Small Group Questions

Four Barriers to Happiness 

Introduction: 

Happiness is the most universal human desire and need. Everyone says that they want to find happiness, but very few people intentionally pursue happiness every day. Most people randomly bump into happiness and unhappiness on a regular basis. In this week’s sermon we look at the four barriers to happiness and how we can overcome them.  

Something To Talk About: 

Life is seldom smooth and most often it is full of setbacks and challenges that face us daily. At moments it can be overwhelming and we can focus on all of the negative things that are happening to us. However, even in the most challenging situations we can choose to be happy.

If you are struggling with happiness, consider these four four things:  

  1. Look at every problem from God’s viewpoint: No matter what’s going on in your life — the good, the bad, and the ugly, God is working out a plan. Paul knew this. He says in Philippians 1:12, “I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News”  Any time you have a problem that’s starting to get you down, you need to do what Paul did — learn to see it from God’s point of view. Ask, “What is God doing here? What’s the bigger picture? What’s a bigger perspective?” Then you’ll be able to face the situation in faith. Pray with the Psalmist that God would “Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.” (Psalm 119:18). 
  2. I never let others control my attitude: You can not be happy in your life if you let others control your attitude. Few things rob your happiness faster than being criticized or feeling like others are working against you. Why? Because we all want to be loved. We all want approval. We want everybody to like us. Yet Paul says in Philippians 1:18, “But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.” We are as happy as we choose to be. Paul later explains in verses 29 and 30 why you can be happy no matter what: “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.” You can be happy no matter what happens if you look at every problem from God’s viewpoint and never let what other people say or do control your happiness.
  3. I always trust God to work things out: Trust isn’t an easy thing to come by, but it’s one of the most important parts of our relationship with God. When times are tough and things aren’t going our way, that’s when we find it the most difficult to trust God. We doubt that God is going to come through for us, we lack faith in His promises, and we worry ourselves with endless thoughts about our future. The problem is that this is the exact opposite of how God wants us to react to the difficult circumstances in our lives. God wants us to trust Him when we’re having doubts and are unsure about what to do. He wants us to believe in His promises when we think that things are going to get worse. God will work things out according to His perfect plan. 
  4. I stay focused on my purpose, not my problem: “But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith.” (Philippians 1:22-25) When you stay focused on your purpose, not your problem, you can be happy even when life seems to be falling apart. Paul was an old man when he was in prison in Rome. He was awaiting execution. Everything has been taken from him, but there was one thing they could not take away from Paul: his purpose. Paul made the choice to stay focused on his purpose, even when he had lost everything else. What was his purpose? Serving God by being on mission for God in every area of his life. Being on mission doesn’t necessarily have to mean having deep spiritual conversations with people in every area of my life. Rather. it is more like what Nehemiah did, focusing on completing the important work put before us, whatever that work is. Nehemiah’s focus came from the fact that he saw himself as working for God. The tenacity to keep building a wall when obstacles arise wouldn’t have come as easily if he felt he was working for people. 

Discussion Questions 

  1. As Christians, should we make it a goal to be happy? What are some ways Americans pursue happiness? Do you think these bring true happiness? Share how pursuing happiness resulted in problems rather than happiness.
  2. Who would we expect to be most happy? Who would we expect to be the least happy?
  3. Think of a problem that has you discouraged. How might your discouragement change if you look at it with God’s bigger perspective?
  4. How does your response to a difficult situation change when you realize that how you respond is your choice?
  5. How hard is it to not let your circumstances affect you? How does this rob you of your joy?
  6. When we place our expectations onto others, we set ourselves up for disappointment. We experience more peace and contentment when we stop expecting others to be who they’re not. Even if we believe they should “be a certain way,” it’s best to release the expectations altogether. Agree or disagree and why?
  7. Do you trust God for the things that you don’t understand? How is that evident in your life?
  8. Should we expect less from ourselves and more from others or the other way around? 
  9. How would your perspective and attitude change if you began to see yourself as being on a mission for God at work, in your marriage, with your kids, or at school?  What do you need to do differently to go beyond just “going through the motions?”
  10. What do you believe is your purpose in life? What distractions or influences are keeping you focused on your problem and not your purpose?

Take one thing home with you: 

Ecstatic-er-ness

The dictionary defines ecstatic as a feeling or expressing overwhelming happiness or joyful excitement. Too bad you can’t add a -er to the end to make one even more ecstatic and then a ness to describe the overall state of being over the top ecstatic. Of course, “ecstatic-er-ness” is not a word. Being a Christian does not catapult you into a state of ecstatic-er-ness. A higher level of happiness does not exist in this world.  Jesus is not a happiness pill. Yes, the gospel of God can make you happier. The core message of Jesus, if you accept it, will bless you in many ways. Life, as God gives it, is far better. But it doesn’t solve everything right away. It doesn’t fix every problem. Rain falls in our lives. Trails and tribulations will come. Things fall apart. Life is hard. Life with Jesus involves tears, struggles, sacrifice, and holy commitment. Jesus, in the short term, does not deliver full and complete happiness. You won’t be ecstatic in all facets of life overnight. Yet He makes “ecstatic-er-ness” possible. Jesus promises life to the full—not complete on this earth, but with him in the future.