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This series called “It’s time” is designed to get us moving. We all feel like the new year gives us a fresh start, but then for most of us, we just keep ending up in the same place year after year.
Here’s how Henry Ford explains this phenomenon:
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” -Henry Ford
Some of y’all still trying to make New Year’s Resolutions when you know that they haven’t worked the last 20 years. Or, you’re just sitting there wishing your life was different but you aren’t doing anything to change it.
Like I said last week, “Beep, beep. The light is green. Let’s go!” If you missed last week, that’s not going to make any sense to you. But if you want a good laugh, you can go listen to it on our website.
Through this series, my goal is to give you little nudges, little “beep, beeps” to help get you moving down the road to your best life. Here’s how the Bible says it:
Matthew 3:2 NLT – Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.
The word repent feels like a derogatory word to a lot of people, but it’s really not. The word simply means to change direction. Slam on the brakes, turn that car around and then burn some rubber.
That’s what the word ‘repent’ means. My hope is that this series inspires you to change direction and start moving towards the life God has for you.
Notice this verse also says “the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” You thought it was far away, but once you change direction, it’s right there in front of you. Come on, someone was set free right there. You’re going to make it.
You thought that God was far away, but He’s right there. All you have to do is change direction and start moving towards Him and BAM! You’re going to run right into Him.
Now, when I look around at Christians as a whole, not just at our church but in general, I see a missing ingredient. The majority seems to be a little blue, kind of down in the dumps, or struggling with depression.
That should not be! God has promised us joy! And there is no reason that a Christian should be living without joy! Can I get a good amen?
You may be sitting there thinking, “Yeah, but you don’t know my situation. Mine is worse than everyone else’s. I have a reason to live down in the dumps.”
And you know what, if you told me about it, I’d probably agree with you. It is a sad situation. And maybe even worse than I thought it was going to be. But, can I ask you a question?
Has being sad about it helped the situation? Has it solved the problem? No, it hasn’t. And it never will.
But even in the worst of the worst situations, choosing to hold on to joy is going to serve you and lead you back to wholeness. Sadness is going to steal from you. Joy is going to give to you and nurture you.
I didn’t come up with this on my own. It comes straight from the Bible:
Nehemiah 8:10 NLT – Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!
It’s time! It’s time for the sadness to be over. It’s time for the depression to be over. It’s time for all of that to be over because the joy of the Lord is your strength!
This isn’t a joy that you have to muster up on your own. No, this is the joy of the Lord – a gift of joy that God gives you regardless of the situation. But you have to turn from the sadness and change direction so you can receive this gift of joy.
But just like any gift, you don’t have to receive it. And I figured now is a good time to confess to you guys about one of my own failures.
I’ve learned that most men are pretty good at focusing. We have a one-track mind that allows us to zero in and get things done. But sometimes, this gets us into a little bit of a mess. Especially with our wives.
Now, this conversation could go many different directions, but we are going to keep it G-rated this morning. We do have a relationship series coming up in February though. And trust me, you’ll all want to be there for that.
But, at our house, we have a second story with a bedroom, bonus room and bathroom. This is actually the whole reason we bought this house so all of my office space could be upstairs and our living space downstairs.
You just need that separation if you’re going to work at home. Some of y’all may be curious what I do for work. I’m a digital marketer which means I create a lot of content, from writing emails to shooting videos.
One day per week, Beth helps me out, which is so awesome. She works upstairs with me that day and her desk is right next to mine. This sounds like a fairy tale, and really, it is… until I get into my focus zone.
There I am, zeroed in on my work and my lovely coworker starts asking unrelated questions. Now, I was full of joy when the day started, “Yea! Beth’s here!” But with each passing question, the joy disappears.
By the third question my joy is gone. I keep my mouth shut so I don’t say anything I regret, but she can see it all over my face. I ain’t got no joy.
And that’s really how the world sees joy. It’s something you can have only if the circumstances are perfect. But that’s not God’s joy. The world’s joy will always fade away, but God’s joy can break through any circumstance.
