Pastor Rick Warren of Southern California's Saddleback Church said he believes that happiness can be learned during last weekend's worship services.
"Many people think that happiness is simply a matter of luck; if you're happy, you're just lucky," Pastor Warren told the congregation in his sermon, part of a series called, "The Habits of Happiness."
"Happiness can be learned; it's a quality that you can learn," he said.
Warren shared four qualities Christians need to build in their lives to be happy, based on Philippians 2:19-30, a letter Paul wrote from prison in Rome to the church he founded in Philippi. The passage is about Paul's disciple Timothy and Epaphroditus, who was sent by the Philippian church to give the congregation's financial gift to Paul.
The starting point for all happiness is to learn to shift the focus away from myself, he said. "I have to care about more than just me. I have to care about the needs of those around me."
Paul said Timothy is an example of this quality. "I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone else looks out for his own interests…" (Philippians 2:20-21)
We don't naturally look at the needs of other people, "that's something you have to learn to do," Pastor Warren said.
According to a study, the words being overused in the literature today are "I," "me," "my," "choice," "unique" and "special," the pastor said. Earlier, we used the words "prayer" and "responsibility" a lot. "We are increasingly becoming more self-centered… We're being brainwashed [by culture]."
The second quality we need to learn to be happy is to be trustworthy, the Saddleback pastor shared.
"The more people trust you, the happier you're going to be," he said. "And if people don't trust you, you're not going to be happy. If nobody trusts you, you're living a pretty miserable life."
We need to learn to be consistent and dependable, Warren added. Timothy was an example. "But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel." (Philippians 2:22)
Banks also do a credit check before they lend any money to know your track record, the pastor said. "Everybody around you is doing a credit check on your life, every moment of your life… Are you what you say you are? Are you the real deal?"
How do you build a reputation of reliability? "The Bible shows us two ways," he said.
One, live with integrity. "Make sure that my actions match my words." Integrity doesn't require perfection, he cautioned. "It means what you see is what you get."
He quoted Proverbs 25:13, "Reliable friends who do what they say are like cool drinks in sweltering heat-refreshing!"
Two, keep your promises. "They always do what they promise, no matter how much it may cost." (Psalm 15:4)
The third quality for happiness is to learn how to work well with others, Warren said. "I'm talking about the skill to be a team member, a skill or collaboration."
Two things can help us to work with others. One, learn to cooperate. "That's not something you do automatically," he said. Parents should teach their children to share their toys, and cooperate with people who are different.
Epaphroditus was an example of this quality. "But I think it is necessary to also send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs." (Philippians 2:25)
Epaphroditus was Paul's brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier. He knew how to be a team member, Warren pointed out. We need to learn to work with people different from us.
Two, learn to be considerate. "The more considerate you are of other people in life, the happier you're going to be," Warren said.
Paul wrote of Epaphroditus, "For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill." (Philippians 2:26) Paul was concerned about his co-worker's concern, and Epaphroditus was concerned about the Philippians church.
The fourth choice we need to make to live a happy life is to live for something worth dying for, Warren shared. "Until you have that, you won't have ultimate happiness in your life."
Most people are giving first class allegiance to causes that are second class, and we give big commitments to small causes, the pastor told the congregation. The best use of your life is in investing in that which will last, he added.
Paul wrote about Epaphroditus, "Indeed he was ill, and almost died... he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me." (Philippians 2:27, 30)
Epaphroditus walked 800 miles to give the church's offering to Paul, Warren said. He got sick, nearly died, he risked his life, but he completed his mission. "What commitment have you made to… your children… friends… wife… or God?" Warren asked church members.
Most people will be happy to follow Christ as long as it is convenient and comfortable, the pastor pointed out. "Happiness comes from putting service before security," he concluded.