Clergy/Leaders’ Mail-list No. 1-090 (Sermon)
Rod Benson helps to dispel six popular myths:
#1 – It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you’re sincere.
————————- HOW TO DISCOVER HAPPINESS ————————-
From early childhood we’re surrounded by myths. We’d just recovered from Santa Claus and his flying reindeer storming down our chimneys, and then it was Valentines Day, when a flying baby wielding a bow and arrows was supposed to breathe romance and passion into our relationships. (Then) it’s time for the Easter bunny and the giving and receiving of thousands of chocolate eggs.
When I was a boy, and a tooth fell out, I’d put it under a glass on the kitchen bench before I went to bed, and in the morning, as if by magic, there would be a 20 cent coin where my tooth had been. The tooth fairy had visited!
I’m sure you’ve heard of others: ‘Don’t go cross-eyed, because if the wind changes direction you’ll stay that way’; ‘It’s bad luck to walk under a ladder, or to step on the cracks in the footpath, or to look into a broken mirror.’
We’re surrounded by myths – some harmless, others dangerous. There are myths about self, about God, life, the past, sex, money, relationships, heaven and hell, the afterlife. And a lot of popular myths lead to worry, fear, stress, depression, and various forms of irrational behaviour.
If I asked you to choose between happiness and misery, I’m sure most if not all of you would choose happiness. We all want to be happy; none of us wants to be miserable! (So) we’re going to examine six common myths that make us miserable, and submit them to the blowtorch of the Bible to see how they stand up.
Tonight we’re going to learn how to discover happiness. One of the most pervasive myths of the 1990s, and one of the world’s most popular recipes for happiness, is this: “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you’re sincere.” There’s a myth that will make you miserable!
It sounds tolerant, progressive, enlightened, but it’s irrational, it’s absurd! It’s great to be sincere, but you can be sincerely wrong. It takes more than sincerity to make it in life: it takes truth. Tonight I want to share with you five truths about what you believe.
I’m one of a small group of pastors who confess to watching The X- Files. It tells me where people are at, what they’re thinking about; and it tells me people are desperate for something that transcends the material world. And every week these words appear on the screen: “The truth is out there . . .” And it is.
The first truth about what I believe is that my beliefs are my choice! No one forces me to believe anything. I can believe Elvis is alive, the moon is made of cheese, the world is flat, a gang of koalas broke in and robbed me! No one forces me to believe anything, and I can’t blame others for my beliefs.
Listen to how Paul described people in his day: “Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies” (Romans 1:25, LB). We too can choose both good and bad.
Second, my beliefs determine my behaviour. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.” Behind every action I make is a conscious or unconscious belief. That’s great, you say. But here’s the catch: my beliefs determine my behaviour even if those beliefs are wrong.
If I believe I’m clumsy, I’ll act in a clumsy manner. If I believe I’m unlovable, I’ll act as though no one loves me. If I’m convinced I’m a risk-taker, I’ll take risks. If I think people can’t be trusted, I won’t trust them. If I believe God doesn’t care about me, I won’t bother praying. My beliefs determine my behaviour.
Third, the world has taught me many false beliefs. In 1 John 4:1 the Apostle John warns his readers, “Don’t always believe everything you hear . . . for there are many false teachers around” (LB). Why are these false teachers hanging around? Because they’re making money out of it.
In 1992 I spent several months in North America, and I found newspaper vending machines on many street corners in Ottawa and Toronto and Montreal and New York. Alongside the major daily newspapers were others with headlines like: “Baby with three heads” or “New discovery: Fat-burning prayers!” This was false information (at least for the uninitiated) masquerading as truth.
Then there are the psychic hotlines where you tell a stranger your birthdate and your credit card number, and she predicts your future. And virtual reality technology, where fact and fiction are seamlessly blended, altering our perceptions and value systems.
And there are television talk shows, seeming bastions of common sense, rationalism and toleration, but scratch the surface and you’ll find they reinforce dangerous myths that mess up our lives. Here are ten top talk show myths:
1. All your problems are someone else’s fault. 2. This world owes you happiness. 3. You’ll be happy when you get whatever you want. 4. There’s never any reason to feel guilty. 5. We’re all basically good and unselfish. 6. All beliefs are equally valid. 7. Pornography and perversion are harmless. 8. You can have it all. 9. You shouldn’t have to wait for anything. 10. The answer lies within you.
The reality is that we unconsciously absorb these beliefs, and they affect the way we think, the way we perceive the world, the way we act, and the way we relate with God.
If there are false beliefs messing up my life, and I can’t intuitively identify what’s right and wrong, I need a fool-proof way of determining what is true. Each of us has to ask a fundamental question: what authority will I choose as the standard for my life? Will it be me, or God? The world, or the Word? Culture or Christ? Which is more reliable? Which works better?
THE SOURCE OF TRUTH
Fourth, the only source of absolute truth is God. Dr Spock was famous in the 1950s and 60s for his radical and so-called enlightened principles of child-raising. He influenced an entire generation of children – the ‘baby boomers’ who now lead our companies and governments and schools. But in his seventies, Dr Spock called a press conference and said, “Oops! . . . I’m sorry. I was wrong.” He changed his philosophy, he changed his mind – a generation too late for the baby boomers.
“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” says Jesus in John 8:32. How do we find the truth? Things change so fast: the lifespan of a science textbook today is less than 18 months! Purchase a new computer today and it’ll be hopelessly slow and obsolete within two years. You can spend your life climbing the ladder of success only to find it’s leaning against the wrong wall.
Into this chaos, Jesus’ words speak with strength and precision: “Though all heaven and earth shall pass away, yet my words remain forever true” (Luke 21:33, LB). How can that be? Jesus was God, and the Bible is God’s Word – it’s based on God’s character, and “it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18).
Building my life on the foundation of God’s truth is the key to my emotional health and stability. “Whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who builds his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24).
If you and I want to find the key to happiness – the key to emotional health and stability – we need to listen to what Jesus has to say, and take the first step to freedom: a commitment to the truth as it is found in Jesus.
Listen to what Paul wrote to his friends in Rome: “Do not conform to the standards (the beliefs) of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind” (Romans 12:2, GNB). God wants to transform you, but there’s something you need to do.
You make the choice and say ‘Yes!’ to God. No one else can do it for you. Let God transform you by renewing your mind with his truth.
E023 Copyright (c) 2001 Rod Benson. Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1980).
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