OUTRAGEOUS, CONTAGIOUS JOY
February 11, 2007
[Ed comes on stage with a digital camera.]
Who’d like their picture taken? I really feel like taking a picture today? Who would? Hands are going up everywhere. Okay, that’s a nice row.
Tell me your name.
Ed: What’s up Jackie? I’m Ed.
Ed: Jeff. And…
Ed: Frank. And one more…
Ed: What’s up Bill?
Okay. Right here. We got some good light on this? One. Two. Three. Beautiful! Okay, check this out. What do you think? Now, let me just ask you a very in-your-face question. Who was the first person you looked at when you looked at the picture?
Yeah, yourself! I’m the same way. Every time someone takes a picture of me with a group of people, I look at myself and I judge the picture based on how good I look.
Have you ever seen these Christmas cards? Do you get Christmas cards? I do. Check this out. Women always look awesome in Christmas cards. Their husbands could be staring at the sky, the kids clothes could be all jacked up, but the women? Boy, they’re going to look great! You know why? They picked the picture! They do the Christmas card.
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]
Happiness is based on happenings, right? Happiness is something that we pursue. Happiness is this happening, this luck, this thing we experience when we’re on a roll, when all the ducks are in a row.
A lot of people have this mentality that God just wants me to be happy. They’re the “God just wants me to be happy” people. They pretty much live the way they want to live. They behave the way they want to behave. They sleep in any bed they want to. Then they sign God on as a junior partner. And, when they’re confronted by the truth they say, “Well, I’ll play the God card. God just wants me to be happy. Oh yeah, God wants me to be happy and peppy, and bursting with love, yeah. That’s what God wants for my life. It’s all about happiness.”
I told you last time about a friend of mine that took me out to lunch several years ago and he said, “Ed, I’ll put the cards on the table. I’m in love with another woman; I’m going to leave my wife and my kids because God just wants me to be happy.”
That is what he told me. Well, let’s just play out that scenario for a second. Let’s say that God did want this guy to be happy. So, God wanted him to be happy, and he slept in another bed. He had sex with another woman. So, God wanted him to be happy. I guess he was happy when he was doing that.
Well, how about the spouse and the two kids that he left? So, I guess God wanted him to be happy; yet, God wanted his spouse and his kids to be unhappy. It falls apart. It collapses.
A lot of people live life in the shallow end. They have their floaties on and they’re splashing around in the shallows, “Oh, this is fun! I’m in the pool. I’m in the pool!” You know when you were a little kid, in the shallows you wanted to go deep? You saw the turquoise waters and you watched in awe as people jumped off the high dive into the pool and you were like, “Whoa, that’s phenomenal.”
I remember the transition in my life when I jumped off the high dive for the first time. I was at Forest Lake Country Club in Columbia, South Carolina. I walked to the high dive. People were like, “Ed, don’t do it.”
I said, “I’m going for it!” And I climbed up the ladder that was so high that you could feel the wind blowing. Things looked so small and I curled my toes over the edge of the board and jumped. Oh man, it hurt when you hit that water! It hurt! People were like, “Wow!” Once I went deep; once I went off the high dive, I never went back to the shallows—especially after I shed my floaties. You’re the same way.
Sometimes we kind of swim toward the deep end, we kind of tippy-toe toward it and then we’ll just be floating and we’re like, “Whoa, this is unbelievable. This is kind of scary; I’m in the deep stuff!”
God wants us to live life in the deep stuff. He knows we’re going to be happy. I’ll have moments of happiness. So will you.
People say, “Well Ed, are you happily married?”
I say, “No. I have moments of happiness, but I’m not happily married. I’m joyfully married, but not happily married.”
“Ed, are you happily employed?”
“No. I have moments of happiness here, but I’m not happy 24/7. I’m joyful, though.”
Joy is something deeper than happiness. Joy is really hard to define. That’s why I wrote a book on the whole subject. How do you define joy? What is joy? I call joy life to the excess. I call joy tranquility of the soul. You know you’re in it, but you have a hard time explaining when you’re in it. It’s just a vibe. You’re in the flow of joy. We’re made for joy. That’s a fact, because Scripture tells me, “God is a God of joy.”
