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How to be Happy in Hard Times

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How to be Happy in Hard Times

Psalm 1:1 (KJV)

Blessed is the man…

I have been and I’m sure you have been amazed at the tenor, the climate, the atmosphere of our environment; of our country; of our nation. I have watched as I’m sure you have the fall out; the residue; the smoke; the debris; the remnant of the tragedy that has befallen this country and yea the world. And seemingly by most accounts, if not all, we have as the old cliché says “We have fallen on hard times.” By the indicators, (speaking observationally as a reporter relaying to you what I hear; what the buzz is on TV, in the news paper, in print) and I say that legitimately because I’m obviously not speaking from a Godly or spiritual perspective parse, because I’m talking about the climate of the land, the environment in which we live: the tenor the tone of our country; of our nation; of our cities; of our homes; of our selves. And it seems as though there is a consensus of sorts that we have fallen on hard times. We’ve heard so many times before that we are in a war that is a different kind of war. There is a generation now; this generation has never seen the likes of which are occurring in our nation; in our world today. And even those of us who have memories of conflicts and memories of encounters and engagements and attacks in the past have never seen anything like this before. The waging and the responding and the engagement into this conflict, is in a dimension; on a level that this world has never seen before. Few if any of our conventional paradigms for engagement politically, militarily will be applicable in this time. For, these are strange times in which we live. Now the catch is that a believer is a citizen of two worlds. We are pilgrims. As the old slave song says “I’m just a po-pilgrim traveling through this barren land.”

And so, the believer is a citizen of two nations if you will. We are citizens of this country; citizens of this land; this state etc., but we are also citizens of the kingdom. And we are enjoined; we are exhorted; we are challenged; we are confronted with the truth of the word that says do not be conformed to this world… So, we live under a mandate that we are not to let the world conform us. And the word conform means to squeeze; to pack into a mold. So the exhortation in Rom. 12:2 is this, in spite of what you are going through, don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold. Don’t fall susceptible to the world’s ideology. Don’t buy into the world’s philosophy. Don’t look at stuff the way the world sees it. So then it is the believer that has the exhortation of the word of God that we are not to follow the pattern, but we are to live in a spiritual counter culture; that we are in this world but not of this world. It is with that exhortation in mind that we now see not only the reality but the possibility of being happy even in hart times.

This book of the Psalms is a unique book; it is actually a collection of individual Hebrew poems intended for use in worship. It’s not accurate to call these Psalms chapters. Technically each psalm is a poem or a song or a lyric in and of itself, so that it is a collection or a compilation if you will of many poems or songs that are in groups 5. So that the first group is from Psalm 1-41; the second group is from Psalms 42-72; the third group is from Psalms 73-89; the fourth group is Psalms 90-106; and the last group or book of the Psalms is from Psalms 107-150. 150 Psalms! Now here’s the catch; Psalm 1 begins with a declaration of faith; Psalm 150 ends with an exhortation to praise. So, that, the book of Psalms begins with faith and ends with praise. Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 are seen as a unit and for the most part serves as the introduction to the remaining 150 Psalms. So Psalm 1 and 2 are kind of a two part introduction. Psalm 1, talks about the written word and Psalm 2, talks about faith in the living word. So, Psalm 1 talks about a particular kind of a life style or the person who lives a particular life style. And Psalm 2 talks about the coming Messiah or the living Christ (or the living word if you will). So that it is faith in Gods word, written and living that leads us to the rejoicing and praise that is in Psalm 150. Martin Luther said, “The book of Psalm is the Bible in miniature. It is a synthesis of the truths of all of scripture.” Psalm 1 opens with a declaration that begins a journey thorough 150 Psalms. In Jewish culture the book of psalms was seen as a hymn book. It was called the hymn book of Israel. But what’s unique about it is that this book of Psalm had two dynamics, first of all it was used to tell and secondly it was used to teach. So in the book of Psalm there is a series of narratives that continually tell the story of the journey and history of Israel. It is a book that recounts and recaptures and retells the various journeys and the various sections and the various seasons and the various eras in the history of Israel. But it is not just telling for telling sake; it is telling that it might also teach. So it is not only the recapturing or the recounting or retelling of a story it is teaching (if you will) about the Savior. For it is a continuous, repetitive presentation of the character of God and the relationship of God to His people.

