The Apostle Paul said one of the most profound things in all of scripture in Acts 26:2:
2 “I think myself happy, King Agrippa….
Paul said he thought himself happy. Happiness didn’t just come on Paul, it was rooted in what he thought about. So what was Paul thinking about? Let’s finish the verse:
2 because today I shall answer for myself before you concerning all the things of which I am accused by the Jews,
Before I explain why it made Paul happy to give an answer to King Agrippa, I want to give some context for what was going on in Paul’s life at the time. Paul was on trial before King Agrippa because he was preaching the gospel. Paul’s message made the Jews angry so they accused him of blasphemy, profaning the temple, and sedition. In other words, it wasn’t Paul’s circumstances that made him happy. Paul’s circumstances were terrible!
The thing that made Paul happy is he saw a light in the midst of his darkness. He believed as he gave an answer for the trumped up charges the Jews brought, King Agrippa, his sister Bernice, a Roman governor Festus, and many other influential leaders would hear the gospel. He may have even thought this could be what causes a revival in Rome to take place. Paul made a choice to focus on the opportunity in the midst of his challenge instead of all the negative in his situation. This made him happy!
Years later, when Paul was in prison, he gave doctrine for the principle he illustrated in this story. When he wrote to the Philippian church he told them to be anxious for nothing because they could bring their prayer requests to God and His peace would guard their heart. Then he wrote Philippians 4:8:
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Paul instructed this church to choose what they thought about. He said to think on things that are just, lovely, virtuous, and full of praise. Why? Because the peace of God comes from prayer, but it stays with us based on what we think about. This is why he said to mediate on positive things.
This principle applies to you and me today. We have all lived through one of the most challenging and unique times in our nation’s history over the last year and a half. It would be easy to focus on the negative. Unfortunately, both depression and suicide rates have increased because of negative circumstances. The key to overcoming in these challenging times is to see our opportunity in this darkness and to focus our attention on positive things. Our body will follow our mind and not the other way around. This means if we think on depressing things, we should expect to be discouraged and full anxiety.
I say this from experience because when I was in my mid 20’s I got really depressed. I got depressed because I felt like I couldn’t get all the sin out of my life and that would keep me from fulfilling my destiny. I went to a Christian counselor and part of his solution was to prescribe anti-depressant medication for me. Unfortunately, the medication didn’t help because I had bad thought patterns about God and how He related to me. This belief system sucked all the hope out of me. Change didn’t come in my life until I began to renew my mind to the truth that my righteousness comes from Jesus and not my good works. When I did, my emotions began to change and the depression lifted. I thought myself happy!
As a quick aside, I’m not here to criticize people who take anxiety medication or anti-depressants. I do understand there are people with chemical imbalances and unless they are supernaturally healed by God of those imbalances, they may need medical help. If that’s you keep taking your medication and believe the promises of God for supernatural healing. No condemnation!
While my goal isn’t to criticize people who take medication, I do want to be clear that taking medication without changing what we focus on, won’t bring happiness. We also can’t wait for all of our circumstances to be perfect in order to be happy. That’s unrealistic and impossible. We have to choose where we place our focus in the midst of our problems. God wants to refine our focus to His promises of favor and blessing so we learn to see opportunities in negative situations! This is how we think ourselves happy!
I hope this article has blessed you! If you’d like to learn more, check out this message Pastor Greg Mohr taught about “Making Joy Our Default” at Grace Life Church.