Life-Changing Decisions Part 5: Choosing Joy

Sermon Transcript

We want them to feel like they’re a part of what’s going on here because they are. You know, as a pastor and as a Christian, sometimes people will ask me. They’re like, “Chip, what really gets underneath your skin? What really grates your nerves? Is there anything that really sets you off?” And, there is. It’s the things I can’t control.

You know, when I see somebody do somebody wrong. Like, I’m driving down the road and somebody pulls in front of somebody and hangs out the window and gives verbal or sign language (that I’m not quite sure what it means but I think I know what it means.) They’ve gotten creative here in Lakewood Ranch. I’ve seen some things; I don’t know what they are. I’m from Kentucky. We’ve only got a couple of sign languages. Here in Lakewood Ranch, there’s some good stuff. You guys from up north must have some really good gestures.

Anyway, you know, you see that and you wish you could do something about it. Or you see stuff on TV where people have been treated bad or you watch somebody on TV – this is one of my things – you know, I’m watching somebody on the internet or I’m watching a preacher on TV or something and they’re like, in my opinion, they’re butchering the passage. I just want to like reach the TV, “Stop!” You know? Those are things that bug me.

And I’m going to tell you why in a minute as we continue on in this series called “Life-Changing Decisions.” Now, for those of you all who are normal, regular attenders, you know that we’re in a five-week series and we’re at week number five in this series. If you have missed a couple or if, by chance, you’re brand new here today, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Man, I’m walking in on week five of a series?” That’s like walking in on the last 10 minutes of a movie, right?

No, no, no. I’m going to bring everybody up to speed so that we’re all on the same page. This is what we’ve been talking about for the last five weeks. We’ve been talking about the decisions that we need to make before we make decisions. Every single one of us has made a decision that we wish that we could change. Whether it was a relationship, whether it was a business venture, whether it was that thing that you really needed and you went out and splurged and got, whether it’s maybe the way you did something with your children or maybe the way you went to school.

We all have some decision that we wish that we probably could go back and take back; maybe get a mulligan on it. And so, what we’re looking at in this series is look, we want to make great decisions. And we realize why decisions are important. Decisions are important because you and I are where we’re at today based on a lot of decisions and choices that we made in the past. Can I get an “amen” on that? Is that true? Which means that where we’re going to go in the future is going to be based on a lot of the decisions and choices that we’re making right now.

So, what we want to do is we want to make good decisions. Well, oftentimes when we look back at our lives and we see the decisions that we made that we wish we could’ve sort of changed, we find that we made those decisions, many times, in less that optimal situations. There were storms, maybe there was relationship issues, maybe there were financial issues. You know, whatever. It was like a storm going on and we made decisions and we were doing the best that we could. We’re trying to remember what we know and what we’ve read. We make these decisions and we look back and go, “Man. I wish that I would’ve made a better decision.”

That’s why it’s important to make some decisions upfront before we make decisions so that we can make good decisions when we make them. And what we talked about over the last five weeks, we’ve talked about taking responsibility. All of us, at some level, have blamed somebody for something that they’ve done. Amen? Is that true? I know you’re probably thinking it’s the Saturday at six and the Sunday at nine and the Sunday at eleven-thirty people that do that, not us, right?

But, we’ve all blamed somebody and it goes back to Genesis 3. Adam, what did he do? He blamed God and the woman. He did a twofer. You know what a twofer is, right? It’s where you get two people at the same time. He said, “The woman you gave me” and then Eve blamed the snake. So, we’ve learned that early on to blame other people for the situations that we’re in. We’ve talked about learning to take responsibility for our life.

We talked another week about the fact that, at some point, we’re going to have to decide whether or not we’re going to do it our way – we’re going to be Frank Sinatra – or we’re going to do it God’s way and we’re going to listen to God’s Word and follow God’s word. And that’s a struggle, let’s be honest. Somebody does you wrong and you want to get back at them, right? I mean, it’s like you go, “Man.” And then you read the Bible and it says to forgive them and all that stuff and you’re like, “Oh, man.” We’re going to have those choices that we have to make.