Think about God. God is a God of joy and we’re made in the image of God. So the predominate disposition of every believer’s life should be one of outrageous and contagious joy. Not just happiness. Joy. Happiness is based on circumstances. Joy is relational. God could have had the predominate disposition in our lives be one of boredom, depression, predictability. But he didn’t. He wants your life and mine to be one of joy. And we choose spouses, careers, friends, even churches based on the joy quotient.
So we have this capacity for joy. But so often we’re in the shallows. We’re just messing around with happiness, as opposed to going deep with joy.
Paul. You might know him as Saint Paul. We’re all saints, though. Did you know that? If you’re a Christ follower, you’re a saint. So, Saint Paul, the Apostle Paul wrote a book in the New Testament called Philippians.
Philippians is all about joy—outrageous, contagious joy. Fourteen times in this little letter Paul said, “Be joyful.” “Have joy.” We’re going to kind of look at joy because Paul talks about joy. He also talks about what joy isn’t.
Paul, when he wrote this letter, was chained to a member of the Praetorian Guard. Church history tells us that the Praetorian Guards were the most elite soldiers of the day. And Paul thought he would go to Rome as a preacher, as a pastor, but he ended up there as a prisoner. That’s kind of odd. Do you ever find yourself in your life thinking, “Okay, I thought I would do this being one thing. But now I’m doing this as another thing. This is kind of odd.” God uses all things, Scripture says, good things and bad things work for good to those of us who know Him, and to those of us who are submitted to Him. Because when we do what God wants us to do, what’s going to happen? We’re going to have joy.
So, God does not want us to be happy. God wants us to be obedient. Paul was obedient. He found himself in chains. He wrote this letter, and this letter to the Church of Philippi was very interesting. During Paul’s second missionary journey he started this church with some friends and he wanted to talk to the people, yet he was in prison.
So the Church of Philippi had one of the leaders named Epaphroditus. Don’t you just love that name? Epaphroditus found the Apostle Paul in Rome, gave him a gift of money and some other things. He told Paul what was going on at the church, and here’s what Paul did. Paul wrote a thank you letter. And the book of Philippians is simply a thank you letter.
The whole letter is about this—have a single mind. Paul said to have that one purpose. Paul said, “If you want joy, submit your life to Christ.” In other words, get under those things that God has put over you so you can get over those things God has put under you.
But so many people live their entire life without ever realizing the stuff that God wants us to have under us; thus, we miss joy. We miss the depth. We miss the richness of this one and only life. Paul talked about outrageous and contagious joy.
We know Paul wrote this letter because it’s written in the first person. The early church fathers documented this—Polycarp, Eusebius, Clement of Alexandria and many others. They’ve said, “Paul wrote the book of Philippians.” So, we have an opportunity to peer over the Apostle Paul’s shoulder and to read what he is talking about to these Philippians regarding this deep and rich topic known as joy.
So, if you have your Bibles, turn to the Philippians 2:3. This is a prison epistle, a prison letter. Other prison epistles include Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. All those other books are also prison epistles.
In Philippians, Paul was not singing Johnny Cash songs. He was talking about outrageous and contagious joy.
I love Johnny Cash. You might be thinking, “Well Ed, you sing Johnny Cash a lot.” Well, I do. I fell in love with Johnny Cash because Dad was speaking at this big conference in the late 70’s, and Johnny Cash did the music. And he invited me on stage to sit there, and I watched the man in black sing. I was that close to him and he’d like turn around and kind of nod to me. I was like, “Whoa! Johnny Cash!” And that drummer was like surreal. Then I got to meet him and talk to him. Sometimes I’m like that. If I meet someone or see someone live, well not everybody, but I’m usually their fan. So, I’m a Johnny Cash fan.
I was talking about Paul. Paul did not sing Johnny Cash songs. He was talking about outrageous and contagious joy. And right here, Paul is going to bust our chops because the Bible is so bold. It says that God works from the inside out to produce joy in our lives. That’s what God wants, that’s his priority. The Holy Spirit is working in my life and yours to produce outrageous and contagious joy. That’s the bottom line.
