This December we talked about joy. We said joy is different than happiness. Happiness is what happens to us. It’s temporary, it’s external. Joy is a decision we make that says, ‘God is in control and I can relax in that.’ That means I can have an awful day but it can’t steal my joy in the reality that God loves me and has freed me.
We walked through the Christmas story and talked about the things that steal our joy. Things like stress and anxiety. Anger and resentment. The feeling that things aren’t working out like I expected. Confusion on what to do next. We talked about the things we need to do to reclaim joy. When we feel stress and anxiety, we trust. When we feel anger and resentment, we forgive and move on. When things don’t work out the way we expected, we surrender. When things are confusing, we said God doesn’t give us a map, He gives us the Bible and the Holy Spirit.
Today I want to talk about joy in 2020. I didn’t say happiness in 2020, I said joy in 2020. How do we find joy? I want to tell you a story about a young married couple. They attended church and in that service, the Pastor challenged people to give their lives to God. The challenge wasn’t only to give their lives to God, but to follow Him wherever God would lead them. That night, they did. As a couple, they walked forward and gave their lives to Christ in Chambersburg Mennonite Church. In that moment, they felt like God was asking them to be missionaries. They would become the first missionaries to Guatemala for their denomination.
Let’s stop here for a second. They had no idea what their salary would be. They would be entering a culture they did not know. They would have to learn a new language. This is before we had health insurance programs to make sure everything would be perfect. This is before we had retirement programs, pensions and every financial safety net. So please understand, they were being called into the unknown.
Quick question. Would you do that? Maybe God isn’t asking you to be a missionary. Maybe, God shows up to you and says, I have redeemed you and I need you to help me in 2020 redeem others. Does that invitation excite you? Does that invitation scare you? Do you jump all in? Do you hold back?
Jesus told this story.
12 There was once a man descended from a royal house who needed to make a long trip back to headquarters to get authorization for his rule and then return. 13 But first he called ten servants together, gave them each a sum of money, and instructed them, ‘Operate with this until I return.’
14 “But the citizens there hated him. So they sent a commission with a signed petition to oppose his rule: ‘We don’t want this man to rule us.’
15 “When he came back bringing the authorization of his rule, he called those ten servants to whom he had given the money to find out how they had done. 16 “The first said, ‘Master, I doubled your money.’ 17 “He said, ‘Good servant! Great work! Because you’ve been trustworthy in this small job, I’m making you governor of ten towns.’
18 “The second said, ‘Master, I made a fifty percent profit on your money.’ 19 “He said, ‘I’m putting you in charge of five towns.’
20 “The next servant said, ‘Master, here’s your money safe and sound. I kept it hidden in the cellar. 21 To tell you the truth, I was a little afraid. I know you have high standards and hate sloppiness, and don’t suffer fools gladly.’ 22 “He said, ‘You’re right that I don’t suffer fools gladly – and you’ve acted the fool! 23 Why didn’t you at least invest the money in securities so I would have gotten a little interest on it?’
24 “Then he said to those standing there, ‘Take the money from him and give it to the servant who doubled my stake.’ 25 “They said, ‘But Master, he already has double . . .’ 26 “He said, ‘That’s what I mean: Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of. Play it safe and end up holding the bag. 27 “‘As for these enemies of mine who petitioned against my rule, clear them out of here. I don’t want to see their faces around here again.'” MSG Luke 19:12-27
Jesus teaches something that goes against everything that is within us. It goes against our comfort and routine. He said, when you take what has been given to you to build God’s kingdom, you get more than you ever dreamed of. The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. The less you risk, the less reward.
Can I ask you a question? What does it mean to you to follow Jesus? Jesus talks about risk. He talks about being strategic. That means we think through what we are good at and build God’s kingdom. He isn’t okay with us doing the least possible. That means, we don’t take what we are good at and hide it.
I have a follow up question. What church in North America challenges you to take risk? Be strategic, take what you are good at and build God’s kingdom? What church challenges you with, whatever you do, don’t be that guy who does the least possible? What church says, risk your life and get more. Take what you got, live in a way that grows the kingdom of God, maybe doubles the kingdom of God.
Do you want to find joy in church? Do you want to be a part of something successful and growing? Do you want to be a part of something with momentum? Do you want to go to church and experience the Holy Spirit? Then take a risk, get involved. Take what you are good at and invest it into building God’s kingdom. The worst thing you could do is stand back and not get involved. To take no risk. To think, others will do it. To think, we pay two guys to do it all.
Let me finish the story of the couple who risked it all. They moved to Central America and for two years learned Spanish. They started a church. Today, because they started the church in Guatemala and others came to help, over 10,000 people are Christians and attend over 180 churches. They moved back to the States to be a pastor in Ohio. They moved to South NJ and started a church there. From the church they sent out missionaries and started a new church in Atlantic City. They moved to Lancaster and helped start another church in Lancaster.
The couple I am talking about is my parents. At a party a several years ago, at their 50th wedding anniversary, hundreds of people came to celebrate them. One man pulled me aside that day and said, “Ken, as my wife and I look back over our lives, the greatest days of our lives were when your parents were our leaders.” I was so impacted by that. I so impacted by all their friends in that room. I left that day and thought about how my parents decided to live.
They risked it all. They were all in. Let’s fast forward to today. I am going to hang out with them for Christmas. Let’s ask a few questions. Are they loaded? No. Are they in perfect health? They are doing good for 81. Did they build relationships with important people and leverage those relationships to climb the ladder be validated in the Christian faith? No. They are the real deal. Did they take what was given them and produce more? Absolutely. I can introduce you to people who would bawl because my parents lead them to Christ.
My parents look at church and say, “We love the church.” The reason they find joy in church is because they gave it all to build it. I think of words of Jesus, “Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of.”
All this talk is a build up to my point. I never once heard parents complain about church. Do you know why? They were busy building it. It was one of the greatest lessons my parents taught me by their actions. If you find someone complaining about church, their upset about changes, who sings, who preaches, how they do it, chances are, they’re not building anything. And don’t be surprised when they don’t have joy about church. They probably don’t have joy at work. They probably don’t have joy in marriage and on and on.
You want to find joy in church? Build it. Jump into the mess, take responsibility and make it better. Scripture puts it like this.
4 In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. 5 The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, 6 let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.
If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; 7 if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; 8 if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face. MSG Romans 12:4-8
In other words, jump into the mess, take responsibility and make it better. Don’t be lazy and wait for some magical moment. It’s not coming. Don’t make excuses about not being educated or trained or not being qualified. Here is why, God spoke through a donkey in the Old Testament, He can work through your mess. Don’t look to be validated, don’t waste your time trying to feed your ego. Stop being a victim. Jump into the mess.
If you want joy in church, build it and stay away from people who won’t build it. Why? All they will do is complain, that’s all they got. I can’t thank God enough for my parents.
As my parents did their thing in God’s kingdom, I saw something else. Something that only happens years and years later. I read letters that people wrote to them. Story after story of people who are living different lives because of them. I think when Jesus said, “Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of…” that’s what He meant. They now get more than they ever dreamed of because they risked it all.
Want joy at church? You can find it. It’s when you jump into the mess. Kids in children’s ministries, need people to pray for them, love them and be there for them. People visiting, need people to be nice when they visit like greeting, coffee. Building needs cleaned. Papers need filed. Grass needs mowed. You can even make meals and deliver them to people who need a break in life.
And if you think today was a sneaky way for us to fill a slot, you missed everything I said all morning. If you want joy in church, jump into the mess.
What is God asking of you?
What decisions do you need to make this next year?
How will you live next year? Will you invest into God’s kingdom or hide what you are good at?