These decisions that we have to make. Are we going to follow God or are we going to follow our own voice? And then we talked about having a made up mind last week. The fact that oftentimes we get ourselves in trouble because we haven’t decided what we will do before we get there and then, when we get there, we’re scrambling to make decisions.

Oftentimes, we need to go through God’s Word and look at how we’re going to deal with our relationships, with our finances, with our jobs, with our bosses. How are we going to do this Biblically? And then make up our mind. This is what I will do and this is what I won’t do. And, what you’ll find is in those decisions, you’ll make better ones than you would’ve made before.

And so, we’re going to land the plane here today on one of the decisions that we need to make here in life and this is maybe one of the most significant ones of everything that we as human beings.

And it is simply choosing joy, or what I call delight. I call the word “joy” in the Bible, I call it “delight” because the Bible talks about delighting ourselves in the Lord. And we’re going to talk about this for a minute but I think I’m going to go a little bit different route than what you normally hear. Normally, when somebody talks about choosing joy you go, “Just be joyful. Just be joyful. Just be joyful.” And everybody is like, “But I don’t know how to be joyful because there’s so many things going on in the world and I don’t know how to do that. It sounds great, but I don’t know what to do.”

But, the fact of the matter is, let’s be honest, when we meet somebody that is truly walking in delight, truly walking in joy, we sometimes want some of that, don’t we? You go, “Man, I wish my life was a little bit more joyful.” And then, deep down inside – and nobody has to admit it. I’ll be the only one that admits it and you all can pray for me because I know you all would never do this. – But, sometimes, when people are so joyful and smiling and all that stuff, you’re like, “Man, I wish they would get ahold of life like life’s got ahold of me sometimes.” You’ve done that, right? You’re like, “Man, something is going to knock them down a notch like it’s knocked me down.”

Why do we do that? Why are like that? What is going on there? And I want to try to explain this to you Biblically. As you know – and if you’re new, you’ll catch on here – we’ve been going through the book of Jonah. We’ve looked at Jonah from Jonah 1:1 and we’re going to go all the way through chapter 4. We’ve read every single verse over the last five weeks and we’ll conclude the book today. Jonah is an interesting character.

To catch everybody up, God asked Jonah to go to Nineveh. He said, “Hey, I want you to go to Nineveh and I want you to give them a word.” Well, Jonah, rather than going to Nineveh, he decided to flee. He went down to Joppa, caught a ship to go to Tarshish, which is as far away as he could go. And, in the middle of that, God appoints a storm and, in the middle of the storm everybody is running around trying to figure out what’s going on and they realize that Jonah is the culprit.

Jonah, rather than repenting and rather than having a moment with God decides, “Throw me overboard. I don’t want to live.” It’s like, you’re asking, “Why could a guy be like this?” So, they throw him over the boat. God appoints a big fish and, you know, three days in the gastric belly of a fish, Jonah get’s religion. I guess I would, too. Wouldn’t you if you’d spent three days in the gastric juices of a fish? You probably, if you’re in the biggest atheist in the room. You’d be like, “You know what? I think I need to start calling out on God to get out of this fish.”

So, the fish spits Jonah back up on the land and he takes a long walk to Nineveh. He does his sermon. Five words in Hebrew. That’s all it is. Five words in Hebrew. Translated to “In forty days, Nineveh will be overthrown.” So, he preaches this message and what happens? Everybody in Nineveh repents. From the king down. Everybody goes into like Holy Ghost hoedown revival. Everybody got a dose of the Ghost, man. It was awesome. It’s like a serious revival.

I wish I could preach a message of five words and you all would get excited. That would be awesome. If I preached five words and walked out, you’d be like, “What’s he doing?” So, Jonah was obviously more anointed than me. I’m more annoying. Anyways, so the deal is is I don’t really pastor, I pester. So, if you’re here for the first time, you’re in a great place. So, anyways, the deal is that Jonah preached this message and he’s upset. We start realizing that, all of a sudden, Jonah’s upset. And we start getting sort of the whole reason towards the end of the book.

