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* Sunday Mornings
"The Way to Happiness" is an excellent theme with which to launch the new year. Everyone wants to be happy, and the New Testament is our greatest authority on the subject. Jesus Christ gives us the key that will unlock the door to happiness. This key is found in the eight Beatitudes. The word translated "blessed" is sometimes translated "happy."
* Sunday Evenings
"Experiencing the Great Salvation of God" is the suggested theme for a series of messages designed to enlarge our concepts of what God has provided for us in and through Jesus Christ. He came to do something more than give us a ticket to heaven.
* Wednesday Evenings
We begin the new year with a series of five lessons from the fourth chapter of Paul's letter to the Philippians. The series title is "Pathway to Praise."
SUNDAY MORNING, JANUARY 2
Title: Humility-The Way to Happiness
Text: "Blessed [happy] are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:3).
Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:1-12
Hymns: "Beneath the Cross of Jesus," Clephane "Whiter Than Snow," Nicholson "How Great Thou Art," Boberg
Offertory Prayer: On this first Sunday of the new year, we thank you, our heavenly Father, for life, health, family, and friends, but most of all for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ. As we give of our increase, we also give ourselves. Our tithes and offerings are only a symbol of laying our all on the altar of our commitment to you. Open our hearts and minds to the blessed teachings of your Son. In his name we pray. Amen.
Name eight things that would make you happy. If God said to you on this first Sunday of 2000, "Choose eight things that you feel would make your new year a happy one and I will give them to you," what would you choose?
Would you choose to be "poor in spirit"? Would you choose things such as mourning, meekness, hunger and thirst, being merciful, being pure in heart, being a peacemaker, or experiencing persecution? Do you think these eight things would make you happy? Jesus seems to think so.
Before you conclude that Jesus is wrong, consider the antithesis of these qualities: characteristics such as pride, pleasure-seeking, aggressiveness, compromising, impurity, cruelty, and hatred. You could not be happy with these characteristics, could you? Of course not!
Therefore, consider the eight Beatitudes as eight steps to happiness.
Humility is the way to happiness. In Matthew 5:3 when Jesus speaks of being "poor in spirit," he is referring to our recognition of both our spiritual neediness and the means that can supply our need. This poverty of spirit results in our discovery of God's kingdom. People who are "poor in spirit" do not boast of their attainments or talents because they know they have nothing that has not been given to them.
Why is humility the way to happiness?
I. Humility enables you to be honest about yourself.
When Jesus spoke of being "poor in spirit," he did not imply that being wealthy is wrong. Money can be handled in a Christian manner or in a non-Christian manner. Success and prosperity can lead a person to be self-satisfied and proud. Yet poverty can drive a person to dishonesty. Jesus did not teach that the poor are spiritually superior. Not money but "the love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Tim. 6:10).
Jesus declared that if you want to be happy, you must be aware of your spiritual poverty. No picture is more pathetic than that of a person who has a great need and is unaware of it. Do you remember Samson standing in the valley of Sorek? He was surrounded by Philistines: "But he did not know that the Lord had left him" (Judg. 16:20 NIV).
Poverty in spirit is the beginning of happiness. It is the admission that you are nothing without Christ. This admission is always followed by the Lord flooding one's life with the riches of his mercy and grace. To be "poor in spirit" is to be honest about yourself, and this is the way to happiness!
II. Humility impels you to commit your full potential to God.
William Barclay concluded that "Blessed are the poor in spirit" means blessed are those who have realized their own helplessness and who have placed their complete trust in the Lord. After you have done this you will become detached from things and attached to God. You will commit your full potential to God's will. The boy who came to hear Jesus teach illustrates this commitment. He took all the food he had and turned it over to Jesus (John 6:9).
Once you are willing to do this you will be amazed at what Christ can do with what you have to offer. Andrew asked what we are so often tempted to ask, "But what are they among so many?" In his own hands the boy's lunch was hardly enough to satisfy one lad's hunger. But in Jesus' hands the small meal became enough to feed more than five thousand people! Never underestimate what God can do with your five loaves and two fish. The moment you commit all that you have to Christ the impossible begins to happen!
Poverty that produces happiness is poverty of spirit. Total submission to God's will is always best, and humility is the way to happiness because it impels you to commit your full potential to God's will.
III. Humility prepares you to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
No proud soul can be filled with and controlled by the Holy Spirit, for a life filled with pride has no room for him. Those who are unwilling to be controlled by the Holy Spirit are controlled by selfish ambition. Therefore, the Lord said that we must become like little children before we enter the kingdom of heaven. Children depend on their parents. Because they are their parents' children, they are not really poor. As God's children, we are dependent on him. Children spend little time worrying about what they will eat, what they will wear, or where they will sleep. They simply assume that their needs will be met by their parents.
Our heavenly Father is responsible for our care. We are told to cast our cares on him because he cares for us. Jesus also said to his disciples, "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? ... If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:11-13 NIV). The "poor in spirit" know they are poor in spirit. They know they can do and can be nothing apart from the indwelling Spirit of God. Those who find happiness through humility allow the Holy Spirit to fill them.
Humility that enables you to be honest with yourself, that impels you to commit your full potential to God, and that prepares you to be filled with the Holy Spirit is the way to happiness.
The first beacon of the Eddy Stone Lighthouse off the coast of Plymouth, England, was placed there over two hundred years ago to warn ships of the dangerous reefs. Winstanley, the architect who built it, was so confident of its strength that he had written on the cornerstone, "Blow, O Ye Winds! Rise, O Ocean! Break Forth, Ye Elements, and Try My Work!" Those were foolish words, for less than three years later a raging storm destroyed the lighthouse, along with Winstanley and others who were making repairs on it at the time.
