The Pursuit of Happyness This morning we are kicking off our 2nd annual At the Movies Series. We’re going to be using 5 movies in the series to teach truths that are consistent with what the Bible says about life.
svcc.net home page On the home page of our website svcc.net we’ve posted a link to the message notes and mp3 of a message I did last year called “All Truth is God’s Truth”. You can get the theological justification for doing a series like this there.
We also want to say that just because we use clips from movies does not mean that we endorse them as good viewing for everyone here. We encourage you to use good judgment about whether you as an adult and especially your children ought to view them at home in their entirety.
With those preliminaries out of the way, let’s get on with the series and show a scene from Pursuit of Happyness!
CLIP 1 I’m Chris Gardner . . . 4:46-7:07 It is 1981 in San Francisco when we meet Chris, Linda and their son Christopher. They have a hard life when the movie begins. They are circling the drain toward fiscal insolvency.
In case you were wondering, the title is purposely misspelled, because the word “Happyness” is misspelled on the outside of the Chinatown childcare facilty where English as a second language immigrants care for Chris’ son Christopher. This misspelling is in itself a symbol for how challenging it will be for the people in the movie to find the happiness they are pursuing.
You may be here feeling really happy this morning. I’ve got some bad news for you. A painful time is coming. You may be here with one or more areas of deep sadness, guilt, regret or pain. I have good news for you--there is hope.
To pursue happiness God’s way you have to
Sacrifice in Relationships.
Things continue to unravel as Chris is unable to sell enough of the scanners. Eventually, Linda doesn’t feel able to take the stress anymore and after she takes Christopher away one day to think things over they have this conflict near Christopher’s day care.
CLIP 2 Hey don’t you ever take my son. . . 34:40-35:27 Chris, who didn’t meet his father until he was 28, now lives out a promise to be a father who is sacrificially committed to his son. You have challenges from your background, but you are called to sacrifice in relationships as well.
One of my favorite stories of relational commitment in the midst of incredible challenge is found in the little book of Ruth in the Old Testament.
Ruth is a young Moabite woman who marries into a Jewish refugee family that has moved to her country during a famine. Ruth’s father-in-law dies before her marriage. Her brother-in-law dies. Finally, Ruth’s husband dies. All Ruth has left is a bitter mother-in-law, named Naomi, who doesn’t even want her around and is so steeped in her own grief that she doesn’t even appreciate Ruth. Naomi tells Ruth she is leaving to go back to Israel. It is in this context that Ruth pledges the rest of her life to Naomi in sacrificial love. It’s an amazing picture of God’s call to sacrifice in relationships.
Ruth 1:16-17  But Ruth replied, "Don't ask me to leave you and turn back. I will go wherever you go and live wherever you live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.  I will die where you die and will be buried there. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!"
Not coincidentally, this faithful Gentile woman, Ruth, is used by God to restore Naomi to joy and enters the family line that leads to King David and ultimately to Jesus, the Messiah and Savior of the whole world.
Sacrifice has its rewards over time usually in this life and always in the next and that is the case with Chris as well. Let’s look at two scenes. The first is from late in the film after they have gone from having Linda leave to losing their apartment, living in train station bathrooms, and are in a church that is housing the homeless. He’s saying good night to Christopher before he goes to a lighted area to work on fixing his last scanner which is currently broken in hopes of selling it and getting them some money. Christopher says some things that make all of the sacrifice worthwhile. The second scene is from the Special Features where the real Chris Gardner who is now a wealthy man explains that if you think of this movie as an economic success story primarily you will miss the point.
CLIP 3 Tucking into bed 1:43:00-1:44:08
CLIP 4 My story has been portrayed . . . Sp Feat 10:24-10:51 “You’re a good papa.” Powerful words that are their own reward for sacrifice.
You only hear them when you make and keep a commitment like Chris did to be there.
What commitments have you made in life—marriage, parenting, to a parent or in-law, a sibling, a friend? How are you doing at living sacrificially in your relational world? Are you winning the war against seeking happiness in self-interest?
Maybe someone has broken a commitment to you. They’ve walked out on you and left you to shoulder a heavy burden alone. Will you sacrifice to keep your commitments?
The second theme that flows out of the movie that is particularly relevant for us at SVCC is that we are called to
Sacrifice with fellow SVCCers in Loving Salinas After Chris and Christopher lose their apartment and then get kicked out of their motel they are truly homeless. They spend nights in a train station bathroom until they find out about Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco.
GLIDE.ORG slide Glide Memorial Church was engaged in Loving San Francisco in the 1980s and it is still doing so today. The church plays a large role in Chris and Christopher’s life by providing food and shelter to him during the toughest economic time of his life.
We’re going to look at 2 scenes. The first one is during a worship service led by the actual long-time pastor of Glide, Cecil Williams. The church meets the broken and needy people of San Francisco in a way that touches their bodies and their souls. Chris and Christopher become worshipers at the church. This scene is the night before a big exam that will determine his future.