Jonah has like loaded it at the end of why he’s done all these things. He’s mad at God. He’s mad at God because Jonah wants God to destroy the Ninevites. He doesn’t think they should live. They’ve raped women, they’ve killed Israel’s children, they’ve done wrong, they’re evil, they worship all the wrong gods. “God, you should get ‘em!” But oh, no. Jonah’s like, “Oh, no. God’s this loving God and He just wants to give everybody another chance and He just wants to extend grace and so I’m mad.”

And Jonah’s on his way out of the city and we’re going to pick it up here towards the end of the book and we’re really going to dial in why Jonah is the way he is. And maybe, in doing so and looking at Jonah, maybe we’ll see some things about our self. So, we’ll look at the Bible, go through it verse by verse. And then what we’ll do is we’ll do some practical take-homes and I think we will leave differently than when we came in. Sound like a good plan, everybody? Everybody on the same page? Okay. Let’s continue on here.

So, we’re looking at Jonah 4:5-11. It says, “Jonah left the city and he sat down east of it. He made himself a shelter there and sat in its shade to see what would happen to the city.”

Now, this is interesting. If you’re really reading the book of Jonah, you know that Jonah really should be going back to Israel because he can’t stand the Ninevites. Why in the world is he going outside of the city, building a little booth, building him a little shelter from the shade to see what’s going to happen? Because, deep down inside, he remembers what he preached. In 40 days, Nineveh will be overthrown.

He’s hoping that even though God said that the Ninevites were spared and that they had repented and that they had been forgiven, he’s deep down hoping “I’m going to hang out here for about 40 days and see if maybe God gets them.” Okay, now. Jonah has done some really cool stuff here as he’s written this book. He talks about the shade that he makes to cover himself and then we’re going to find that God gives him some shade in the next verse and I’m going to tell you something.

You and I can build whatever booth that we want to build. We can build whatever world that we want to build. We can build whatever little secret things that we’ve got to alleviate us from all this stuff. Our shade will never, ever, ever bring to us what we want. It’s only God’s shade that will deliver us from the issues that we have in our lives. And Jonah tells us.

He says, “Then the Lord God appointed a plant,” – now, this word “appointed” is awesome in the book of Jonah because God’s appointing everything. Fish and storms and all kinds of stuff. – “…He appoints a plant, and it grew up to provide shade over Jonah’s head to ease his discomfort.”

This is interesting. Jonah’s making himself some shade but he’s not easing any of his discomfort. It’s only God that can do something that can ease Jonah’s discomfort. And this comes from a root word in Hebrew that can possibly mean “evil” as well. So, we’re sort of getting this lurking deal that God is trying to do something remedial in Jonah by what He’s doing.

So, he appoints this plant, it brings some shade over Jonah’s head to alleviate some of his discomfort and it says here that “Jonah was greatly pleased with the plant.” He liked it. He’s like, “This is good stuff right here, man.”

You know, isn’t it funny how when God does something that we like, we’re happy and when He does something we don’t like, we’re not happy? I know it’s a little early but that’s a good “amen” right there because what that is is I’m preaching better than you’re letting on. Okay? I need you to know that. Okay, so, Jonah was greatly pleased with the plant. What we’re realizing here is Jonah was all about Jonah. He liked his world to be the way he wanted his world. He liked it to be the way he wanted it to be.

You ever noticed when you want your world to be the way you want it it never gets there? Have you noticed that, ever? Can I – I want you to lean in and listen to this because this is huge. This is huge for all of us. Huge for me. When you and I try to control our world so that it works the way we want, we have stepped outside of what our role as human beings is. We’ve stepped into playing God and we’re never going to be happy there. We’re never going to have joy there. We were created to worship God.

We were created to live in fellowship with God. We weren’t created to rule the world. We weren’t created to control the world and our anger and our frustration comes when we’re trying to make it happen in the way we want to make it happen. So, Jonah is greatly pleased. Life is good. Got this shade going over. Everything is fantastic. Well then it changes a little bit here.

It says, “When dawn came the next day…” – and I’m going to tell you, dawn always comes the next day, okay? – “…God appointed a worm…” – Now we’ve got another appointment here. Not a plant. This is a worm. – “And a worm attacks the plant and it withered.”