There are some interesting things about this book of Psalms, because it covers centuries of time. And here in lies its connection and its relevance to where we are today. Because between Psalm 1 and Psalm 150 there is a revelation of what God did or who God is, and it is always in the context of the realities of life. This book of Psalm contains exhortations, and blessings, devotions and prayers and even complaints. And they are all done out of real life experiences. I want to suggest to you that this book of Psalms speaks in hard times.

Psalm 1 begins “Blessed is the man…” It is an exhortation that goes throughout the book and we’re going to look at many of them as we go along. But, this being blessed and living a blessed life is placed in a context of hard times. These are not just psalms and songs that were sung when people were on the mountain tops. These are not just sunshine songs. These are exhortations and words from God that spoke to men and women in the realities of the struggles of their lives. They lived in hard times.

First of all, from a national perspective these psalms covered 100’s and 100’s of years. There is a Psalm that is written by Moses. There are many Psalms that are written by David. From Moses to David alone was over 425 years. So, the Psalms cover centuries of time.  It speaks of the national journey of the people of God. It speaks of what God did and how God brought them out of Egypt back in Moses’ time back in the Exodus. It travels with them through the wilderness. There are psalms that come out of the wilderness experience. There are psalms that relate to Jerusalem, and that relate to the building and the foundation of the temple. It speaks of the national predicament of the people of God.

It also has to do with their economics. For, it speaks of the time when they were in their captivity. They were in exile; away from the Holy Land. It talks about their situation {and you will see it time and time again in certain psalms} where it seems as though their very world is crumbling around them. It talks about mountains shaking and rivers rising and winds blowing and storms and that kind of thing. It speaks of a world that is falling apart. Many are asking economic questions today. There are all kinds of pundits and prognosticators and prophets and prophets of doom; analysis and historians and anthropologist and scientist who are trying to discover what in the world is going on.

Not only do the Psalms speak nationally and economically, they speak personally. Not only are there national hard times and economic hard times in the psalms, ah, but if you stay with the psalms they speak of some personal hard times. What is interesting about the psalms is that they are songs to be song; they are melodies; they are lyrics if you will. These are songs that some one composed out of personal experiences.

And so you see national hard times and you see economic hard times, and you see personal hard times. You see relationships on the rocks, right in the psalms. You see the pain of sin; the agony of repentance. You see hunger and thirst for God. You see pictures painted of being away from God and far from God. And you see lyrical portraits of a thirst for God; a hunger for God; desperation for God all in the midst of hard times. 

Well, there are those who would say that we have fallen upon national hard times. Some say we’ve fallen upon economic hard times; recession and that kind of stuff. But if you don’t see national hard times and if you don’t have enough economic stability or economic insight to see economic hard times sooner or later you will relate to some personal hard times. Relationships; distance from God; struggles for who you are! Confusion about decisions! Standing at a cross road in life! Times when it seems as though your whole world is crumbling around you! When you realize your own frailty and you look back on a life of pain that you’ve inflicted. You look back of a life of pain that has been inflicted. You look and you recognize what you’ve done to other folks. Maybe you look and you see what somebody has done to you. Now, where ever you fall on that whole continuum, God say you can be happy.

Listen! Verse 1 says, “Blessed is the man…” The word “Blessed” is one of two Hebrew words translated and written in English the same way. One is the word barak; and whenever you see that word, the focus is the granting of favor and it is the granting of favor by God. So, when the bible says that God blessed some; God granted favor. When the bible says that someone was blessed it means that they have received favor, but the emphasis is on God. So, God baraks (or blesses us) when He grants us favor.

