In Pursuit of Happiness
Pastor Jeff Hamm
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A teacher once asked her students a few questions. Pointing to piece of coal, to an orange, to cricket and to mouse in a cage, she asked to what kingdom each of them belong. Her students answered correctly, to the mineral, fruit, insect and animal kingdoms.
Then she asked to what kingdom do I belong? That is really a fascinating question facing every man. Some might say that we belong to the animal kingdom, because we like animals live by our appetite and are driven by our passions. However, most would think that we live above the animal kingdom, because we have the sense of right and wrong, the ability of choice and the power to make it happen.
Yet to some there is even a higher kingdom to which we can rise, the Kingdom of God. The Scripture teaches us that we can enter jointly with Christ into His Kingdom: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs —heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”
Our relationship with God is often considered spiritual unseen by those around. It is somewhat like the boy who was flying his kite and it was so high that it disappeared into the clouds. A man stopped by and said, “So why are you holding that string?” the boy said, “I have a kite on the end of it.” The man gazed into the sky and said, “I don’t see anything,” the boy replied, “I know that it is there because I can still feel its tug.” Many people may not know the joy of the “Kingdom of God.” But if you feel the tug of God on the strings of your heart it is “joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
In the Kingdom of God we often only consider one aspect of its facilities’, the spiritual. However God is concerned about the complete human experience. There is a connection or interrelationship between the spiritual, physical and mental well being of all creation. When all is taken into consideration and the knowledge that the ministry of the Kingdom is to whole person, more will move in the direction of God’s total blessing in His church.
Physical and mental Health: Your Body the Temple of God
Paul instructing the church at Corinth, said, “Don’t you know that your body is a temple that belongs to the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit, whom you received from God, lives in you. You don’t belong to yourselves. You were bought for a price. So bring glory to God in the way you use your body.” Paul dealing with sexual immorality brings to the discussion that physical practice and health can impact the spiritual and mental aspects of human life.
We are marvelously designed by God. He made us in a way that all our body systems work together in an incredible ways. Our Body, soul, spirit, and mind are interconnected and work together perfectly according to His design. Because of our unique design, when we live according to the principles outlined in the Bible, our life will be more full and we are likely to experience life with peace, joy and hope. This will create an environment that favors good health.
I have a wonderful friend who has spent a number of years serving the body of Christ as a pastor in a Baptist Churches. He also smoked cigarettes for number of years and now suffers from COPD and Emphysema, a diseases associated with smoking. The affect of the disease has forced him into early retirement, leaving his position as pastor of the church that he loves and cares for dearly has caused him depression.
All of us can do a better job at maintaining good physical health and using our bodies in ways that gives glory to God. Jesus explained to the Pharisees, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” The human body needs rest to function best. Proper rest, nutrition, and exercise can improve physical and mental health. Exercise improves cognitive functioning and reduces the risk of developing Dementia. In a study, older men, aged 71 to 93, who walked less than a quarter mile a day, were 1.8 times more likely to develop dementia than men who walked more than 2 miles a day. In a second study, researchers from Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health found that women, aged 70 to 81, who walked at least 1.5 hours per week, had less cognitive decline than those who walked less than 40 minutes per week.
Dr. Christina M.H. Powel teaches,nutrition affects a person’s mood is another example of physical health impacting mental health. In general, a diet that keeps sugars at an acceptable level and provides plenty of tryptophan and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids is most likely to help a person make and use serotonin, a feel-good chemical in the brain. Thus foods rich in omega-3 fats — salmon, sardines, walnuts, and flaxseed — may help combat mild depression. Good food sources of tryptophan — an essential amino acid in the human diet that the body uses to make serotonin — include fish, turkey, chicken, cheese, beans, milk, eggs, and chocolate. A person who feels healthy and energetic will have greater resources for ministering to others and bouncing back from setbacks. While physical suffering and anxiety over health concerns certainly can draw us closer to God, it is easier to resist temptation and make wise choices when we are feeling well. Thus, a person’s physical health can affect a person’s spiritual well-being.
There are a lot of health compromising behaviors that we as the church often are silent about. As the church moves forward and strengthens its witness of God’s glory, it is to be expressed in various forms, including being a happy church. We should make every effort to support positive health lifestyles and appropriate life behavior suited for the Kingdom of God.
