One of the deepest sources of JOY we can experience in this life is being a vessel of God's work and ministry.
Good morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor of Renovation Church.
Finishing JOY series this morning.
Next week: We will be starting a new series called “Hooks,” which is a series on Temptation.
This morning, I want to focus on what I believe is one of the most joy-giving activities God has given us
And that is: Making an impact on other people’s lives for God.
Like most things in the Bible, this is a little counter-intuitive, right?
I think we tend to think most of the time that the things will give us the most joy will be things that directly benefit us
I mean think about this:
If I’m given the option of watch an entertaining movie or go serve somewhere…eh…probably gonna watch a movie
If we’re given the option of doing your favorite hobby (fish, play basketball, or my favorite hobby…scrapbooking…j/k) vs. going to do ministry at a church in some sort of capacity…lots of time we pick what directly benefits ourselves
Because we often feel that the path to the most joy is to get things for ourselves.
As Jesus says, “It is more blessed to receive than to give.” J
But hold on, actually, let me back up a bit
I think our first mistake is that too often we make all our decisions in life based on what will make us happy and bring us joy.
Think about that. For many of us, that is the only barometer for our decision making. And if it’s not the only barometer, it’s often the most important
So when we weigh out decisions like: Should I take this job, should I date this person, should I marry this person, should I hang out with these friends, should I do this activity with my kids?
Often the number one influencer on people’s minds is, will it bring me JOY?
Do you see this at all in your life?
Now, that’s not necessarily a terrible thing to ask will this make me happy, but it can be in excess, right?
Because if the only factor you really are weighing is, “Will this bring me joy?” then you’ve got issues.
In philosophy this is called “Hedonism”
It’s to make every decision solely based on “Will this make me happy or not?”
But we know that philosophy taken to its logical outcome doesn’t work.
You’re going to end up drunk and on the street probably.
But even if you used “hedonism” to make most of your decisions it prob wouldn’t work out super well.
Think of celebrities for instance.
For example, I recently watched an interview with one of the most accomplished boxers of all time, and also one of the strangest people of all time, Mike Tyson
At the end of the interview, after talking about all of his accomplishments (heavyweight champion, defeating this person, that person, meeting this person, having this much money), and talking about all of his wild living with women….after talking about all that…he just looks at the person interviewing him, and says, “I feel so…empty.”
Bible has a similar example like that. King Solomon had everything…all the money, all the women, all the power…and the first words of the book he wrote in the Bible read: “Meaningless, Meaningless, everything is meaningless.”
He goes onto talk about how all the pleasures and money were meaningless in his life.
If that whole concepts intrigues you, I challenge you to read the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible this week.
But back to the words of Mike Tyson…I actually try and remind myself of that interview fairly often
Because there’s this lie in us, the Bible calls it our flesh, our old self, and sometimes it’s just plan spiritual warfare, but there’s these lies within us that tell us…if you could live like these people...win championships, sleep around, live the life, what JOY you would have?
And we eat it up like fools. We obsess over athletes, people obsess over People magazine and what celebrity did this and so on and so forth…all because we dream of the JOY we might have in living more of a life like that
Yet, that lifestyle, when carried to its logical end, just ends in “I feel so empty.”
The people of Hollywood, which carry out this idea of Hedonism (living just for joy) right in front of us, are some of the most depressed people on earth!
And yet, we still try and listen to the lie that says, just keep doing what feels right.
So, maybe you’re tracking with me somewhat and see that we can’t just make decisions based on what gives us joy.
SO, it seems like then that what we should guide our lives by is just making sure we make the right decisions in God’s eyes whether it gives us joy or not, right??
Kind of. That’s only part of it though.
We should really follow God’s word and God’s will for our lives, yet sometimes I think we wrongly then assume that lively for God is a polar opposite of making decisions based on JOY.
That to do so would make us robots.
“YES, I AM NOW BEING A GOOD CHRISTIAN AND I HAVE NO EMOTION WHATSOEVER. THIS HAS TAKEN ALL THE JOY OUT OF MY LIFE.”
And that’s not right either. In fact, and this is where it gets really counter-intuitive for a lot of people, living for God will in fact give you MORE joy than not living for Him.
That’s not always WHY we do it, but it is a nice by-product.
Sometimes (liked we’ve talked about) it involves suffering and opposition, but there’s also so much JOY that comes out of it.
One of C.S. Lewis’ most famous quotes revolves around this topic:
“ Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased”
And that is the truth. We foolishly believe that fooling around in our own sin will give us more life than walking with God and changing the world for Him.
And it’s because we trust what we know. We know “making mud pies in a slum.” We’re familiar with our own filth of sin. But to walk away with God by the sea. That’s uncharted territory, it’s a risk. It’s faith to follow. But it is good.
This June is going to be a special time for me in my life. In June, I will have been a Christian for 10 years now.
And if there’s one thing I can say I’ve learned in those 10 years, it’s that His way is better.
Often in the Bible God describes decisions as two paths. Narrow road/wide road. OR, As Psalm 119 says, His word is a lamp for our feet, and a light for our path. And that HIS PATH IS GOOD!
That doesn’t mean that I’m still don’t stupidly and often forge my own path apart from his thinking it will bring me more joy.
But I’m learning to do that less. I’m learning to trust that time and time again, when I actually have the guts to trust Him and take his path, it leads to good.
I mentioned earlier that the philosophy of only making decisions based on what will bring you joy or make you happy was called Hedonism.
Years ago, local pastor and author, John Piper, coined a term called Christian Hedonism, which is basically this:
It is the idea that God is most glorified in you and works most in you when you are most satisfied in Him.
So the more you are able to find true JOY in God and living out your faith for Him, the more He then also moves through you.
