Outrageous, Contagious Joy
“Clap Your Hands”
February 4, 2007
If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands. [clap, clap]
If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands. [clap, clap]
If you’re happy and you know then your face will surely show it;
If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands. [clap, clap]
You guys are good! You are on you’re A-game today! During this message, whenever I go like this (clap, clap) follow me. So when I go (clap, clap), then you go (clap, clap). Just two claps, ok?
Happiness is something that we pursue and something that we chase. I think that when we chase happiness, we are really chasing infinity. We all have moments of happiness, but happiness doesn’t give us anything lasting. It doesn’t give us anything that will keep going.
“When I start the company and when I make my first million then I will be happy.” (clap, clap)
“Maybe when I work for the hospital or build the church or the realty company, then I will be happy.” (clap, clap)
“Maybe when I buy a home at the sea shore or mountains, then I will be happy. Maybe in a little place called Aspen, then I will be happy.” (clap, clap)
“Maybe when my spouse gets cosmetic surgery, then I will be happy.” (clap, clap)
“When I score the winning touchdown, then I will be happy.” (clap, clap)
“Maybe when I graduate at the top of my class, then I will be happy.” (clap, clap)
But happiness only lasts two hand claps. It does not last that long, and it is not that solid. It is not foundational. It is like chasing after the wind; we are going after infinity. We never really arrive. Happiness.
People ask me, “Ed, I know that you are happily married.”
I say, “No, I’m not. I am not happily married.”
How many of you are married? How many of you are happily married? You are not! Put your hands down; you are lying. Lisa and I have moments of happiness; we have had many moments of happiness over our 25 years of marriage. But we are not happily married. 24-7 we are not happy.
“I am happy, and peppy and bursting with love; happy, and peppy and bursting with love!” It is not that way.
I am not happily employed.
“Man, Ed, I bet that you are really happily employed at Fellowship Church.”
And I say, “No, no I am not.” I’ve had moments of happiness here, but I am not happily employed.
Happiness is from a Latin root “hap,” which means circumstance or luck.
“If everything falls into place and if my ducks are in a row and if I am on a role, then I can be happy.”
I was the middle of preparing for a talk and my phone rang. A friend of mine said, “Ed, I need to talk with you.”
So I asked, “Can it wait?”
He said, “No, I have got to talk with you now.”
And when we met, he looked at me and he said, “Ed, I am a straight shooter, and I want to tell you something before word gets out. I am going to bolt on my wife and my kids. I have fallen in love with another woman. I know that my career is going great, but let me tell you, God just wants me to be happy.”
When those words settled, I looked at him and said, “Wait. God does not want you to be happy. Where is that in Scripture? God wants you to be committed. He wants you to do what he tells you to do. Then you can have a life that is much deeper than happiness. God does not want you to be happy. He doesn’t. He wants you to be obedient.”
And the guy said, “Well, Ed, I appreciate your honesty. But I have already made up my mind.”
So, I walked with him out to his six figure Italian sports car and watched him crawl into it and drive off. I thought to myself, “That guy is signing up for pain and serious problems.”
See, he bought the lie; the “God wants me to be happy” lie. We hear that all of the time. “God just wants me to be happy.” We live like we want and do what we want to do. We sleep in this bed or get involved in this situation or do things that don’t square with Scripture. We go against God’s grain. And then, when confronted with the truth, we say, “God just wants me to be happy.” But where is that in Scripture?
We play the God card. We say, “God wants me to be happy.” But He doesn’t. He really wants us to do what he says and be obedient to him. Then, when we are obedient, we will discover something deeper than happiness. God does not want us happy; he wants something more.
Many people live in the shallows of happiness. I have on my floaters and am splashing around in the shallows. Now and then we see the deep end with people whose toes are curled over the edge of the diving board and going deep. And we think, “Wow, I wish that I could go deep; I wish that I could know more. Surely I can get what those people have. Look how deep they are diving. That is amazing!”
We have this nature in us that seeks this deep stuff out. There are two levels—there is the shallow end and there is the deep end. In this series we are going to go into the deep end, because I want to talk with you about something that is more profound than happiness. I want to talk about deep stuff, because when those people have the courage to curl their toes over the diving board, then those people experience joy.