A Kingdom Of Joy
The Kingdom of God is a community of love, for God is love. Paul describes a great range of godly characteristics and emotions as aspects of His Kingdom. They include “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” The Bible exhorts us to be full of this Spirit
If these qualities are prevailing in our personality, we are less likely to suffer from mental aberrations. People with this type of personality are self-controlled; they will be stable and able to endure the difficulties of life. They will be optimistic, which is a vital part of a healthy mind. “Optimistic people are more able to roll with life’s punches and slough off stress—and they live longer.” On the other hand, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”
At the heart of the matter, true happiness boils down to cultivating our spiritual nature – with qualities like prayer, Bible study and worship through praise. Nineteenth century spirituality and health author and Bible scholar Mary Baker Eddy believed this to be true. She writes, “Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.”
Eddy also offers this advice, “If you wish to be happy, argue with yourself on the side of happiness; take the side you wish to carry, and be careful not to talk on both sides, or to argue stronger for sorrow than for joy. You are the attorney for the case, and will win or lose according to your plea.” She points out that we have an ability to choose which thoughts we entertain. With a little consistent work we can weed out the negative thoughts that don’t fit with those spiritual traits carefully laid out in the Bible.
Developing a regular spiritual practice of cultivating our mental/spiritual garden, either through meditation or prayer is one way to do it. Dr. Ellen L. Idler encourages taking time for the spiritual. She writes “Transcendent spiritual and religious experiences have a positive, healing, restorative effect, especially if they are “built in,” so to speak, to one’s daily, weekly, seasonal, and annual cycles of living.”
People without the Spirit of God will be vulnerable and driven frequently by negative emotions. The accompanying problems can include adultery, sexual immorality, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, envy and drunkenness. Living this type of life style has a consequence that makes one a candidate for instability, unhappiness and probable mental issues.
We have choices and those choices influence our emotions and mental capacities, and we have to live with the consequences of choices. The types of emotions that prevail in our minds will be a principal influential factor in whether or not we are doing well. “Emotions are a mixed blessing. They are responsible for many of man’s finest and greatest achievements. They are also responsible for some of the greatest tragedies in our world”
Being part of God’s Kingdom also offers us a positive social support system. This support system includes God along with other believers. The 17th-century poet John Donne had a similar reflection: “No man is an island.” Good mental and spiritual health requires contact with people of faith. One of the original concepts of the Bible is that God designed humans to need other humans. God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone”
The need for a support team of family and the community of faith is scientifically established. “What happens if we have no close relationships? The message that emerges loud and clear from scientific evidence accumulated since the mid 1970’s is that having a reasonable quantity and quality of social relationships is essential for mental and physical wellbeing.”
Jesus points out in His “Sermon on the Mount,” that the kingdom of God is a place of happiness. Eight times He references the word “blessed” also translated “happy” with certain paths that put us in a positive relationship with Him. In our pursuit for happiness we do well to heed these words of Christ.
It would be helpful to begin by dealing with this word “blessed.” There is an aspiration to translate the word with happy. However that does not seem to bring into full focus all that is intended here in the text, because of contemporary usage of the word happy it does not fit well with the Biblical meaning. The term “blessed” is an exclamation of the inner joy and peace that results from being in positive relationship with God. Happiness as we know may certainly be a part of it, but it is a happiness that transcends what is going on in our physical world, an inner joy that comes to the soul from being favored by God. This is the reason that in the heart of the Christian, while in the season of intense persecution, comes a call from deep within for rejoicing. The Lord’s announcement of “blessed” is an assurance of divine reward for the spiritual temperament of the redeemed, those have been imputed with the righteousness of God
 Rom 8: 16-17 GW
 I Cor. 6: 19-20 GW
 Mark 2:27 ESV
 R.D. Abbott et al., “Walking and dementia in Physically Capable Elderly Men,” JAMA 2004;292:1447–1453.
 J. Weuve et al., “Physical Activity, Including Walking, and Cognitive Function in Older Women,” JAMA2004;292:1454-1461.
 Christina M.H. Powell, Ph.D., an ordained minister, author, medical writer, and research scientist trained at Harvard Medical School and Harvard University. She speaks in churches and conferences nationwide and addresses faith and science issues at http://www.questionyourdoubts.com.
 I John 4: 8
 Gal. 5: 22-23
 Bradley Wilcox M.D., Craig Wilcox Ph.D., Makoto Suzuki M.D., The Okinawa Program, 2001, Pg. 273
 Pro. 25: 28 ESV
 Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scripture, Forgotten Books, 2007
 Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scripture, Forgotten Books, 2007
 Gal. 5: 19-21
 Norman Wright, The Christian Use of Emotional Power, 1974, Pg. 13
 Gen. 2: 18
 Paul Martin, M.D., The healing Mind, 1997, Pg 157