The question is, where does this joy come from? I am going to give you three answers we can find in the Word of God. And then I will give you three practical ways to bring this joy into your life.
Here’s the first source of joy:
Joy comes knowing God has a plan for my life.
When you’re going through that rough patch yet you know that God has a plan for your life, you still have joy because you’re confident that God can take anything and work it out for your good.
I don’t know how He’s going to take this financial struggle and work it out for my good. And then He uses what you learned during the struggle to propel you forward a few years later.
We sing it all the time, “You take what the enemy meant for evil and you turn it for good.” When you really believe that, you have joy in the midst of chaos. You have joy through the struggle. Because you know, “God’s got this. I don’t know how, but He’s going to work this out.”
Here’s the attitude we need to have:
Psalms 16:5-11 NIV – Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.
He’s basically saying, “God, you are all I need. Everything is found in you. You’ve put me here in Owasso, in this time, for a purpose. I can’t believe I get to be here and enjoy this delightful inheritance.”
Psalms 16:5-11 NIV – I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Not only am I in the right place at the right time, but God is right here with me leading me, guiding me and keeping me safe even when the world around me is shaking.
Psalms 16:5-11 NIV – Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
Why does he rejoice and rest secure? Because he knows that God has a great plan for his life. And it doesn’t matter what it looks like around him or what the circumstances are, God will not abandon him.
Psalms 16:5-11 NIV – You make known to me the path of life;
Some of you aren’t here yet because you don’t know your path. You’re not yet confident that God has a plan for your life.
And that’s exactly why we have the Growth Track. Y’all, it took a lot of work to get Growth Track off the ground and it takes a good amount of work to keep it going. But it is so worth it.
We put all this effort into Growth Track because we want to serve you. We want to help you realize that God has a plan for your life so you can discover your purpose. God put you here for a reason!
And today is Step 2 which shows you how you are uniquely designed. There is no one like you with the same set of skills, experience and connections. You are the only one that can do what God has called you to do!
Here’s what happens when you discover God’s plan for your life:
Psalms 16:5-11 NIV – you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
This joy is available for you. And Growth Track will help you get there.
Here’s a quote that sums this up very nicely:
Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life. -Kay Warren
We’ve already touched on this a little bit, but here’s the second one:
Joy comes when I’m certain God will work it out.
God’s plan is good. He doesn’t bring sickness into your life. He doesn’t bring poverty into your life. He doesn’t take your loved ones from you.
But we live in a fallen world where we all have free will, which means that all of us are going to make bad decisions from time-to-time. And everything we do has a consequence.
Eat the right food, you get energy. Eat the wrong food, you get tired. Push the gas pedal, your car goes. Push the brake, your car stops.
Everyone understands this. But then we like to blame our bad circumstances on God. As if He’s the one that caused a tornado or caused you to run out of money or get taken advantage of.
Not everything bad that happens is because of your own bad choices. Sometimes our bad choices affect others. Actually, a lot of times they do. And you may just get caught in the ring of fire.
I say all of that to say this. God does not cause bad things in your life to teach you a lesson. But He does use the bad things in your life to create good things in your life.
God takes what the enemy meant for evil and turns it for good. I don’t know how He does it, but He can do it with anything.
God can take your bad business decision and use it to make your business more profitable down the line. Seriously, God can take anything and turn it around. He’s just that good.
Beth and I went 8 years without having kids, and that wasn’t by choice. We were not doing anything to prevent it that whole time. And this was not our original plan. There were lots of tears and lots of prayers.
But here we are, we now have three beautiful girls. And looking back, we realize now that this is the right plan. We used to think our plan was better when we were begging God for kids, but now we realize, God was working it out the whole time!
Here’s the mindset we should all adopt:
1 Peter 1:8 NLT – You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.
When we’re in that season wondering, “Lord, where are you?”, we continue to trust Him. And since we are trusting that He will work it out, we carry around a glorious, inexpressible joy.