When they dive down I can hear them singing “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart. I have got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart to stay.”
This subject is so powerful that I have written a book on it. I have spent my life studying the difference between happiness and joy. I am joyfully married, I will tell you that. I am joyfully employed, I will tell you that. Happily married? Sometimes. Happily employed? On good days.
Joy is deeper. It is more profound. And so many of us are in the shallows and looking at the deep stuff.
What happens when we get unhappy? What happens when things are not happening for us? The arm chair experts say, “Go out and have a few drinks. Snap out of it!” or, “Girl, go buy a new outfit.”
These people are well-meaning, but they are shallow end people. They have floaters on. They are superficial and shallow with no clue of what’s going on.
Let’s see what the smart people have to say; I mean those that have spent thousands of hours doing case studies and interviews. William Glasser, a 20th century psychologist, says, “The greatest need in mankind is to love and be loved.” William Glaser said that.
Victor Frankel, an existentialist, said, “It is all about purpose and plan.” He said, “If someone has a purpose and plan, they will experience happiness.”
Bruno Bettelheim, a man who survived a Nazi concentration camp, said, “Men need hope. It is all about hope. If someone loses hope, then they will lose their desire to live.”
I agree with those three cats. I think it is about love, purpose and hope. But Glasser, Frankel and Bettelheim still have floaters on; they are in the shallows. They have interviewed a lot of people with thousands of hours of studying. But they do not go deep and they have not talked about the real stuff. They have not talked about joy—life to the excess or tranquility of the soul.
What does God say about this? Instead of blaming him or excusing him or saying, “God just wants me to be happy” and playing the God card and lying about him to yourself and others, let’s just see what he says.
The book of Philippians is a book about outrageous, contagious joy. It is nestled in the New Testament, written by the apostle Paul. This guy had been shipwrecked, left for dead several times, bitten by snakes and now he is chained to a Roman soldier. And what does he do? Fourteen times he talks about joy, life to the excess.
Notice this about the book of Philippians. Paul, while in a Roman prison, is not singing (Folsom Prison Blues), “I hear that train comin’, it’s rollin’ round the bend. I ain’t seen the sun shine since I don’t know when.”
Thank you, thank you very much. But Paul was not doing that. Paul was writing about outrageous and contagious joy.
JOY IS A PROCESS, NOT A DESTINATION
So, grab your Bibles and turn to Philippians 1. Paul is going to tell us that joy is a process not a destination. It is a decision followed by a process, but not a destination.
He is in Rome, writing to the people of Philippi. (Philippians 1:3-5) “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,
(Philippians 1:6) He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Say the word completion with me, “Completion”.
I majored in Fine Arts at Florida State University. If you watch a great artist take a blank canvas, they will splash paint here and there. It leaves you asking, “What are they doing? This does not make sense.”
They will use black paint, orange paint, and green paint and mix them together. It does not look right.
Give them time. Watch them work with the color and scale and contrast. Then, come back and look once the painting is done. It will make you say, “That is the same painting that I saw with all that paint just splattered? How did you do that?”
God is an artist; it is what he does. The Bible calls us works of art. We are made in the image of God. Scripture says that we are God’s workmanship, we are unique, and we are canvases. But so often, God is painting in our lives and we don’t understand the color scheme, the scale.
We say, “God, why are you doing that? It does not really look right.”
But God is working to complete the work that he started.
God is going to work out what he has worked in. God is going to work out, by his love and grace, what he is already working in. That gives me confidence and joy. Joy is the confidence that we know whatever circumstance and whatever we are processing. That it is part of this gorgeous painting that God is making out of your life and mine.
Everyday we say, “That is not what I want. I want this paint and this color.”
Instead, we should say, “I want what you want. God, I am your canvas. You paint, you work, you create, you innovate and it will be beautiful.”
If you are far away from God, maybe you don’t believe in Jesus or have doubts about the Bible. That’s ok. Keep attending here because I am telling you, you have a desire for the paint and the artist to complete the work that he will start in you when you step over the line and become a follower of Christ.