Uh oh. This is not good. Jonah liked that shade and now the worm comes along and it eats the plant and the plant withers. God’s not done.

“As the sun was rising, God appointed a scorching east wind.”

So now, the day before it’s all good. God put the little shade over his head. Jonah’s like, “Man, this is awesome. I like this. Man, God is good.” And then, all of a sudden, God appoints a worm and some wind and some scorching heat and, all of a sudden, Jonah’s not happy any more.

It says here, “The sun beat down so much on Jonah’s head that he almost fainted, and he wanted to die.” And man, is that not like you and me, man? When things are going the way we want it and life is going the way we like it, we’re happy and we’re greatly pleased. And then God appoints that worm and then He appoints that wind and that heat and we’re like, “Where’d you go, God? What are you doing to me?”

Jonah says God’s still right there. He’s telling us He’s right there. He’s the one appointing this. What’s He doing? What’s He doing here? God’s trying to teach Jonah something. That’s what He’s doing. Because, God’s number one thing for you and me is not our comfort. It’s to conform us to the image of His Son. And, one of Jonah’s issues was Jonah wanted His world to be the way he wanted it to be and it wasn’t working out and he was miserable. He was frustrated and his frustration led to anger, which is the exact opposite of Biblical joy and delight. So, he’s ready to die.

“He said, It’s better for me to die than to live.”

Look, I’ve been doing this for a while and I can’t tell you how many times Christians will come into my office and they’ll talk to me and they’ll go, “Man, things were going really good and God was good and life was good and me and God were walking along. Then, all of a sudden, it went bad and sour and everything else and I don’t know where God went and did He leave me alone or whatever else?”

And, here’s the truth, He didn’t leave anywhere. The problem is is that when we want our world to go the way we want it, what we do is we get angry and frustrated when it doesn’t go that way. When God is in control then what we do is is when the difficulties and the storms comes and the wind comes and the heat comes and the worm comes, we start asking God, “What are you trying to teach me?” And see, if you live that way, you can live in some delight and joy because you realize it’s God that’s in control and not us. And that’s a tough place to go but it’s the truth that will set you free.

So, “Then God asked Jonah…” – Now, let me tell you something. Oftentimes in the Bible, when God talks to people, God’s trying to get their attention. I’ve got people who all the time say, “Man, God talks to me all the time.” I’m like, “Man, well then you must be doing a lot wrong because, most of the time He talks to people in the Bible, it’s not good. He’s like, ‘Let Me tell you what you’re doing wrong.’” It’s funny, I’m like, I don’t know that I really want God to say too much to me. I just want to be like, okay, yeah. I want to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

So, “God asked Jonah, is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

He’s like, “Jonah, let’s stop here for a second. Jonah, did you go down to Home Depot and buy that plant? No.” – There was Home Depot back then. It’s in the Hebrew. I’m just kidding. – He goes, “Did you go down to Home Depot and buy that plant? Did you put Miracle Grow on that plant? Did you water that plant? Did you do anything with that plant? Was there anything you did at all with that plant?” You know what Jonah’s going to answer here. He’s going to say, “Yeah, God. You’re right. I shouldn’t be so angry. It’s not right for me to be angry about the plant.”

He says, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

Old Jonah goes, “Yes,” – in the Hebrew it’s “heck yes.” I’m just kidding. – He says, “Yes, he replied. It is right. I’m angry enough to die!”

It’s like, whoa. This guy is on edge. Man, I know some Christians, though, that get on edge pretty quickly, too. I know, it’s Saturday night and the next service. Not you all. Y’all are the saints, okay? But, I do know some Christians that can get on edge really quickly. They can go from zero to a hundred very fast. In my life, I can go from zero to a hundred very fast.

When it isn’t going the way I want it to go, I’m frustrated and I’m angry but I’m also stepping outside of what I was created to do and I’m trying to play God in my life and I never, ever, ever am going to be joyful and delightful in that position.

I love basketball. You all know that I love basketball. I’m a huge University of Kentucky fan (so is God, by the way.) But, I love basketball. But, the one thing is is, see, I’m like 5 foot 6 and a half. You know? And the problem is is my balls, when I go to shoot, they end up in people’s armpits because they’re bigger than me. And I want them to go into the basket but they don’t go into the basket. You know?