I’ve told this story before, but some of y’all haven’t heard it so I am going to tell it again. There was African king who had a friend who, regardless of what happened, good or bad, always responded with the phrase, “This is good.”
So, one day, the king and his friend went hunting. The friend loaded the king’s gun, but somehow did it incorrectly. So, when the king fired, the gun backfired and blew off his thumb. And his friend said, “This is good.”
The king obviously said, “This is not good.” And he got so mad that he had his friend thrown in jail.
About a year later, the king went hunting in an area he knew was dangerous and ended up getting captured by a group of cannibals. There he was, tied to a tree with the cannibals about to eat him and they noticed his thumb was missing.
Because of superstition, the cannibals were afraid to eat anything that wasn’t whole, so they let the king go. And the king’s mind immediately went to his friend who had now been in jail for a year.
He went to let him out and apologize. And when he told his friend what happened, his friend said, “This is good.”
The King asked, “Why do you always say that, even after being in jail for a year?” The friend responded, “Because if you hadn’t put me in jail, I would have been with you.”
You see, people that truly believe God is going to work it out are able to maintain their joy even in bad situations. Because they are confident in God. They know He can take anything, ANYTHING, and work it out for their good.
Here’s another quote that sums this up nicely:
Joy is the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright. -Kay Warren
Some of y’all looking at me like you’d rather waller around in your mess than have this joy. Well, beep, beep! It’s time to change direction.
I’m not saying your situation isn’t bad. You could have the worst situation out of anyone else in this room. But today, I want you to choose to change direction.
If you have the worst situation, then that means you have the best opportunity to see God work it out for your good. Choose to be confident that God is going to work this out. Because when you do, say hello to the joy.
This brings me to the third way to bring joy into your life:
Joy comes when I choose joy.
All this time you thought joy was supposed to come to you. But that’s not how it works. You have to go find it.
If you’ve been sitting there waiting for joy to jump on you, it’s not going to happen. If anything, joy is going to jump off you. You got to go jump on joy. Tackle it to the ground and don’t let it go.
All throughout the Bible, you’ll find that joy is a choice. It doesn’t happen to you. No, you have to choose to bring it into your life. Take a look:
Philippians 4:4 NLT – Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
You’ve had those moments in your life where you experienced some joice. But you need more than that. You need to re-joice. You need to repeat that joy over and over and over.
Some of y’all going to walk out of church today with some joy and it ain’t gonna be five minutes in the car with your rowdy kids that you’re going to need to RE-joice. Or at the restaurant when they get your order wrong and you need to RE-joice.
I will say it again: Rejoice! Why did he have to say it again? Because he knew you already forgot.
Joy is a choice that you make. You choose to come to Growth Track and do whatever it takes for you to be confident that God had a plan for your life. You choose to believe that God is going to work it out.
You choose joy. It’s not going to happen to you, you have to happen to it.
Alright, I’ve got to tell on myself again. I’m one of those people who can walk into a room and quickly point out everything that’s wrong. That chair isn’t straight. Those lights have different color temperatures. The acoustic guitar is a bit too loud in the mix this morning.
This has given me the ability to create excellent environments, but it hasn’t made me fun to be around. Actually, it was so bad several years ago that my dad let me have it.
I tell this story in Growth Track, but several years back my dad was the lead pastor and I was the worship leader. I was always badgering him with what we needed to do better at the church.
He took it for several years until one day he sat me down and told me how irritating it was that I always had to share my opinion, that I was always pointing out the things that were wrong instead of celebrating the things that were right.
My immediate thought? He was wrong. How could wanting things to be better be a bad thing? Actually he made me so mad that I was angry crying. Some of y’all know what I’m talking about.
I think it was the next day that the Holy Spirit spoke up on the inside of me and said, “He’s right you know.” This was one of the most defining moments in my life.