But, that’s not the word used here. The word used here for blessed is the Hebrew word ’esher. ’Esher more accurately means happy. {Now stay with me!} The Bible says this, “Happy is the man…” And when God talks about us being happy, it is never in a vacuum, because happiness is directly related to our relationship to God. But the emphasis of ’esher is on us and not on God. {I’ll give it again. Barak is when God grants us favor and the emphasis is on Him. So God blessed me—God has granted me favor. I bless God—I responded in gratitude to the favor that God has granted me}. But, ’esher means happiness; and it is my response to the blessing or favor of God. But instead of the emphasis being on what God has done to make me happy, this word for bless means and includes the idea that I have done something to position myself to be made happy. It means to be straight; it means to be right; and it means to be well ordered. So to be happy means to be straight; it suggests orderliness about my life; it means that my life is right; right relationally; I’m happy when I’m right with God. I’m happy when I’m right in my relationships. It is both positional and emotional. In its position it means that my life is in right position relative to God. I’m happy when my life is in a position ordered by God.  One Psalm says the steps of a good man are ordered (navigated; set out; laid out; plotted out) by God. Now, once I realize that my life and my steps have been ordered by God there is a settled peace that comes over my life that is an emotional response and a literal response to the reality that God has granted me favor. Yes, but the emphasis now is on how I respond. I respond by being happy.

What does that mean? It means that I am happy when I realize that my life is ordered by God; it is set by God; it’ is covered by God; it is not just that God did it; happiness is my response to it. I get happy when I realize; I get happy when I see. I get happy when I can plot. I get happy when I can notate. I get happy when I can perceive. I get happy when I look beyond what I see and I look by faith into the part that I cannot see and I realize that on the other side I’m about to step into the very center of God’s will for my life, because no matter what I went through to get here He was still ordering my steps.

{Watch it now!} And even if I get off track He has a way of pulling me back in the road and stepping me in the right path that leads to His favor. Happiness has to do with the position of my life. I’ happy based on my position. If I’m in right standing; if I realize that my life is ordered by God; my steps are ordered by God.

Now watch this. The King James Version says, “Blessed is the man…” Listen, “Blessed” is a very interesting word because it is in the plural form, which denotes either a multiplicity of blessings or an intensification of them. The verse might correctly be translated, “O the blessednesses of the man...”

 The word says “Blessed is the man…” The word “man” is generic and includes both men and women. But, the word “blessed,” is plural. So it is not just “blessed,” its “blessednesses!” It’s not even just “blessedness,” its “blessednesses.” It’s bad English, but its goo theology. Here is a person whose life is characterized by “happinesses!”

Blessednesses,” is better translated “How happy…” or “Oh, the joys…” Here’s a person in the midst of hard times, is so hooked up with God that they had to make up a word to describe their attitude towards life. It does not make good grammatical sense, but theologically it blesses me. “Blessednesses is the man…” You can’t diagram that, you English teachers. It means multiplied happiness’s. “O the happiness…” “O how blessed is the person…” It suggests that no matter is happening around you the power of the Living God, not only gives you the ability to rise above your obstacles, but He gives you the ability to have happiness down on the inside that is inexplicable; that doesn’t even fit into the grammatical mode. That God has the ability to place you in a place where your happiness and your blessing will overflow even grammatically. It doesn’t even make sense for you to be that happy. And you know, you’ll get to a point if you keep walking with God, that you’ll be going through some stuff; you’ll face some hard times; you’ll face some obstacles and folk looking at you will actually think you have lost your natural mind, because they know how much hell you are going through, yet every time they see you, you’ve still a smile on your face. You’ve still got your head held high; shoulders thrown back—happy, happy; happy. Doesn’t even make sense for you to be that happy! There’s no logic for you to be happy. What they don’t know, is that your being happy has nothing to do with what they can see. I said your happiness has nothing to do with what’s going on the outside. In fact, you happiness has little to do with happenings, because happenings have a trendy to change depending on which way the wind is blowing. But when you’ve got some happy deep down on the inside, underneath the skin, no matter what the wind says; doesn’t matter what the whether forecast says. Let the storms come; happy says “but the storm is passing over.” Let the winds blow, but happiness says He can speak to the winds and tell the winds peace be still. Let the storm clouds rage, but happiness says He can hold the rains and stop the storms and calm your life. Happy, Happy; Happy! Tell your neighbor, you can be Happy, Happy; Happy!

Here is the person who has the spiritual ability to be straight with God; right with God and happy even in hard times. It is a true happiness based on their relationship with God. Now, here’s the catch! Here comes the catch! This happiness is not automatic. The other word for blessed (barak) has the focus on an action on God’s part. You are blessed because God has granted you favor. And with that blessing the reality is there is nothing that you can do to earn or merit that favor. The barak of God; the blessing of God is a sovereign choice on the part of God who bestows favor, and bless us even when we do not deserve it.