And I’m chucking them up, you know? The only thing I can do is I can dribble between some of the guys’ legs underneath them because I’m so short. So, every once in a while I look like a Harlem Globe Trotter. But, the bottom line is is here’s the deal, if I play basketball on a regular basis, I’m going to be so frustrated because God did not arrange me to be a basketball player. You know?

And at my age and the fact that I don’t get a whole lot of exercise, I make one cool move where I think I’m going to be like the really cool point guard and that’s when you pull your calf muscle. And then you sort of try to walk around like you’re cool. “You okay, Pastor?”

“Nah, I’m fine, man. I’m good.”

“Well, you look like you pulled something.”

“Nah, man. Don’t look at me. Look over there.”

But, the deal is is I’m just frustrated because I’m not good at it. Let me tell you something. We don’t know how to control the world because we didn’t make the world. We don’t know what’s going on because we can’t see everything. Oftentimes in our lives, we look at things and we go back and we see where God’s hand has been there through providence but we don’t see it in the moment.

Because, what we’re called to do is to trust God. We’re called to serve God. We’re called to lean on God, not try to control our world. When we try to control our world, we will be miserable, we will be frustrated and we will go to anger. But, when we can rest in God and let Him control the world, we can live a life on joy and delight. That’s why we can look at James – and, let’s be honest, most of us, when we read James, it says, “Count it joy when you have a lot of trials in your life.”

We go, “What in the world is wrong with James? What’s wrong with that boy?” Well, see, James understand something. He understands the proper relationship that he has is with God. Letting God be God and not him. And when he does that, he can say, “You know what? No matter what comes my way. No matter if it’s a medical affliction or loss of this or whatever else, I can trust that somehow God is at work.” And we have story after story after story in the Bible of that being true.

What about Joseph? Remember Joseph? His family – his brothers throw him in a pit to be sold to the Egyptians? That’s not a good day. That’s a bad day. And you know, they put some blood on his multi-colored robe and take it back to his dad and say he got killed; eaten by a beast. And, he goes to Egypt away from everybody wondering what’s going on?

Where’s God in the midst of all of this? He ends up at Potiphar’s house and his wife tries to lie about him and he ends up in prison. One day, he’s at the right hand of Pharaoh and he controls the grain and his family comes into Egypt and all of his brothers and sisters in Israel. And he realizes that all of those things that have happened in his life have brought him to that moment and he’s able to look back at all of those things that he thought were terrible and knew were terrible and people meant in terrible ways and saw how God had woven such a beautiful thing out of all of those things.

See, that is a life of delight and joy when you can go, “You know what? I don’t have to control everything. I don’t have to get so frustrated at politicians. I don’t have to get so frustrated at what’s going on in the world. God’s in control. Not me. My job is to just love him and serve him and trust him. And, when stuff goes great in my life, worship Him for it going great. And, when stuff goes bad in my life say, “God, what are you trying to teach me here in the midst of this?” God’s trying to teach Jonah something. He says, “Jonah, are you really right to be angry about that plant?”

He’s like, “Absolutely.” He goes, “I’m so mad and I’m so angry that I could die.”

“So the Lord said, You cared about the plant, which you didn’t labor over and you didn’t grow.”

“And in fact, Jonah, it appeared in a night and it perished in a night. You had a one-day dance with the fungus plant and you’re all mad and all upset and all angry just like you’re mad and upset and angry with the Ninevites. So, Jonah. Should I not care about that city of Nineveh? Jonah, you know those people of Nineveh? I formed them in their mother’s womb. You know those people of Nineveh? I’ve heard them pray to all the gods that they’ve prayed to and not to me. You know those people of Nineveh? I know all the women that lost their babies before they were born. You know what, Jonah? I know all the stuff that’s gone on in Nineveh for the people that have suffered with the oppression of the leaders. Those are my people, Jonah. Should I not care about these people? There’s 120,000 people there, Jonah, who can’t distinguish between their right and their left.”