I used to believe that joy was reserved for when everything was perfect. But now I realize that joy is a choice. And it’s much better to have joy along the entire journey rather than waiting for a destination that may never come.
As a bonus, it turns out that people like to be around you a lot more when you choose to celebrate what’s right instead of always pointing out what’s wrong.
What I want you guys to get today is the simple fact that it’s time to bring joy into your life. It doesn’t matter if you are a serious person or a reserved person or whatever. The time is now.
I love how the Bible says it:
Deuteronomy 30:11-19 MSG – This commandment that I’m commanding you today isn’t too much for you, it’s not out of your reach. It’s not on a high mountain—you don’t have to get mountaineers to climb the peak and bring it down to your level and explain it before you can live it. And it’s not across the ocean—you don’t have to send sailors out to get it, bring it back, and then explain it before you can live it. No. The word is right here and now—as near as the tongue in your mouth, as near as the heart in your chest. Just do it!
I should have worn my Nike’s today, but I didn’t have any. But here’s the deal. If you want joy in your life, just do it. Do exactly what the Word of God has shown you today.
Deuteronomy 30:11-19 MSG – Look at what I’ve done for you today: I’ve placed in front of you Life and Good, Death and Evil.
You have a choice! And here’s the one you need to make:
Deuteronomy 30:11-19 MSG – And I command you today: Love God, your God. Walk in his ways. Keep his commandments, regulations, and rules so that you will live, really live, live exuberantly, blessed by God, your God, in the land you are about to enter and possess.
Yes! This is the kind of life I want. How about you?
Deuteronomy 30:11-19 MSG – But I warn you: If you have a change of heart, refuse to listen obediently, and willfully go off to serve and worship other gods, you will most certainly die.
If you choose not to obey the word that was spoken today, you might be living, but it will feel like you’re dying. We all know what that feels like, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Deuteronomy 30:11-19 MSG – I call Heaven and Earth to witness against you today: I place before you Life and Death, Blessing and Curse. Choose life so that you and your children will live.
Come on y’all. Choose joy. Go ahead and burn the book where you’ve been writing that sad, depressing story and open a new book filled with joy. Not because everything is going right, but because you made a choice.
Now, let me give you three ways to choose joy.
All three of these actually come from the Apostle Paul. You can read about his life in the New Testament and you’ll find that he had a terrible life. He was frequently beaten and locked in prison for his faith. He was shipwrecked.
I mean, if anyone had a bad life, it was Paul. Yet, there’s a book in the Bible called Philippians that Paul wrote and it is all about joy. And he wrote this in prison. But how could someone with a horrible life have joy?
The Apostle Paul is our ultimate example for choosing joy. He had joy not because he had a perfect life, but because he chose it.
Let’s take a look at how he pulled this off. Here’s the first one:
#1 Choose to look beyond what happened.
Instead of looking beyond what happened, most people like to waller around in what happened. You sit there and play your bad day over and over and over in your mind.
That person that hurt you, you keep thinking about it and chewing on it and talking about it. Day after day, month after month and sometimes, year after year.
But what would happen if you chose to look beyond what happened? Because, here’s the deal: you can’t change what happened. So, replaying it in your mind isn’t going to help anything.
Here’s how Paul responded when he got locked up in prison:
Philippians 1:12 NLT – And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News.
This is what it looks like to look beyond what happened. Getting locked up in prison? Yeah, that sucks. But look at what is going to come out of it. A good part of the New Testament we still have today was written by Paul while he was in prison.
What can God do with your bad situation? He can work it out just like He did for Paul. And it will probably be in the way you’d least expect.
Here’s the next one:
#2 Choose to find new opportunities.
When things don’t go as planned, look around because you’ll likely find an opportunity that wouldn’t have presented itself otherwise.
Take a look at how this happened for the Apostle Paul:
Philippians 1:14 NLT – Because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.
Paul was like, “Hey look. I’m around people that I wouldn’t have been around otherwise. Let me take this opportunity to inspire confidence in them so they can make an eternal difference in the lives of others now and when they get out.”
