Project Description

1 Sm 26, 1 Cor 15: 45-49, Luke 6: 27-38

Martin was standing in a
long line at the post-office.

This was before the forever stamp—
where if you buy a stamp today—
It’ll be good to mail a letter forever—
even if the price goes up in the future.

This was before then—
So Martin was standing in that long line
because the cost of mailing a letter had
just gone up one cent.

So everyone was at the post
office to buy one cent stamps.

And it was a mess.

It was crowded—
Everyone was frustrated—
the line was barely moving.

Martin finally made it to the counter and
asked for 10 sheets of 1 cent stamps.

He then moved to the center of
the post office and shouted,
“Who needs one-cent stamps?
They’re free.”

People burst into applause
and started gathering around him as
he gave away those prized one-cent stamps.

Within two minutes the post office was cleared out—
And for just $10—Martin had just experienced one
of the most satisfying moments of his life.

Martin is Dr. Martin Seligman—
He teaches psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

He is one of the major proponents of “positive psychology”—
or the “scienThere areell-being”—
or the “science of authentic happiness.”

There’s all kinds of books about it—
it’s being taught in different
psychology programs across the country.

I’ve read a couple of articles about it. (“Happiness 101”/ “The New Science of Happiness.”)
Traditional psychology starts
from the negative perspective—
dealing with our woundedness and
all the things that make us a mess.

That certainly has it’s place.

But “positive-psychology” or
“science of well-being” is something different.

It starts from the positive perspective.

It tries to figure out what makes us truly happy—
Not just happy-pappy happy—
But what is real human flourishing—
What gives a sense of over-all well-being.

What makes life worth living?

So, what does lead to human flourishing
according to the research?

Well, before we go there,
let’s go over what the research showed
doesn’t make us happy in the long-run.

Wealth is one thing, says the scientists.

Research shows that after our
basic needs are met—
additional income—
or our life style—
does little to raise our sense of satisfaction with life.

Money is not the answer.
What about education?

Well, that’s not the answer either.

Research shows that neither education—
nor a high IQ—
leads to long term happiness.

It must be that youth that we all try to hold on to.

Wrong again.

In fact, studies show that older people were
consistently more satisfied with
their lives than younger people.

So what does make us authentically happy
according to the research?

Well, scientific studies show that those
who have a strong religious faith,
a strong relationship with God and
are part of a religious community—
they are happier in life.

Healthy relationships with family and friends?

A big indicator of happiness.

And this really shouldn’t be surprising,
but science tells us that learning to forgive is
a big factor in human flourishing.

The psychologists say that the
“Inability to forgive is associated with
persistent rumination or dwelling on revenge,
while forgiving allows us to move on.”

Makes sense, doesn’t it.

Also, a major factor in long term happiness is
contributing to the lives of others.

That’s right, sacrificing for others.
One professor says he tries to get
his students to understand that
there is a difference between
“feeling good,” and “doing good.”

To make his point, the professor
first asks his students to do something that
would give them some type of pleasure.

One went somewhere and got hammered.

One went to a NASCAR race in North Carolina and
smoked and drank and a few other things
that I won’t mention from the pulpit.

Some watched their favorite TV shows.

One went to a fancy French spa and spoiled herself.

After doing things that made them “feel good,”
it was time for the second part of the experiment—
and that was to go out and “do the good.”

One of the students was terrified of needles,
so he went to the local blood bank and gave blood.

Another student went out and
collected clothes for a shelter for battered women.

Another gave a $50 tip to a waitress at Denny’s.

One went and found a homeless person—
took him to a store and bought him some things to
make his day just a little bit more tolerable.

And guess what?!?!?!?

The students found that
when they did acts of selfless kindness—
when they did good for others—
when they sacrificed for others—
it led to a more lasting happiness.

Service and sacrifice trumped pleasure.

“Feeling good,” research shows,
only creates the hunger for
more and more pleasure.

The psychologists call it the “hedonistic treadmill.”

The more pleasure I have—
the more I want.

But “Doing Good” was different.

Self-less acts of kindness lead to long-term happiness—
Service to others made life more meaningful.

Now brothers and sisters in Christ—
haven’t we heard all of this somewhere before.

Not in some psychology book—
But in the Good Book—
We heard it in the Gospels.

Give to everyone that asks of you. . . .
Do to others as you would have them do to you.

For if you love those who love you,
what credit is that to you.
Even sinners love those who love them.

And if you do good to those who do good to you,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners do the same.

If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners lend to sinners. . . .

Give, and gifts will be given you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down,
and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.

We hear it from Jesus.

And what about this forgiveness stuff?

That’s in the Gospels too.
Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you.

To the person who strikes you on one cheek,
offer the other as well. . . .

Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.
Stop judging. . . .
Stop condemning. . . .

One of the opponents to “positive psychology” said,
“I guess I just wish it didn’t look
so much like a religion.”

Now I’m certainly not reducing the
Gospels to some feel good psychology.

But all of this does make sense—
from a Christian perspective.

Jesus says:
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake and
that of the Gospel save it.” (Mark 8:35)

The “life” that Jesus promises us is
not just some future promise of “eternal life.”

That certainly is true.
and that’s the most important thing,

But the “life” that Jesus promises us
also includes life on this earth.

If we follow the Gospel,
we will live life on earth—to the fullest.

And not just that—
If we live the Gospel—
We’ll not just save our lives—
We’ll change the lives around us—
We’ll change the world.

Jesus will never lead us astray?

Because He loves us more than we love ourselves.

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake and
that the Gospel will save it.

Holy Spirit 02/23-24/2019
SEAS 02/24/2019