They were like Americans. Either they didn’t know how to vote to the Republicans or to the Democrats. That’s the way we are. I’m just joking. That’s not what it says. I’m just playing. Just playing. Calm down. Okay, 120,000 people who can’t distinguish between their right and left.

“Jonah, they don’t know what they’re doing. People have taught them things. People have said things to them. They’re not quite sure what they’re doing. And there’s all those animals.”

That’s where it ends. It ends right there with you and me having to ask the question, “How often do we run from God? How often do we want to see people suffer? How often do we want to get back at people? How often do we get angry and frustrated because we’re not letting God be God? And it ends right there. People always ask me, they go, “What happened to Jonah? What do you think happened?”

I can’t tell you. My guess is that the book he wrote is his repentance. But, I don’t know.

So, what are the take-homes? What can we take home? If you’ve got a sheet of paper, if you’ve got your bulletin, if you’ve got an iPad or an iPhone or a lily pad or whatever. Any pads that you’ve got. Write down whatever. These are some take-homes. These are the things that will help you in your life, I promise you. Write these down. These are huge take-homes. Practical stuff here.

Number one. We will never walk in true Biblical joy (delight) when we are the focus of our life.

Now, this is tough because it’s really difficult for us to not be the focus of our life. It’s hard. I mean, I’m the pastor of your church and I’m telling you that many times I’m the focus of my own life. And you go, “Well, you shouldn’t tell us that.” Well, why should I not? I’m wanting to give you a “get out of jail free card”, too, to let you know that these are the struggles that we all have.

We all have them in common. But, I’m never happy and I’m never walking in joy and I’m never walking in delight when I am focused on myself. Where I’m at is frustrated in miserable when I’m focused on myself. Just like Jonah. Jonah’s frustrated and miserable because it’s all about him. And, here’s the deal, listen to me. It’s so tough, too, because, as a Christian, you hope that we have relationships with people where you can sit down with them and say, “Hey, listen. I know that this is what you want. I know this is what you think.”

But, really, this is all about you when you have that conversation. They get really mad, you know? But, the deal is is we’re never going to walk in true joy and true delight when we’re the focus of our own life. That’s why God says, “Here’s’ the two things that you need to do. Love God, love your neighbor.” Love God. Love your neighbor. It’s in serving, it’s in doing for others, it’s in reaching out to others. When we’re not the focus of our lives, it’s when we start to really walk in joy and delight.

But, we’ll never be there when we are the focus of our life. And, what I would ask you to do is I would ask you to take a moment here for just a second and, over the next few weeks when stuff gets you upset and stuff gets you mad and somebody rubs you wrong, maybe it’s a spouse or a husband or a boss or a coworker, child or daughter, stop for a minute and go, “Let me just be honest here. God, is it possible that I’m so frustrated right now because it’s really all about me and what I’m doing is I’m convincing myself it’s all about everybody else but maybe it’s about me? Maybe I’m the focus of my life.”

And, let me tell you something, you will never find life in yourself because you don’t have it. You know who has it? Jesus has it. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” The life we’re looking for – I mean, we chase our tails all around the Mulberry bush. Going for everything. “Gotta get this, gotta do that. Gotta do this.” And we’re miserable and we’re frustrated because the life that we’re looking for is only found in Christ.

Augustine said it best. He said, “My heart is restless until I rest in thee, O Lord.”

We’ll never find that what we’re looking for when it’s all about us.

And secondly, we lose our joy (delight) when we stop letting God be God. 

He’s God, we’re not. And we’re not going to know all the things that are going on in the world. We don’t know why certain things are going on. But, there may be greater things that come out of these things that you and I can’t see at this particular moment. That’s why we can’t let God be anything other than God in our lives. And, it really comes down to two things. Are we going to choose comfort, which is what we like?

We love that. We want God to be comfortable and we’ve created a whole theology in America where God is just the God of comfort, right? I mean, you know, if you spin around on a leg and say a prayer three times and bark like a dog then God will give you this house. You know, and if you pour this water on you that was bottled at the toilet at the Waffle House and it’s holy water or on the TV guy or whatever and rub it on your hands and sprinkle it on your kids, they’ll grow up to be whatever.

