Sermon May 10, 2010

If You’re Happy and You Know It

John 14:1-14

Because this is Mother’s Day, I want to start off saying – Happy Mother’s Day and we want to honor all our Moms and women. We’re more grateful to you than you can imagine. Our message for today is on Happiness. I believe I can say without fear of contradiction that one of the secrets to happiness is to have a good Mom. That’s not always possible, but for those who’ve been so fortunate, we can say that it’s one of the great blessings of life. And so today we salute the women – biological, adopted, or beautiful friends and family – who have loved us and poured their lives into ours. Thank you all for your gifts of time and talents in my life.

Soooo – about happiness, or what people consider to be their happiness – in 1816, a small group of miners claimed to have mined a large amount of gold and silver from the Rocky Mountains. They hid their wealth and swore each other to secrecy. For the most part they kept their secret. But one of the miners, a man named Thomas Beale, wrote a letter pinpointing the exact location of the gold and silver. The only catch is Beale wrote his letter in code. Eventually, all the members of the mining party died, including Thomas Beale. And guess what? No one has ever been able to crack the code in Thomas Beale’s letter, and since none of the other miners divulged their secret, this treasure remains hidden somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Anyone interested in setting up a search party to find all that gold? The rest of us will stay behind and pray for you – as long as you promise to tithe 10% of whatever you find. (big smile)

By the way, that’s not the only buried treasure waiting to be discovered in the Rocky Mountains. In 1988, a man named Forrest Fenn was diagnosed with cancer. In anticipating his death, he bought a small chest and filled it with treasures and buried it somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. He published a poem that contains clues to the treasure’s whereabouts. His treasure chest remains hidden in the Rocky Mountains. As of 2019, over 65,000 people from around the world have gone on a hunt for Forrest Fenn’s treasure chest. Some have died trying to find it. But so far, no one has discovered the hidden treasure of Forrest Fenn.

Some of us might envy these treasure hunters and would like to join the hunt. On the other hand, others of us may think these treasure hunters are crazy for spending their time, energy and money chasing a dream. Most treasure hunters get a reputation for being kind of kooky – until they find the treasure. Then we change our tune. These stories of treasure hunters make me think of how many of us spend our lives searching for happiness. We organize our lives around finding the most happiness. And we all define it differently. At least the folks searching for actual treasure have a map or set of clues to follow. All we have are our own ideas about happiness to follow.

To some people, happiness means having the perfect family life, or an enviable career, or a big bank account, or a list of accomplishments, or the respect of others. And the list could go on. But here’s my question – has anyone found the secret to happiness in this life? Has anyone cracked the code? Let’s be honest – most of us are exhausted by the hunt. We do a good job of faking it. We’d confess to almost any sin or failing rather than this – we are deeply unhappy, we don’t know why, we don’t know what we’re missing, we can’t find the answer, and it feels like we’re the only one who feels this way.

This brings us to our Bible passage today from John 14. The Book of John chapters 13-19 all take place on the last night of Jesus’ life before His arrest and crucifixion. Jesus tells His disciples He will be betrayed, and He’s going away. His disciples are upset, and they don’t understand. So, Jesus tells them He’s going to His Father’s house to prepare a place for them and He’ll come back to take them to their new home in His Father’s house. In fact, Jesus won’t just show them the way to His Father’s house – Jesus says He is the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him. Philip catches this glimmer of hope, and says – “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” What a wonderful statement this is – “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

I think most of you received an “enough” tab in one of the early mailings. Enough is really the hidden treasure that all of humanity is seeking. The Hebrew word “Shalom” is usually translated “peace” by Gentiles. But it expresses this state of tranquility that comes from peace, fulfillment and completeness – in other words, enough. One of the greatest gifts on earth is shalom – Enough.

There was a cartoon that showed two fields separated by a fence. Each field was the same size and each had plenty of lush green grass. In each field there was a mule whose head was stuck through the wire, eating grass from the pasture on the other side, even though it’s hard to reach. In the process of reaching the grass on the other side, the mules heads became caught in the fence. They panicked and brayed because they were unable to get free. The cartoon was described with one word – Discontent.

So much of human history has been driven by discontent. It’s been driven by the quest for more – more money, more security, more power. And this whole treasure hunt that consumes our lives is really a form of idolatry. It’s a way of seeking happiness and importance and security in our desires and achievements, not in God’s plans and God’s provisions. If it were possible for us to find happiness and significance this way, then why haven’t we? Why doesn’t anyone have enough?

There is one question at the heart of every human being that drives our search for enough. The question is – “Does God exist?” Because if there is a God, then all of our meaning and purpose and identity and destiny flow from the character of God. Philip knew this and that’s why he said – “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” If you disagree with Philip, then let’s assume for a moment that there is no God. If there is no God, then you’re a random collection of cells. Your identity and worth come from how you define yourself, or how society defines and values you. As a random collection of cells, you’re required to make up your own meaning or purpose for your life. Otherwise, your life is just a random series of meaningless events that may or may not meet your criteria for happiness.

If we remove God from the equation of the universe, then human beings have no natural identity or worth, our life has no natural meaning or purpose, and our values of right or wrong have no actual foundation to support them. So how do people usually respond to a meaningless universe? By seeking control. By seeking to be first or best in everything. By grasping after anything that will give them identity, purpose or meaning in the moment. And they call that happiness.

But if there is a God, and God is the source of true meaning and purpose and identity, then what is God like? Remember Philip’s implied question – “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us”? Jesus is the answer to the questions, “Does God exist?” and “What is God like?” Jesus answers Philip – “Don’t you know Me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on My own authority. Instead, it is the Father, living in Me, who is doing His work.”

In Jesus, we see a God who understands us. God has tried to communicate with us and have a relationship with us from the beginning of time. Through promises and prophets, God tried to reach out and bring us back to His original plan for us. And when none of that worked, God came in human form in the life of Jesus. He grew up in a poor family. He worked hard for His daily bread. He lived under a brutal Roman government. That’s why Jesus knew what was in His disciples’ hearts. That’s why, just hours before His own arrest, Jesus was comforting them. He understood their situation. And so it is with us. In Jesus, we see a God who understands us, a God who speaks our language, a God who has a plan for us. Jesus begins this Bible passage by saying – “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

When Jesus says He’s going to His Father’s house to prepare a place for us, He’s talking to us, His beloved. He’s making a promise to return for us and bring us to our new home – a home of eternal life with God. Only He can make this promise because He is, as He told His disciples, the only way to God.

Jesus didn’t have to make a decision about us. From the beginning of Creation, God had a plan to make us a part of His family. God planned for us to be a part of His life forever. That’s why God came in the form of Jesus to show us who He really is. He came to show us how much He loves us. And God came to show us there’s always been a plan for us – a plan to prepare a place for us in God’s eternal home, and to bring us back to be with God someday. And the way to this place of eternal life with God is through accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

“Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” If you’re still searching for happiness, meaning and purpose in your life, then please know and remember – you can find all these things in knowing the Father who knows you, who speaks your language, and who has a perfect plan for your life. Then for the first time in your life you will be able to say with great happiness – I’m happy and I know it because I have – “Enough.” Amen.