Can you imagine what it would be like if we all did this? If every time we were in a challenging situation, instead of getting upset, we found an opportunity to make a difference?
Wow. This is what God’s people should be known for.
There’s another layer of Paul’s situation that might surprise you. While he was in prison, he was getting all kinds of letters and messages about the things going wrong in the churches he was a part of.
Heck, I probably would have been the one sending him those letters if my dad had yet to set me straight. But Paul didn’t pay any attention to this negative nonsense.
You are going to have people in your life that try to get you all riled up. Did you hear what President Trump is doing now? Did you hear about those democrats? Did you know that Kade went on vacation last week instead of using that money for the Lord?
Seriously. The devil will try to get you off track with stuff like this. But you have to choose not to listen and instead choose joy.
The next time someone talks to you like that, just say, “You ain’t stealing my joy!” And then just walk away.
Which brings me to the last way to choose joy:
#3 Choose to focus on what really matters.
Take a look at how Paul responded to all those negative letters:
Philippians 1:15-18 NLT – It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me.
Oh man, we could have a hayday with this one. Christians love to talk about how the church down the street just wants to have fun. They just want to fill the pews.
Well, here’s what Paul would say to all of this:
Philippians 1:15-18 NLT – But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way,
Wow, it sure seems like a big deal that there are preachers out there who are only doing it for fame or for financial gain. But Paul wasn’t bothered by this. He knew how to focus on what matters.
Is Christ being preached? Yes. And that’s what really matters.
If Paul wasn’t upset about selfish preachers, then we shouldn’t be upset about how loud the music is, or who’s speaking this Sunday, or that a small group is getting together because they all like to brew their own beer.
Seriously, this happened. I just heard a podcast about how a church small group got together to try new beer recipes and ended up with all kinds of unchurched people showing up, enjoying beer and getting introduced to Jesus.
Five people out of the small group actually ended up using the idea to start a brewery focused on getting people together and forming meaningful relationships. And the new business is really successful.
If that messes you, it does me too. I almost didn’t even listen to the podcast because of the title about Christians and a brewery, but I’m glad I did.
Focus on what matters. Is Christ being preached? Awesome. Can’t say that I would ever lead a small group of people interested in brewing their own beer. But I am also not going to give up my joy over it by criticizing what’s going on.
Don’t give up your joy for any reason. That’s exactly the example Paul gives us:
Philippians 1:15-18 NLT – so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.
Beth and I have this conversation often. An issue comes up at church, everyone is upset and it always comes to us as the leaders. But, since I’ve been growing in this area, my response is usually, “It’s not a big deal. It’s going to work out.”
And I really believe that. Sometimes Beth just looks at me like I’m crazy and reminds me, “You have to do something about this!” And she’s right. I’ll do something about it, but I don’t have to give up my joy to do it.
Let’s all adopt this motto:
Today I choose joy.
Go ahead and write that down and put it on your fridge.
Maybe this message gave you an an “aha” moment. You realized that you’ve been living your life without God and you’re ready to make a change.
Today you want to put a stake in the ground and say, “Today’s the day I start living my life for God. Today is the day I give my life to Him.”
Remember how we read earlier that God reconciled us to Himself through Jesus? Well, that applies to you too.
When you pray the following prayer, the power of Jesus is going to bring the balance to zero. You don’t have to worry about everything you’ve done wrong because it’s all about to disappear.
Because of Jesus, God will bring you in to His family and give you new life. And you’ll get to spend eternity with Him.
Pray this out loud:
Jesus, I want you to lead my life. Forgive me for trying to live life without you. I want you to come in and make me new. I thank you for adopting me as your own. Help me to find and walk out your plan for my life.
Congratulations on making the best decision in your life! Giving your life to Jesus is a personal decision. But there is a time to take it public. The way you do that is through water baptism.
Learn more about water baptism on our Next Steps page.