It’s just that we want to believe that stuff but, the fact of the matter is God’s number one concern for you and me is not our comfort. I’m not telling you God’s not a good God and He doesn’t love you and He doesn’t want to give you peace and joy. He does. But, that’s not the number one concern. The number one concern for God is to conform you and me to the image of His Son.

He wants us to look like Jesus. And, looking like Jesus means there’s times where there’s discipline, there’s times where there’s difficulty and there’s times where we have to endure certain things to understand where we’re going. You know, that’s why Jesus, when you look at Jesus in the book of Hebrews, it says that Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him. The cross. That’s not comfort. But, there was a joy before Him. We’re looking for Biblical delight and Biblical joy.

What was the joy for Jesus to endure the cross? Do you know what it was? It was you. It was you, watching via the mobile app and the internet. It was you. When He hung on the cross and they spit at Him, He did it for you. When He took those nails, He did it for you. That was His joy. He didn’t go through a comfortable moment. But, He realized why He was doing what He was doing and it was for you. And, in our lives, we can endure things and we can go through hardships if God is our focus. We won’t do it when we’re the focus.

And, this is a huge “get out of jail free” card. I want you to listen to this. This is awesome here. Our circumstances don’t steal our joy (delight), we do. Well, we love that. I mean, I’m guilty, too. Something goes on wrong and you don’t like the way it is and you’re like, “Oh, I can’t believe this. What’s going on? Where’s that…” Look, we’re all guilty of this. But, you know what? That’s not what really steals our joy and our delight. We do.

See, when difficulty comes into my life, I get to have a choice. I get to have a pity party and, when I have a pity party, guess who it’s about? I know none of you all have ever had a pity party, okay? But, it’s about me. Okay? So, I’m just sharing these things because I know you don’t struggle with them. I just want you to pray for your pastor. Okay? So, here I’m doing a pity party. Or, I can say, “God, what do You want me to learn? What are you trying to teach me here?” And that gives me joy and delight because I know that God is working in my life to do something great.

Which brings us to the third point. Our joy (delight) is a choice. We get to make the choice. The Bible is full of it. Choose this day who you will serve. Come if you’re thirsty. All of these choices that are all through the Bible, every single one of them, we have a choice. We have a choice to say, “It’s going to be all about me.” – which really goes all the way back to Genesis 3. Okay? They want to do their own thing. They wanted to be their own way.

You know, we can call it original sin, we can call it whatever we want to call it, whatever. Missing the mark, whatever you want to call it. But, the fact of the matter is we all know it’s there. We want to be Frank Sinatra, we want to do it my way and God’s like, “If you do it your way, Proverbs 14:12, Proverbs 16:25, ‘There’s a way that seems right to you and me, but it never leads to the right path.” So, it’s a choice. Or we can say, “You know what? God’s God and I don’t know very much. And I don’t know why things are going on the way they are. And I don’t know why things look the way they do.

But, I’m going to pray for them and I’m going to trust God. And I’m going to work in the areas that I can work in and I’m going to be the change in this sphere on influence that I can be. And I’m going to allow God to do what I want to do.” And I’m going to tell you, because I know you’re thinking this. You’re saying, “Chip, tell me how I can have joy and how I can have delight.” I’ve walked you all the way to here to tell you and it’s the secret that all the early Christians knew.

You can read all of it all through the Bible. They were convinced that there was something out there that they were going towards. Some called it “heaven.” Some called it “the day that the new Jerusalem would come and be with us.” Some of them called it “citizenship in heaven.” Some of them called it “seated in heavenly places.” They knew there was something out there. It was a heavenly city that the Old Testament people were looking towards. And then Jesus got up from the grave on the third day and all the disciples were like, “Man, this world isn’t all that there is. There’s more.” There’s more than this world and I’m looking out there and I’m listening. Do I hear some music? I think I hear some music. I think I hear heavenly music.

I’ve got this hope that there’s more. That even though I don’t understand what’s going on in here, I’ve got this hope that drives me. That, even when I don’t have to understand all the pains and difficulties that I’ve gone through, that I know there’s something out there where, one day, it’s going to make sense. One day, I’m going to realize what God was up to and that hope is the music of heaven. Faith is dancing to it now. We dance to what will be.