Years later John Smeaton, an early leader in civil engineering, rebuilt it. He found a new site and dug deep to the solid rock. He was a sincere Christian, as the new cornerstone revealed: "Except the Lord Build the House, They Labor in Vain That Build It." For over ninety years it has stood every test-it was founded on rock!
Do you want the kingdom of heaven now? Then dig deeply and build your life on the foundation of humility, because it is the way to happiness!
SUNDAY EVENING, JANUARY 2
Title: One Day at a Time
Text: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matt. 6:34 NIV.)
Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:31-34
We must avoid the peril of living either in the past or in the future and totally missing the present. Instead, we must seize the potential of each present moment and each contemporary experience if we want to live life to the full and make a significant contribution with our lives. Many of us live under the crushing burden of accumulated yesterdays and fearful tomorrows. Doing so robs us of the opportunity to really live in the present. Someone has said that there are two days that we should eliminate from our calendar: yesterday and tomorrow. We must beware lest we let yesterday or tomorrow hinder us from doing our best today.
Sir William Osler, a world-renowned doctor, suggested that we should "live in day-tight compartments." The famous doctor made this suggestion because of the truth he found in the following statement: "Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand" (Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living [New York: Pocket Books, 1948], 1). These words from the pen of Thomas Carlyle helped the great doctor concentrate on the present and the temporary rather than living in the past or in the future.
In line with this thought, Carnegie quotes a poem by the famous Indian dramatist, Kalidasa:
Look to this day! For it is life, the very life of life. In its brief course Lie all the verities and realities of your existence: The bliss of growth, The glory of action, The splendor of achievement. For yesterday is but a dream And tomorrow is only a vision, But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness And every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore, to this day! Such is the salutation to the dawn.
Many of us tend to put off living in the present in order to worry about the future. All of us have been guilty at times of embittering the present by filling our minds with regrets concerning the things that have happened in the past. William Barclay wrote:
Nearly all the great men have been haunted by the sense of the shortness of time-and of the uncertainty of time ... as we grow older, and as time grows ever shorter, there are certain things that we should remember.
1. We should never leave things half-finished-in case they are never finished.
2. We should carefully choose what we are going to do-for there is no longer time to do everything, and we should do the things which really matter.
3. We should never come to the end of a day with a quarrel or a breach between us and any fellow-man-for it may be that the quarrel will never be mended and the breach will never be closed.
4. We only get so much time, and when that is finished we cannot get any more.
5. None of us knows how much we are going to get.
6. If there is something to be learned, we must learn it now; for the longer we put it off, the harder it will be to learn it. (William Barclay, Daily Celebration [Waco, Tex.: Word Books, 1971], 14-16)
W. Clement Stone said that "Do it now" is one of the great self-motivators. Those who have achieved success in life have learned to do it now rather than surrendering to procrastination.
I.The stewardship of time.
Time is lent to us to be used in God's service. We cannot be too diligent in the proper use of time.
A. Time is precious. We cannot kill time without injuring eternity. We should snatch it, use it, and enjoy every minute of it.
B. Time is short.
C. Time is passing swiftly.
D. Time is uncertain. The most certain thing is the uncertainty of time.
E. Time is irrevocable when gone. All of our prayers cannot entreat one hour to return.
F. Time is that for which we must give an account to our Savior.
Aristotle Onassis had ten secrets of success, and one of these was related to time. He said, "Don't sleep too much or you'll wake up a failure. If you sleep three hours less each night for a year, you will have an extra month and a half to succeed in" (Success Unlimited, May 1977, 35). If this multimillionaire would deprive himself of sleep in order to make money, it seems like God's children could make better use of their waking hours by rendering services of eternal significance.
II. The management of time.
We are responsible for the way we use the gift of time. Following are some suggestions for improving our stewardship of time.
A. Begin each day with a prayer of thanksgiving. The psalmist said, "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Ps. 118:24 NIV). If we face every new day with the psalmist's attitude, the first words from our lips likely will be a prayer of thanksgiving.
1. Thank God for the gift of life and for another day.
2. Thank God for the gift of faith that has let God come into your life.
3. Thank God for the members of your family.
4. If you are able to work, thank God for this privilege.
5. Thank God for friends.
6. Thank God for what he is going to do in your heart and life during the day. Beginning each day with an attitude and prayer of thanksgiving will set the tone for the day. It will help you face every situation with a positive mental attitude and with the assurance that God will bring good to those who love and trust him (Rom. 8:28).
B. Accept each day as an opportunity to be a helper.
1. Do something today that will enrich your life spiritually and in every other way. You help others to the degree that you help yourself into a harmonious relationship with God. Feed your soul with God's Word. Encourage yourself in the closet of prayer. Let God help you. 2. Be a helper to your family. Courtship is a process that should be continued in marriage. Parents should seek to minister in a creative and positive manner to their children. When families earnestly seek to help one another, home life becomes better.
3. Be a helper to others in your immediate circle. Do the best job you can for your employer. Help those with whom you have contacts and responsibilities during the day. Be something other than a parasite; become a contributor.
4. Be a helper to those you meet on your daily journey. We can render services to strangers, be courteous while driving, be cheerful in our conversations, and compliment those who do a good job.
Excerpted from The Zondervan 2000 Pastor's Annual by T. T. Crabtree Copyright © 1999 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
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