Jesus has to come into your life. He will then forgive you and cleanse. Then, once he is in your life, you will become a white canvas and God has the freedom to paint and paint and paint. You will not truly discover joy until you allow God to paint. It is all about completion.
You know what, this is the fourth service and my blood sugar is kind of low. Before service I get tired, drained. [Ed eats a banana.] I love fruit. My dentist told me that my mouth is the size of a condominium. They call me Mick Jagger or Carlie Simon.
Galatians 5:22 says, “The fruit of the spirit is … joy.”
Wow, so did you hear what I said a minute ago? Jesus comes into your life. I focused on the aspect of Jesus penetrating your heart and life.
What is the first thing Christ does when he come sin to your life? Some people say that he cleanses and forgives so that they become a white canvas. But I already know that. What I want to know is what the first thing that he does is? He places the person of the Holy Spirit there. You know—God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. They are one in three and three in one; coexistent and coeternal.
The Holy Spirit has a major priority. He works from the inside out and redecorates to give outrageous, contagious joy. He is producing it in my life and yours. Yet, I have this counter force battling the Holy Spirit. He wants to produce joy and I want to produce selfishness and pride and envy and jealousy. That makes this epic battle. The Holy Spirit is committed to producing the fruit of the Spirit.
[Ed brings out a tangerine] This is a fresh, organic tangerine and that’s an eaten banana peel. Are you producing produce or are you producing peels? When the Holy Spirit produces fruit called joy, it is not for self consumption.
“Oh, I just want to eat it myself. I will eat joy.”
It is not for self consumption; it is to share. [Ed gives the tangerine to a person in the audience.] I share the fruit and am unselfish. And do you know what happens when I share? I have outrageous, contagious joy.
The world says that if I pursue happiness, I will catch it. But that is wrong. If you pursue happiness you will end up with the opposite—unhappiness. We have to take the floaters off and go deep to discover joy. So, joy is a process not a destination.
JOY IS RELATIONAL, NOT CIRCUMSTANTIAL
Notice something else, joy is relational not circumstantial. In John 15:11 Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
Think about the picture again, God is completing it. He is the artist.
James1:2-3 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”
Isn’t it true that people think, “I can come to a point in my life that I can evade all the problems in my life and become problem free. Then I will be happy.”
What kind of thinking is that? That does not make sense. I don’t care if you are CEO of the world, married to Ms. World, flying to your homes all over the world and driving the best cars in the world; you will have problems in the world. I don’t care if you are far away from God or if you are Billy Graham on steroids; you will have problems. I have problems, and I could talk with you about my problems.
Life is full of problems. And the problem with life is the problems. But sometimes people think that we can evade the problems. But we live in a fallen world, and we cannot do it. It is how we process the problems and what we do with the problems. And Scripture teaches us how to process the problems and how to do it with outrageous and contagious joy.
The Apostle Paul tells us. Look in the book of Philippians. In 1:12 Paul says, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”
Say the word advance with me, “Advance.”
The word advance is a deep word because the picture behind it is a group of guys that would go before an advancing army. They would clear out a smooth path for the advancing arm to TCB—take care of business.
That says a lot to me, because when I have problems and I feel like I have been shipwrecked, beaten and snake bit and I want to pick up a guitar to sing the blues, what should I do? I should remember that God is working with my canvas and that he is using those situations and circumstances to clear away the underbrush so that the gospel can be advanced. That gives confidence, power, and perspective. And that gives outrageous, contagious joy.
As my friend was driving away in his six figure sports car, I thought to myself, “There goes another person who has used the God card and who is lying to himself about God. He only thinks that God wants Him to be happy.”
I talked with him a few weeks ago and his kids are totally in a tailspin. The girl he hooked up with and committed adultery with, he ended up committing adultery on her after he married her. He lost all of his money and his life is a tragedy of what might have been. He probably wasted 15 years on this whole scenario.
“God just wants me to be happy.” No he doesn’t. God wants us go be deeper. God wants us to move from the shallow end to the deep end with outrageous, contagious joy in your marriage. God wants you to have outrageous, contagious joy in your career, friendships, and recreational pursuits. God wants us to live lives of joy. He wants you to have life to the excess.
Are you ready for the journey? I am. I am ready for the journey of joy.