If you don't, it's unlikely you will achieve it. You have to go into the dreaming room to visualize what you, as a unique creation, are here for. Are you going to make things happen, or wonder what happened? What would you like someone to say about you at your funeral? Try and say it yourself, and you may find you have your life's purpose.

What I have just said is not easy to do. You need help. There is only one person who can help you. And here is a way of looking at this, that may help you.

Remember the happiness children give their parents? Parents will often do more for their children than an outsider can understand. When God conceived His plan, and conceived you, he felt and feels the same about you as you feel for your children. Whatever they do, you will forgive them. God had some tough times with his children (read Kings) and he had to come down and deal with the situation, experiencing suffering and despair in the process, to give us redemption. Not only this, but as the Holy Spirit He will live within the hearts and minds of any who invite him. That is His purpose!

If we will make our purpose in life, living in His ways with Him in our hearts, everything falls into place. (Mat 6.33) "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you, aleluja." This purpose can be lifelong, on one plane, and can operate as well on short project bases. But have Him with you. Do you see Him as a kindly middle eastern preacher with a beard? Think of Him instead as someone of our time, looking like your favourite human being, dressed in a suit, or jeans, or whatever your best friend would be wearing. Talk with him all the time. "What would Jesus do?" is the question to ask when you have to decide things. He's right there with you and will help you in every single aspect of your life. Now this purpose, living with the Spirit in your heart, is doable. You'll be surprised how He will lead you down the path, accommodating every complexity in your life.

Do you want to know the first two effects of a purpose like that? Success in your worldly endeavours, and true happiness. No longer chase them - they are yours by default. In all decisions, ask what would He advise. The advice will be better than your boss's.

texts reprise

1 Thess 2 1&4 (We are not trying to please men, but God, who tests our hearts.)
Mat 22, 36 -40 (Love the Lord your God with all your heart.)

If you don't feel you have Jesus in your heart all the time, and would like Him to be, say this prayer silently after me: (p 20 of the Alpha booklet "Why Jesus")

Lord Jesus Christ,

I am sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life. (Take a few moments to ask His forgiveness for anything particular that is on your conscience.) Please forgive me. I now turn from everything that I know is wrong.

Thank You that You died on the cross for me so that I could be forgiven and set free.

Thank you that you offer me forgiveness and the gift of Your Spirit. I now receive that gift.

Please come into my life by your Holy Spirit, to be with me forever.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, Amen