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Keith Wishum: Three gifts on the table

Three gifts on a table. You may choose only one. The first is a beautiful box labeled “Joy.” It comes guaranteed to be full of happiness. The second gift is labeled “Misery.” It’s an attractive package, but is filled with something dark and foul, promising to make you unhappy for life. There is no other box in sight.
Which would you choose? Surprisingly, many people choose misery. They don’t recall ever making that choice. They think their unhappiness was thrust upon them. But the unpleasant truth is that they picked it out and took it home.
If you are paying attention, you noticed that I said “three gifts.” So, what happened to the third gift?
Look again. It’s there.  It’s the best gift of the three — the gift of choice. God has given us the ability to choose our attitude, which, in turn, determines our joy.
The apostle Paul said, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:12). He shares his secret so we may all be content.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul reveals two concepts that are crucial to discovering his secret for being happy. First, he emphasized attitude. He uses the Greek word “phroneo” which means “to think, to set one’s mind on, or to have a certain attitude.” Found only 16 other times in all of the rest of the New Testament, the word pops up 10 times in just four chapters in this letter. Obviously, Paul is calling our attention to a vital concept: attitude is important. Both how we think and what we think are crucial to our happiness.
The second concept Paul highlights is joy itself. He uses the word for joy (chara) 12 times in this brief letter. In four of those occurrences, Paul commands his readers to rejoice — to be joyful. That implies that it was something they could choose to do. Being happy is a choice they, and we, can make.
Attitude and joy are both emphasized, and they are interrelated. We find joy when we realize that it is a product of our own thinking, our own attitude. It is not a result of the circumstances around us.
In short, we can choose to be happy. Or, we can choose to be miserable. It’s up to us, not our circumstances, to decide.
Three gifts lie at our feet. Which will you take home?

Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church of Christ, Americus.