Well, there is this epic battle going on between God, who is producing joy, the Holy Spirit producing joy and some joy jammers. Joy jammers are those things that will jam your joy and mine. I deal with this funk every single day, and so do you. So, Paul is going to bust our chops. He’s going to get in our grill. He’s going to get close enough to find out what kind of cologne we have on as he talks about joy jammers. So, really, when I go through these joy jammers, it’ll tell you what joy is not. So often, that’s even a better definition than saying joy is life to the excess. Joy is tranquility of the soul.
So, let’s dig in here Philippians 2:3. “Do nothing” Paul says, “out of selfish ambition….” Uh oh, selfish ambition.
When the twins were three years old I took them fishing at a little lake and we were catching perch, a bunch of perch. They were having a good time, “Oh, look at this nice perch!”
We were catching them and I said, “Kids, throw the fish back. Don’t kill the fish. I don’t like to kill fish. Throw them back, they’ll grow bigger. Throw them back.”
So we fished for about an hour, and that was about it. I got my tackle box, took my rods and reels and threw them in the truck, drove home and put the stuff up in the garage.
Press the clock forward three days. Three days of triple degree Texas heat. We begin to smell something in the house. It was the worst odor you’ve ever experienced. We were looking under carpets, behind doors, opening boxes. “What is that?”
Something told me just to open up my tackle box in the garage. I opened it up and what did I see? One of the dead fish! One of the twins, behind my back, had put a fish in my tackle box and closed it up. And the smell about bowled me over! I found the source of the smell.
When we’re selfish, our self will ends up smelling like a fish. Could it be that we have some self-fish people here who are stinking up God’s house? Could it be that? I don’t know, because I can’t smell it. But God can smell the self-fishness.
My Mother told me one of the first words I ever learned was the word “mine.” That was one of my first words. “Mine.” And I’m still struggling with that today. “Oh, that’s mine! No, no, that is mine!”
And every time I have that me-istic mentality, and believe me I have it, I smell like a fish. It’s really the smell of hell. That’s what it is.
“Well, how can you say that? The smell of hell?”
Well, a lot of people smell like hell. I’m talking about spiritually speaking.
What was the first sin? The first sin was pride, and Paul talks about pride. He calls is vain conceit. That’s pride. When I say the word pride, say it with me—pride. You just said “I.”
The ride of pride is a bad ride. Satan, when he was Lucifer in Heaven, said, “You know what? I’m going to exalt myself above God.”
And pride got him kicked out of heaven. He fell to earth and took a third of the angels with him, which now we know are the realm of the demonic. It was all about pride. It was all about the stench of being selfish and prideful.
The antidote to that is to be generous. It’s not to be selfish, but to give. We’re to give of ourselves in relationships. We’re not to be selfish. Something that will mess a marriage up is selfishness. We’re to give in that relationship. And here’s the paradox of Christianity. The Bible says when I think about others, I end up getting what I want. So, when I give, I get. And I get to give. I don’t get to get. I get to give. And when I keep that flow going, I am going to get what I need. As I give, I’ll get my needs met.
One time someone said this to me, “Yeah Ed, I’ll just be honest with you. One time I went to Fellowship Church and no one said a word to me. I heard that church was friendly, but no one said a word to me. I went for like one weekend, and two weekends and three weekends.”
I said, “Really? I’m sorry. Did you say anything to anyone?”
“Did you talk to anyone?”
“No, but no one came up to me.”
Here’s what I learned a long time ago. If I want friends, I’ve got to be a friend. If I want someone to talk to me, I’ve got to talk to them. If I want questions about my life, I’ve got to ask people questions. So, I give myself away and I end up getting and receiving the deep needs of my life. That’s why spiritual maturity is not just about receiving and getting and giving and feed me. It’s not just that. We’re fed and then we think about others. So, selfishness and vain conceit is a joy jammer. It’ll mess you up.
Let’s continue because James 3:16 says, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”
Oh my goodness. “In every evil practice…” When I took the picture, who was the first person I looked at? You. We’re just made that way. It’s just part of our fallenness. Selfishness.
2 Corinthians 2:14-15, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.”
So, it’s time for us to wake up and smell the fish—selfishness. We’ve got to have a sweet aroma before the Lord. Look at verse 15, “For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”
I had a shirt one time that had the word “Joy” on it. “J” said Jesus. “O” said others, and “Y” said you. Jesus, others and you. It’s very simple. It was on a t-shirt from a kids’ camp and I’ve never forgotten that.