So, it’s kind of a cool cycle.
You make decisions to honor Him, it works so it brings you joy, that Joy honors Him, so people see Him in your life, thus He impacts other people through your life, which brings you more joy, which makes you want to trust in following his path even more, which works even better, …..
That is the cycle we all need to be on.
BUT, it first starts with TRUSTING that His path is right and often (not always), but often brings you JOY along with it.
JOY IN MINISTRY
Perhaps the greatest JOY we can have in this life comes from serving God in any sort of ministry.
When I say ministry, I mean it in a really broad sense (not just a pastor), but I mean anything God is using you to help change this world (Greeting at church, praying for your friend, mowing your neighbor’s lawn, sharing about Jesus to your family who doesn’t know Him, being in or leading a Bible study) or countless other ways of serving God by serving others.
Being a vessel of God is amazing. And is a great source of JOY
We see this over and over and over again in the Bible
A good example of this is when Jesus sends out 72 of his followers to go proclaim that HE (the messiah) has come.
(Luke 10:1-3) – NIV
1After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.
The 72 then go out, and when they come back, this happens (jump to verse 17)
(Luke 10:17-21) – NIV
17The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." 18He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." 21At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure
So we see that there’s great JOY when they come back after being a vessel for God’s work.
And God’s work it was. They’re talking about not only changing lives for Him, but having authority in the spiritual realm and everything.
And we can sense this really JOYOUS moment because when you get to be an instrument, a vessel, for God it’s JOYFUL. It’s powerful.
We see this sort of language used elsewhere lots of times in the Bible:
(Acts 8:4-8) – NIV
4Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. 6When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. 8So there was great joy in that city.
There are lots of summary statements like this: God does great things through his people, and there’s just this feeling of JOY.
There’s just something about being His vessel (in any capacity) that is so JOY giving.
It’s always crazy to me how people in this world will do anything to be part of something significant or be connected to someone significant
Like, you watch musicians or bands that just have flocks or entourages or people around them willing to do anything for them.
And people are so happy just to say that they helped set up a bowl of only blue m&m’s for the band, and they did it for free, but it was amazing!
Or, you ever see those movies where they have like 2,000 extras? Why do people do that? They’re not getting paid?
In both cases, it’s just that the chance to be connected to someone or something significant gives us JOY!
I set-up the M&M’s for what’s his face, I was an extra in this blockbuster that all the critics hated, look there’s my hand.
There’s something about being a vessel, even a small vessel of something larger than ourselves that gives us joy.
I was at a church planting conference last week. Large conference. 4,000 people. Because it was so large, took tons of volunteers.
In my cold heart, I think, why would these people give up 4 days to come get tables of cookies here? But, they, as probably better ppl than I, are given just so much JOY by being a part of something they know is bigger than themselves.
And when you serve God, as his vessel, it feels like that.
One of the more memorable and defining JOY moments in my life came when I was leading a missions trip in Mexico.
Went and did park ministry (explain), and on bus ride home, there was this unbelievable sense of JOY in the entire bus.
And it was sort of a defining moment for our Youth Ministry to reference back to. And we stopped and said, never forget this feeling. This JOY, this moment. THIS is what God made you for.
And you know what’s different about Godly Joy and Joy we get from Sin (we get joy from sin, we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t). The difference is when you wake up the next morning.
There’s something about the morning that makes even the vilest of people evaluate their life.
And Joy that came from sin the night before, all of a sudden doesn’t feel so joyful the next morning.
But Joy that came from being a vessel/instrument of God…it maybe even increases the next morning.
That morning after the night in Mexico, I woke up with a huge smile on my face.
Because Godly Joy---World-Changing JOY, sustains. It lasts a while. Because it’s real JOY, not counterfeit joy.
And it really struck me this week how often the writers of some of the letters in the Bible speak of the people they are writing to being the source of their joy.
Often the writers in the Bible are writing to people who the writers have helped bring to God. Those writers were an instrument (somehow) and God worked through them to change lives.
And when they write to these people, they use the same language a lot. Look at this:
(1 Thessalonians 2:19-20) - NIV
19For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?20Indeed, you are our glory and joy.
(1 Thessalonians 3:9) - NIV
9How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?
At the beginning of 3 John, John writes:
(3 John 1:3-4) - NIV
3It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. 4I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
Paul also starts a lot of his letters in a similar manner.
But we see so often in the Bible that one of the deepest sources of JOY in a person’s life comes from seeing God move through them.
So, I guess that begs the question then: Are you allowing God to use you right now?
It all kind of reminds me of those robot vacuums they came out with.
You remember those? They went around and supposedly cleaned the whole house while you watched the Price is Right.
Well, let me ask: How many of you use Robot Vacuum cleaners?
That’s what I thought. Because they never really worked on their own. Just kept butting up against a corner somewhere.
And we’re a little bit like robot vacuum cleaners. As a tool, as an instrument, we don’t work so well on our own. Keep butting up against corners.
Because we were meant to be a TOOL in our Father’s hand…used for His purposes. For his Joy, and for our Joy.
So, what can you do to surrender some to how He would want to use you in your life?
Because God wants to use each and everyone one of us.
And maybe that’s to serve somewhere at church, start a Bible study at your work or in your neighborhood, maybe you start a prayer group at your work or with friends, maybe you start reading the Bible together with your friend who doesn’t know God, maybe you use your administrative gifts, or gifts serving, or gifts of hard work or labor to help others or help the church, it could be anything. There are SO many ways that each of us can change the world for God.
And God has gifted each one of us to do so in different ways!
So what could you do to better let Him guide you to those paths of serving / of world-changing?
And then trust that being an instrument in God’s hand is not only what you were meant to do, but it’s something that will bring you immeasurable JOY as well!
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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