But, by the use of the  word (’esher), instead of the word the (barak), text says that in order for you to qualify to be happy, happy, happy, there is something you must do, because you don’t get happy automatically. The text says that the person who is happy, happy, happy, is a person who is happy because they do certain things and they don’t do certain things. So that the person who is happy, happy, happy, is the person who has made a choice. Listen! Get this; if you don’t get anything else I’ve said today; I’ve been working all this time to get to this, and it is all that I have to say. Tell your neighbor—neighbor happiness is a choice! Now tell your self—self happiness is a choice. Say it again. Say, self, I can choose to be happy! {Let me work on that}.

 “Blessed is the man…”  Notice verse 4, “The ungodly are not so…” In verses 1-3, the person in verse 1 chooses not to do some things and chooses to do other things. And because of the choices that they have made they qualify for happiness’s. Verse 4, “The ungodly are not so…” This psalm is a contrast of two life styles and in the first three verses there is life style that has made certain choices, in verses 4-6 there is a contrast of another life style that has made different choices. And verse 1 says that the person who has made the choices in verse 2 and 3 are happy. That person is happy. But, verse 4 says, “The ungodly are not so…” Happiness is a choice. The Psalm says that the person who is happy is a person who has made a series of choices and those choices have positioned them in right relationship with God so that now they are candidates for the unmerited outpouring of the favor of God and their response is I’m happy, happy, happy. You can choose to be happy or you can choose to be sad. I’m not talking about what people do to you. Because you cannot always control what people do to you. You can control two things:

  1. You can control how long you let them do what they do to you, and that’s a choice.
  2. And then you can control who you respond to what they did to you; when they did what they did.

So, I cannot always control what you do to me, I can control how long I’m going to stay here and let you do to me what you did do to me. And then I certainly can control how I will respond to what you did to me.

The text says that the person that is filled with happiness’s; the persons whose life is characterizes by blessedness’s is the person who has made some choices. They choose not to do certain things and they choose to do certain things. It does not matter what circumstances you are in. It does not matter how hard the times get, the truth of the matter is that you have the ability to choose how you respond to them. And the way that you respond to them will have a bearing on the path that you life will take after that cataclysmic occurrence has come into your life. In other words you have a choice to live your life this way or live your life that way. You can only blame your mama for so long! You can only blame your daddy for so long! You can only blame your cousin, your uncle, your aunt for so long. Stop blaming the man; the system; the government and stop blaming the pastor. You must realize that you have a choice; and sometimes you have to choose to be happy. I’m not talking about a superficial emotionalism; I’m talking about a happiness that is underneath the skin. That is inextricably woven within the constitution of the fabric of you relation with God. I’m talking about a relationship with God that is able to withstand; no matter what the world throws at you. God is not moved nor is He impressed by hard times. He was God before the times got hard and He’ll be God when times get better.

He’ll do His part. But, you have to make up in your mind that today I’m going to be happy.

  • I choose today in spite of my circumstances…
  • I choose today in spite of what has happened to me…
  • I cannot control it. I cannot go back and change it.
  • But what I can do is control the choice that I make of where I’m going to go; what I’m going to do and how I’m going to live from this day forward.
  •  And sometimes you’ve got to wake up in the morning and look at the person in the mirror and have a little talk with yourself.
  • And tell self, now today is a new day. This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.
  • You need to tell yourself and anybody else who needs to know, I’m not crying anymore. I have cries my last tear.
  • Today, I’m going to be happy.
  • I’m not going to cry.
  • I’m not going to complain. 
  • I’m not going to belly ache.
  • I’m not going to feel sorrow for myself.
  • I’m not going to have a pity party.
  • Today, I’m go to put my trust in the power of the living God, and I’m going to be happy today.

Why should I feel discouraged, Why should the shadow come, Why should my heart be lonely and long for my heavenly home, When Jesus is my portion?

My constant friend is He: His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me. I sing because I’m Happy, I sing because I’m free, For His eye is on the sparrow, And I know He watches me.    

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