If I want to be joyful, live in the deep end with Jesus, others and it. And the same is true in your life. So, as you think about your relationships, as you think about your resources, as you think about your prayer life, as you think about your career—what does God smell? Are you giving God a sweet aroma of worship, of being others centered or not? That’s a joy jammer.
Here’s another joy jammer Paul talks about in Philippians 2:14.
I had a friend of mind years ago, his name was Barry. Barry hated the kind of iced tea that my mother made. It was so obvious that you could just tell it. Barry, though, was a pleaser. And we would always mess with him because he would never tell you anything bad. My mother made mint tea. Have you ever had mint tea before? I don’t mean the fake stuff. I mean the real mint in the garden and you boil it with the tea or whatever you do. That stuff will make you sing “Hallelujah!” It’s unbelievable.
Every time my friend would come over, I’d go, “Hey Barry, I’ve got some mint tea. My mother just made a big old pitcher!”
You could tell he didn’t want it, but he didn’t want to disappoint her and he’d go, “Okay, I’m kind of thirsty.”
I’d say, “Try it. Barry, how do you like it?”
“That’s good. That’s good.”
Even today, 20 years later, when I eat something that has a weird taste or is real bitter, I’ll go, “It’s good. It’s good.” That really means, “It’s horrible!”
Well Paul’s talking about bitterness in Philippians 2:14. What is bitterness? First we’ve got to define anger. What is anger? You’ve got different types of anger. You’ve got hot anger. Then you’ve got another kind of anger—cold anger, or resentment turned inward. “I’m going to ice you out.” That’s bitterness.
“That guy ripped me off, and that deal went south, and what that coach did to me, and my Father, the words he used…”
We look at our spouse. We look at our manager. We look at people and we just freeze them out. We’re bitter. And we drink some of it and we say, “That’s good. That’s good.”
Look at Philippians 2:14, “Do everything without complaining or arguing.”
You show me someone who complains and argues with their parents; I’ll show you a student or a child that has some bitterness issues. You show me someone who is always negative and arguing and complaining at the office; I’ll show you someone who has anger turned inward, frozen resentment. You show me a spouse, you show me a teacher, and you show me a pastor, whoever it is. We all deal with bitterness. And in marriage, we have to watch out for the bitterness quotient. So many marriages are ruined because of bitterness, resentment turned inward.
How many people are married here? If you’re married lift both of your hands. I tell people this all the time: Marriage is not the easiest thing. Singles, listen to me. It’s not the easiest thing. It is so often the hardest thing. Yet, in my marriage, it’s the greatest thing. So, it’s the hardest thing and the greatest thing. I see the best in me in my marriage. I also see the worst in me. Marriage brings out the worst in me, my selfishness. I can smell like hell sometimes. My pride. Bitterness. And if I don’t see it, Lisa will bring it up to me.
All these singles out here thinking, “Well, I don’t know, Ed. When I get married it’s not going to be that way.”
Oh, I think God keeps you stupid until you get married. Then you wake up and you smell the fish. We’ve got to deal with bitterness. We have to keep short accounts. Something bugs you about your spouse? Get it right. Reconcile it. We spend so much time and energy with resentment, being cold. Why not funnel that energy toward reconciliation and love and forgiveness and warmth and connectivity?
Let’s go to Hebrews 12:15. The Living Bible says this, “Watch out….”
Now, that’s an interesting phrase, because in the original language it means “Watch out!”
“Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives.”
You know my friend I talked about earlier who bolted from his marriage and his kids, who slept in the wrong bed? He was all about bitterness. He was all about resentment turned inward. So, we need to focus on being a healer, not a hurter.
Well, Paul brings up yet another joy jammer. False evidence appearing real—fear. That’s what it is, false evidence appearing real. I deal with fear. So do you. I deal with bitterness. So do you. I deal with selfishness and pride. So do you.
