Intellectual vs Circumstantial

Are you happy?  Are you a generally content person?  The pursuit of happiness is strange in that if one makes happiness, fulfillment, or contentment their goal, it will likely go unfulfilled.  That is to say, if you make happiness your main objective, you probably will not be happy.  Read the book of Ecclesiastes.  Solomon with all the resources known to man, pursued happiness and came to the conclusion it was not to be found under the sun.  Please observe, he was looking in the wrong place, i.e. under the sun or on earth.

However, happiness can be found in life.  It is found as a by-product however.

Paul made the statement, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” in Philippians 4:11.  It is noteworthy that contentment or happiness is something to be learned.  And Paul says it can be attained regardless of the circumstances of the individual, whatever state one is in.

So Paul how can you be happy in these circumstances? Remember that Paul penned these words from a prison cell.  The book of Philippians is one of four prison epistles Paul wrote.  And yet Philippians is a book of joy.  How can this be?  How can Paul write of contentment while sitting in a dungeon in prison conditions?

Paul encourages the Philippian believers to rejoice in spite of their outward circumstances of suffering and anxiety.  He tells them to rejoice in service, and continue to look to Christ as the object of their faith and hope.

Victor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor, made the following powerful observation.  He said, “Everything can be taken from a man with one exception: to choose one’s attitude in any set of circumstances.”  To remember the circumstances in which he survived makes this a powerful statement.

To choose one’s attitude!

Habakkuk is one of my favorite prophets.  It is a small book of 3 chapters containing only 56 verses.  Hence, it is referred to as a minor prophet.  But it is not minor in its message!  The book opens with Habakkuk questioning GOD.  It closes with a powerful proclamation of faith.

Though the fig tree may not blossom

Nor fruit be on the vines;

Thought the labor of the olive may fail,

And the fields yield no food;

Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,

And there be no herd in the stalls –

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,

I will joy in the GOD of my salvation.      (Habakkuk 3:17-18)


In today’s language we might think of this as,

Though there’s no prospect of a job

And the medical report was not good

Though family disappointments continue

And financial instabilities abound

Though I am emotionally bankrupt

Still will I trust in the LORD!

The bottom line is simply this.  Joy is internal not external.  Happiness is an attitude not dependent on circumstances.  It is intellectual rather than circumstantial.

Luke 12:15, Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.

Life is not about things.  Solomon would say it is not about what is found under the sun.

Man is about as happy as he makes up his mind to be.  These words of truth are attributed to Abraham Lincoln.

It is an attitude.  It does not depend on circumstances.  It is the one thing that cannot be taken from you.  I pray that my attitude will be good not evil, light not darkness, upbeat not downtrodden, the glass half full not half empty.

It is intellectual rather than circumstantial.

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