That’s how we have Biblical joy and delight in our life is we go, “Hey…” – that’s why Paul could say in 2 Corinthians 4, “These slight, momentary afflictions in my life are nothing. They’re just preparing for me an eternal weight of glory.” That is how we live a life of delight and joy. It’s by looking towards Him and not our circumstances. And believe He’s at work even when we don’t see Him.

So, we’re landing the plane on this. The ushers are going to come right now and they’re going to pass you out a card. They’re on their way. The card is two-sided because we’re going to do something here that we don’t normally do. On one side of the card it says, “Own it” because we talked about that a number of weeks ago. It talks about “Follow God’s Word” because we talked about that a number of weeks ago. It talks about “Making up our mind” because we talked about that and it talks about “Choosing joy.” It’s on the back of that card.

And, here’s the deal. You know why we don’t do these things? You know why we don’t follow God’s Word? The reason we don’t make up our mind? The reason we don’t choose joy? Because we have fear. We have fear. “What if it won’t work out? What if I try to do it God’s way and it doesn’t work out the way I want it to work out? What if it’s not exactly the way…” – because, once again, it’s still all about us at that point. We’ve got this fear.

I want to tell you something. When Jesus died on the cross and rose again from the dead, He delivered us from fear. He gave us the ability to trust Him. And, what I want to do with you all is something a little different than we normally do. We’re going to sing a song. We’re all going to stand up and we’re going to sing a song and we’re going to remember that we’re a child of God and there is no fear in our lives and we can live this thing out. And, here’s the deal, you might want to put your hand in the air and make it a declaration.

Some of you maybe will look more like this and you want to do this. Some of you might want to just hold it in the hand and do this. What I want you to do is I want you to sing this song with me. I want everybody here to stand up. We’re going to sing a song and I want you to make this your declaration. I don’t want you to worry about the person on your right or the person on your left. I want you to make this declaration that I am a child of God and I don’t have to fear doing the things that God has asked me to do because I know if I do these things, He will come through for me.

John, take it away, buddy. Let’s sing it.

[Singing]

You unravel me with a melody.

You surround me with a song of deliverance from my enemies till all my fears are gone. 

I’m no longer a slave to fear.

I am a child of God.

I’m no longer a slave to fear.

I am a child of God.

I am a child of God.

From my mother’s womb You have chosen me.

Love has called my name.

I’ve been born again to Your family.

Your blood flows through my veins.

I’m no longer a slave to fear.

I am a child of God.

I’m no longer a slave to fear.

I am a child of God.

I’m no longer a slave to fear.

I am a child of God.

Sing it out.

I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.

And I am surrounded by the arms of the Father.

I am surrounded by songs of deliverance.

We’ve been liberated from our bondage.

We’re the sons and the daughters.

Let us sing, let us sing our freedom.

We’ll sing our freedom.

You split the sea so I could walk right through it.

My fears were drowned in perfect love.

You rescued me so I could stand and sing, “I am a child of God.”

You split the sea so I could walk right through it.

My fears were drowned in perfect love.

You rescued me so I could stand and sing, “I am a child of God.”

I am a child of God.

I am a child of God.

I am a child of God.

I am a child of God.

I’m no longer a slave to fear.

I am a child of God.

I’m no longer a slave to fear.I am a child of God.

[Prayer]

Lord, we declare, we put our stakes down today. We’re going to make decisions before we make decisions. Lord, we’re going to own it. We’re going to trust Your Word. Lord, we’re going to make up our minds and we’re going to choose to live our lives with joy and delight. And Lord, we’re going to walk out of here differently than when we came in. In Jesus’ name.

So, Lord, I pray that, as we leave, I pray that You would watch over us and protect us. Lead and guide us. Continue to help us be those lights that You called us to be here at Grace and to Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota and Bradenton for Your glory and for Your honor. Lord, we are children of God and we are no longer slaves to fear. Bring us back safely until we meet again. And everybody said, “amen.” Give the Lord a big hand clap.