The choir sings a very interesting song lyrically. The chorus goes,
Now Lord don’t move that mountain
But give me the strength to climb it
Please, don’t move my stumbling block
But lead me all around it. When we are struggling with a mountainous challenge God sometimes removes it, but I have found in my life that most of the time he wants me to depend on him and other people for strength to go over it one painful step at a time.
The second scene is from the Special Features with the real Chris Gardner who talks about Cecil Williams.
CLIP 5 The important thing. . . 1:36:22-1:38:13
CLIP 6 If there were no Cecil Williams. . . Sp Feat 8:17-8:56
As the real Chris puts it in the Special Features, “If there were no Cecil Williams (Sr. Pastor) there would be no Chris Gardner.” Cecil led a church to focus on the needs of his community in a very significant way. If it weren’t for that church and that pastor, Chris and Christopher’s life would have turned out very differently.
When Peter is speaking to a Gentile soldier about what Jesus did while he was here on earth he says this,
Acts 10:38 (NLT)
And no doubt you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the Devil, for God was with him. Jesus didn’t just preach about the kingdom he was inaugurating. He showed people what it looked like. He cared about whatever needs that they had whether they were physical needs, social needs, emotional needs, relational needs, or spiritual needs. He loved people right where they were and gave them hope through tangible acts of service.
After Jesus’ resurrection he appeared to his disciples.
John 20:21-23 (NLT)
He spoke to them again and said, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you."  Then he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven. If you refuse to forgive them, they are unforgiven."
Jesus has sent us in the same way that the Father sent him. We are to love people with the same kind of practical love. We are empowered by the same Holy Spirit who anointed Jesus. We are to announce that their sins can be forgiven through Jesus Christ.
We can make an incredible impact on other people by Loving Salinas in all of its needs. I don’t know if all of you know that when you give to SVCC some of those funds go to support the local rescue mission, a pregnancy center, I-HELP homeless ministry, Dorothy’s Kitchen which feeds the homeless, and Shelter Outreach Plus.
SLIDE OF OUTREACH PAGE on our website
But we don’t want you to just give money. We long to become a church that like Glide is focused on those outside of the church. That’s why there are 23 separate ministries listed on the outreach pages of our church’s website.
We are involved in literacy work, juvenile hall ministry, housing and feeding the homeless, painting graffiti, a low income apartment ministry, and countless other ways of serving in Salinas.
I want to mention just one of these ministries in a little more detail to give you a flavor.
Natividad Women's Shelter (run by Shelter Outreach Plus)
Picture? On the first Friday of the month, women and girls of our church serve the women and children of Natividad Shelter by doing a spa night for the women, doing activities with the children and bringing dinner to share together. The women share their prayer requests and we pray for them. We play games with the children and read them stories. We take their pictures with their moms and make special frames. On the other Fridays, we send a church van over to bring the women and children to SVCC’s Celebrate Recovery program. Celebrate Recovery also facilitates a 12-step Co Dependency Workshop at the shelter every Wednesday. We also have SVCC women who go into the shelter each week to help women find jobs and to mentor them in life skills. In addition, we provide transportation for the women to appointments.
A few months ago some of you met one of these women. I want to show a video of a critical moment in her life.
Video of Tracy Smith’s baptism Just after this Tracy’s girls Lynnae and Lillie were also baptized. Tracy and her girls lives have changed and are changing through practical love of ordinary people in our church. You can make a difference as well when you give and serve. Pick a project from the Outreach website page as a small group. Come to our next Serve Day on October 25. Love Salinas every day as you live with your neighbors, work, or go to school.
A third way to pursue happiness in a God-honoring way is to
Sacrifice for Your Dreams
Chris has a dream of providing a good living for his family by becoming a stockbroker with Merrill Lynch. (It was a different time than our present circumstance!) Linda mocks his dream and tells him to live in reality. After this Chris has a conversation with his son that everyone who has ever had a dream needs to hear.
CLIP 7 I’m goin’ pro . . . 54:00-55:43 What is your dream? Is it about a career aspiration? A course of study or going to a particular school? Owning a home? Getting out of debt? Making a difference in a relationship? Physical or emotional health? You’ll never achieve anything without a personal dream.
Chris meets a stockbroker and through persistence and diligence he gets an interview for a 6 month unpaid internship to have a 1 in 20 shot at becoming a stockbroker. He’s just experienced another setback the night before the interview.
CLIP 8 “Chris Gardner . . . 42:58-45:55 Getting into a 6 month unpaid internship is a mixed blessing. He has to be the most successful intern in sales, study for a huge test and sell scanners on the side while being a single parent and all the while he is moving into greater degress of homelessness and poverty. But Chris has a dream and an enormous will to succeed and a drive and work ethic that he harnesses to sacrifice to make his dream a reality.
