Next Steps

I think most of us want to be happy. That’s a given. If we had a choice between being happy and being unhappy, most of us would want happiness, wouldn’t we? Happiness is so ingrained our culture that our nation’s founding documents promise us “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (notice the Declaration of Independence doesn’t promise us happiness, only the pursuit of happiness).

And that is what our lives are: the pursuit of happiness. But too many of us believe a myth about happiness, namely that happiness is determined by outward circumstances. If our spouse is acting right, if our parents love us, if our kids behave, if the government leaves us alone, if our boss is pleasant, if we’ve got money in the bank and food on the table, then we’ll be happy. Yet the biggest problem with this approach to happiness is that it takes our happiness out of our hands and puts it in the hands of people and forces outside of our control. Very rarely do the stars line up in our favor, everything conspiring to make our life easy and pleasant. Life in reality is dysfunctional and broken relationships, consequences of bad decisions and other people trying to get ahead at our expense. And thus, we’re unhappy. But we shouldn’t be.

In the ancient book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul reminds us of an ancient truth: that happiness is a choice. It is not determined by outward circumstances. I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).

Paul found his happiness from within, namely from his relationship with Christ. Which is why he could command the Christians in Philippi to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Happiness is and always has been a choice. Happiness comes from within, from our relationship with Christ, not from outward circumstances outside of our control.

If you’re unhappy, it’s because you choose to be. Your happiness is your choice. It always has been.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

If you can change the way you think, you can change the way you live. When the Holy Spirit comes to reside in your life as a Christian, that’s the first area of your life where He goes to work: your mind. Here are five areas where God wants to transform your thinking:

1. God – The Holy Spirit wants to change the way you think about God. He wants you to understand that God isn’t a distant, demanding deity but a loving heavenly father. God doesn’t want anything from you, he wants things for you. God doesn’t love you because your good, He loves you because you’re His. Those small changes in thinking will radically transform your closeness to God.

2. Self – Satan is the father of lies and will constantly throw lies at you about your worth, your esteem, your value. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth and will lead you into the truth of who you are in Jesus. When you get into God’s Word on a daily basis you’re fighting the lies of the world with the truth of Scripture and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform how you think about yourself.

3. Life – The Holy Spirit wants to give you an eternal perspective on life so that you make better and wiser decisions. He’ll help dads realize it’s not worth it to sacrifice the future relationship with their kids because they want the momentary rush of an affair. He’ll help teens realize that long-term purity has much more value than short-term sexual fulfillment. He’ll give you a bigger perspective on life.

4. Others – The Holy Spirit will go to work on your emotions, replacing anger and bitterness with forgiveness and joy. These emotional shifts will completely transform your relationship with those around you for the better.

5. Church – The Holy Spirit will help you see the church as He sees the church. Instead of a house of rules and regulations, He’ll help you see it as a spiritual family. Instead of approaching church as a place to be entertained, the Holy Spirit will help you see church as a place to serve and make a difference.

Many Christians grow up thinking that God wants something from them. God is up in heaven, deserving and demanding our worship. He wants us to sing, He wants us to read our Bibles, He wants us to give money, He wants us to teach Sunday School, He wants us to go on a mission trip. God wants something from us, and when we don’t give it to Him, He gets angry and zaps us with lightning.

That’s a jacked up way to look at God and if that were my understanding of God, I would rebel against it like many other Christians have. When Jesus came to earth, the Jewish people had twisted their religion to think that way about God. God was all about getting something from His people. And then Jesus came along and helped humanity rediscover God. He taught humanity to view God as our Heavenly Father.

Again, maybe you grew up with a selfish or absent earthly father, so that’s how you naturally think of your Heavenly Father. But God is heavenly, He’s a good father, He’s a perfect father.

And what does a good/perfect father want from his children? Nothing. If you love your kids, you don’t want anything from them, you only want things for them. That’s the one little word that can revolutionize your relationship with God, when you realize that God doesn’t want anything from you, He only wants things for you.

When my wife and I had our four kids, (I’m a flawed, selfish person), but even I never thought “we’re going to have these kids so they can take care of my needs and give me what I want and work for me.” We had kids because we wanted to give what we had to them! And that’s what we’ve done. The amount of money we’ve spent on ourselves over the past ten years is infinitesimally small compared to what we’ve spent on our kids. It’s the same for most parents. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. Why? Because we’re not psychopaths. We’re good parents.

A good parent doesn’t want anything from their kids, they only want things for their kids. God doesn’t want anything from you. He wants things for you. Let that truth blow your mind today.

Paul warns believers in Ephesians 6:12 that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” A few verses later he gives the Ephesian believers weapons to fight back with, especially prayer, mentioning prayer four times in Ephesians 6:18-20. So what are some warfare prayers that Christians can begin to pray? Here are seven warfare prayers from the book of Ephesians:

1. God, I thank You that You  have already blessed me with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (This establishes a foundation of praise for your prayers and reminds you that when you do battle, you’re battling out of the overflow, not the deficit, of what God has already done in your life.)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Ephesians 1:3


2. God, open my eyes to see the hope, the riches and the power You have already lavished on me. (It’s not enough just to thank God for His blessings, you need to see them. Ask God to open your eyes to see just how blessed and strong you already are in Christ. This will begin to take defeat away even before you start asking for victory).

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. Ephesians 1:18-19


3. God, change the way I think about my world and help me win the battle for my mind. (When we see things differently, we begin to think differently, and this renewal of the mind transforms us from the inside out).

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24


4. God, help me to live a life worthy of the calling You have put on my life. (When we change the way we think, we change the way we live, and we begin to live out of the overflow of what God has done for us).

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3


5. God, guard my tongue and allow me to only speak what is helpful and beneficial to others. (Paul highlights the importance of our words by saying that our negative words grieve the Spirit of God within us).

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:29-30


6. God, help me submit to others out of reverence for Christ. (Paul gives a lengthy list of actions that should change when we follow Christ, but if you wanted to sum them all up, learn to submit to others and live a life of humility).

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21


7. God, fill me with Your Spirit today that I may live in power. (It takes the filling of God’s Spirit within you to be able to fight these spiritual battles victoriously. Ask for God to fill you with His Spirit everyday).

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:19