In Philippians 1:20-21 Paul says, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Have you ever done the Google Earth thing? Have you ever seen Google Earth? I love that. I’ve moved around a lot because I’m a preacher’s kid. I’m the son of a preacher man. We moved from Irwin, North Carolina to Canton, North Carolina; from Canton, North Carolina to Taylors, South Carolina; from Taylors, South Carolina to Columbia, South Carolina; from Columbia, South Carolina to Houston, Texas; from Houston, Texas to Tallahassee, Florida; from Tallahassee, Florida back to Houston, Texas; from Houston, Texas to here, Dallas/Fort Worth. And now I’m here. The next move will be from this world to the Kingdom in my life. I have moved around a lot. I’m talking about a bunch!
I’m a very sentimental person. I love pictures and Google Earth just freaks me out. You log onto it and you see the world. What a perspective! We’re a blue and green planet. It’s kind of spinning. Wow!
Then I’ll bring the kids around and say, “Kids, I grew up on a street in Canton, North Carolina called Poplar Street.” I get a little bit teary eyed. “I’m going to type in this address. Poplar Street. I’ve forgotten the numbers, but I’ll find Poplar Street and I’ll show you where I lived.”
I’ll click on it and I’ll search and it will get closer and closer, and closer and closer, and closer and closer.
And when it zooms in, I’m excited, “Poplar Street! There it is! There it is! This was where I played with my best friend Robert Campbell. He lived right over there. Chipper Powell, he had the coolest mini bike with the STP sticker on the back. We played sports all day long. Dad put me up a basketball hoop there. We had a tree house there.”
And I get so involved in my life and my past on Poplar Street. Dad was pastoring that little church in that mill town. I’ll talk about the mill workers and the population—7,000 people in Canton, North Carolina. I’ll forget about the state of North Carolina. I’ll forget about the country of America. I’ll forget about the world. I can forget about a lot of stuff.
We get fearful. At first we see the world and we have a pretty good perspective. We’re talking to God. But then we begin to click on the world and we get down to Poplar Street and then, “Oh no! What if this happens and this could occur. I don’t know about that.”
And we begin to be paralyzed, so freaked out and we’re focusing so intently on Poplar Street that we’re missing the perspective that God wants us to have. God wants us to zoom out and to see our situation and the grand scheme of things. Because in the grand scheme of things, how much does it matter if you make a 64 on the test? In the grand scheme of things, how much does it matter if you lose the deal? In the grand scheme of things, how much does it matter if you mess up when you’re preaching? It doesn’t matter.
So often we allow fear to tyrannize and paralyze us and it causes us to miss the process of joy. The prophet Jeremiah said, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”
So, joy strengthens us. It enables us to do phenomenal things. But if we’re always weirded out about fear, fear can tyrannize and paralyze us. It can keep us from really revealing our true selves in relationships. Fear can do that.
“Man Ed, I’ve got fear. I’ve got fear.”
Well, I do too. So often we have to do it afraid. Just to step out and do it afraid. Just go over here and do it afraid.
“I’ve got fear.”
Well, so do I. Just do it afraid. Do it afraid. And when we do it afraid, what’s going to happen? Joy will ambush us. Joy will empower us. And we’ll discover that the fear was really nothing in the grand scheme of things. We were just concentrating on Poplar Street instead of seeing the true perspective that God wants us to see.
Paul says we’ve got to do the stuff. We’ve got to be the man, or be the woman. It’s not about the problems in life, because that’s the deal. The problem in life is the problem. We all have problems. It’s the power of God. It’s the power of joy.
What happened? Paul was chained to a member of the Praetorian Guard. Church history tells us that the Praetorian Guard was changed every six hours. So, think about it. The Apostle Paul got to share Christ with the entire elite Praetorian Guard. Think about it. Because Paul was under house arrest, he met the heavy hitters in Rome, people he would have never ever met otherwise. And he got to share Jesus with them. So, God used Paul’s chains to change the lives of others.
You might be saying, “Ed, I feel chained to my home. I’ve got these two preschoolers. I feel chained.”
Well, you’re chained to change.
“Well, I feel chained to my desk and this job is going nowhere. I just don’t know if it has real meaning and purpose.”
You’re chained to change. Chained to change. That’s what it means to have outrageous and contagious joy, to walk in the strength of God.
Because when we do that, I guess we can all sing:
I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.
Down in my heart to stay.
Let’s do it again.
I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.
Down in my heart to stay.
We’re all going to face this stuff—selfishness, bitterness, pride, and all the joy jammers. We’ve got to face it and we’ve got to be the people that God wants us to be.