CLIP 9 Feeling underrated . . .1:02:47-1:03:51 It is truly inspiring to see through the course of the movie what this determined man does to follow his dream of providing for Christopher. A couple of verses from Proverbs that relate to this are,
Proverbs 13:4 (NLT)
Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper and be satisfied.
Dreams carry with them burdens of responsibility, hard work, persistence, a willingness to overcome obstacles, single-mindedness, and most of all sacrifice. Eventually they can lead to joy.
Proverbs 13:12 (NLT)
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true, there is life and joy. One of the most powerful moments of the movie is the scene when Chris finds out that he is selected to be the one intern who will become a stockbroker. I had to cut, for the sake of time, some of the best acting Will Smith has ever done in a film but we’ll look at 2 clips that give you a feeling of the life and joy that flow into Chris’ life when he realizes he will be able to have a different kind of life than the homelessness that could have been his destiny.
CLIP 10 Hi Chris . . . 1:49:11-1:50:19
CLIP 11 Beginning of run . . . 1:51:38-1:52:13 What dream has God placed on your heart? What are you doing to sacrifice for it? Could I tell that it mattered to you by the price you are paying to achieve it? Are you keeping the joy of that dream’s fulfillment in front of you?
Last, another way to pursue happiness God’s way is to
Sacrifice for the World At the end of the film we learn that Chris Gardner not only became a successful stock broker, he opened his own investment firm 6 years later. 20 years after that he sold part of it for millions of dollars. In short he eventually became a very wealthy man.
In the Special Features we learn about something that happened in the real Chris Gardner’s life in recent years.
CLIP 12 In 2003 . . . Sp Feat 11:53-12:24 Chris realized that he was blessed to be a blessing. He as an American was called to be a blessing to people in South Africa. Almost everyone in this room is far more blessed financially than 95% of the people in the world. Part of why he has blessed you is to bless the world financially and spiritually with the deeds and the words of the kingdom of God.
Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)
Jesus came and told his disciples, "I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Missionary map of world As you give to the Missions Fund here at church you support career missionaries around the world and our sister church, Geja, in Ethiopia. You also help support short term missionaries like Stephen Huber, Josh Ludwig, Joanne Jacobsen and Carlos Lopez. All of these people are serving around the world making sure that people see the deeds of Jesus and hear the good news that he forgives sins and welcomes them into his kingdom.
Each year we send a team of High School Students and adults down to Mexico to serve with Baja Christian ministries. We create credibility for them to tell the good news of the kingdom and plant churches as we show the good news by building a home for a family. Since I was serving as the Interim High School Pastor from February to August, I had the privilege to go on the trip. It was a heart-transforming experience for me on many levels. I got to make a difference in the lives of some very poor people. I got to learn from a local pastor what ministry in his world looks like and I have such tremendous respect for what sacrifices he makes to do his ministry.
Katie Searcy pictures As much as we make a difference in Mexico, really the trip is more about what God does in our lives as we go thinking we are doing something for someone else. This year Katie Searcy, the student ministries assistant, invested an enormous amount of time and energy in the trip in general and in developing a Vacation Bible School for the children in the area where we built the house. About a dozen kids from the neighborhood prayed to receive Christ because Katie had a dream and put in the work to make it happen. From this experience in Mexico her heart has grown and she decided to make a 3 month contribution this spring to what God is doing in Africa.
I wanted to share a couple of sentences from her support letter I got recently inviting her friends to partner with her financially in this adventure.
Pictures of Kibera “My soul grows hungrier every day for a chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in a place where the poverty is unimaginable. . . . Our team will be ministering to the people of Kibera, Kenya, the largest slum in Africa, showing them the love of Jesus Christ and sharing about the hope we have in Him.” If you want to support Katie financially let me know and I’ll get you the info. It would be some of the best money you ever invest.
I don’t know about you, but I feel so blessed to attend and give to and serve in a church that creates an environment for people like Katie to think about sacrifice as God’s true pathway to happiness.
Pursuing happiness God’s way looks radically different than what I thought the first 18 years of my life before I knew and followed Jesus. If you are here realizing that you are trying to pursue happiness without Jesus being at the center of your life, there is a more fundamental step you need to take. God is inviting you into a relationship with him where your sins are forgiven and you are brought near to him. Then you join with a group of other people who are following Jesus to be sent into the world as his representatives in the Salinas Valley or Kenya to show and tell about Jesus and his way.
If you would like to know God’s forgiveness and receive his mission for your life, pray along with me silently, “Father please forgive me for the ways I have rebelled against you. Thank you for sending Jesus to die for my sins. I want to follow your dreams for my life and live for you. Amen.”
If you prayed with me just now I’d like you to turn the tan insert over and check the box indicating an interest in “having a personal relationship with Christ” and bring it to the Welcome Center. They will give you a Bible and some information that will help you grow. You and anyone else who would like prayer can also go to the corner of the room where someone from the New Hope Ministry will pray for you.
How are you doing at Pursuing Happiness God’s way?