Get Caught Up:
Click here to read Part 1 of this series: An Attitude of Gratitude
Click here to read Part 2 of this series: The Perspective from Paul's Pulpit.
Click here to read Part 3 of this series: Think Yourself Happy
Click here to read Part 4 of this series: Fulfilled Through Fellowship
Click here to read Part 5 of this series: Abiding in His Love
So, let’s quickly recap what we’ve talked about over the past few weeks…
KEEPING HIS COMMANDMENT
But I want to draw your attention back to another part of what Jesus was saying in John chapter 15 - because this is another big part of having our joy and happiness remain full…
After Jesus told us to abide in His love in verse 9, He then goes on to tell us one of the ways in which we remain, stay or live in His love. He says, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”
So, evidently doing what the Lord has told us to do plays a big part to remaining in that place of experiencing God’s love for us.
Now, of course, Jesus was not talking about keeping all the jots and tittles of His commandments. How many of you know that the Pharisees and other religious folk have done a decent job keeping all those commandments, yet they were certainly not happy people. In fact, being a strict observer of a bunch of rules and regulations will actually produce the exact opposite in us. Those people are miserable and detestable.
So, no, Jesus was not referring to keeping a bunch of rules and regulations. Rather, He specifically tells us what His commandment is in verses 12 when He said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” He goes on in verse 13 to say, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
So, the commandment that we keep that keeps us in the love of God is loving one another as He has loved us. Amen! Yes, like receiving God’s love causes His joy to remain in us, giving God’s love likewise causes His joy to remain in us and our joy to stay full. Amen!
The reason you see these as the keys to unlocking the joy of the Lord in our lives is because it is just how God has set up His kingdom to operate. In His kingdom, less equals more. In His kingdom, the last will be first. In His kingdom, the servant of all will be considered the greatest. Yes, in His kingdom, it is more blessed to give than to receive. This was the message that Christ Jesus came to deliver to us - how His kingdom is the upside kingdom that is really right side up.
LIVE TO GIVE
So, let’s look over at a passage of Scripture where Paul quoted that oh so powerful lesson that Jesus taught us. Ironically enough, these were the last words Paul preached to these elders of the church of Ephesus like this is the last message of this book.
In Acts 20:35, the Apostle Paul concluded his exhortations to these elders by saying, “And remember the words of our Lord Jesus, that said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Now according to what we have recorded in the four gospels, we do not have a record of Jesus ever making this exact statement. Of course, this does not mean He did not say it. In fact, I will give three reasons how we know Jesus said this:
Therefore, based on these three points, we should be firmly convinced that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” was an accurate quote from the mouth of our Messiah.
Regarding my third and final point of how we can be certain that this is a quote from Jesus, let’s look at some of these other sayings of Jesus that are recorded in the gospels that reinforce this truth: Jesus said that in the kingdom of God, the last will be first and the first will be last (Matthew 19:30 & 20:16). What this means is that the believer who is self-seeking and self-promoting will not end up becoming first in God’s kingdom; it will be the one who lays down His life and seemingly has made himself last who will be considered first in the kingdom of God. In other passages of Scripture, Jesus said that it is he who becomes a servant of all who will be considered the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 20:26 & 23:11). In other words, the one who truly learns to empty Himself of His own self-centeredness and pride, learning to serve others more than they serve themselves, is the one who will be considered the greatest in the kingdom of God.
When Jesus explained how His kingdom operates, He was not only showing how one will be considered first and greatest in the kingdom of God; He was at the same time showing how one will experience the fruit of God’s kingdom. Thus, His statement of it being more blessed to give than to receive.
Now when Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive, what did He mean by “blessed?” Well, the word “blessed” also carries with it the idea of being happy. So, you could translate this statement like so - “You will be more happy when you give than when you receive.” Ah! Now we are seeing the important role that being a giver plays in experiencing joy, aren’t we?
My friend, this is a law that works no matter who you are. You will be happier, fulfilled, and satisfied in your heart when you are a giver than you ever could be if you are only concerned about getting. Sure, receiving is fun and can bring some temporary enjoyment and pleasure, but true and lasting joy is only experienced in giving, not receiving. And it doesn’t matter whether they deserve it or are thankful - Agape love, God’s kind of love, has nothing to do with the recipient, but with the decisions of the one loving the other. And don’t forget: you can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving. And when I give in love it produces joy in me.
The world has tapped into this principle to a measure. That is why you see individuals and groups who enjoy contributing to charities and supporting other humanitarian projects. The world likes to do things like this because they like how it makes them feel. It makes them happier and causes them to feel more at peace on the inside. Why is this? It is because they are tapping into this principle that God set in motion when He created man in the beginning, that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
So, let us ask ourselves the following question: how much more, should a born-again, child of God, who has Christ’s joy resident in their spirit, experience the joy of giving? We should experience it much more than the world around us, right? But I can promise you that we will not experience it to the degree that we could if we do not cooperate with this spiritual law of giving.
Friends, do not be mistaken - an unbeliever who lives to give will be happier than a selfish Christian. Yes, even though the believer has more of the capacity to walk in the fullness of joy, if their focus is only on their own needs and desires, they will not experience any more joy and happiness than the ungodly around them.
How do I know this, you ask? It is because the Lord taught me this first hand:
FINISHING OUR RACE WITH JOY
I remember early in my Christian walk being dissatisfied with the level of joy I was walking in. I was growing by leaps and bounds and learning more and more about the Lord, but I witnessed in others a joy that I did see in my own life. This prompted me to ask the Lord, “Lord, why do these other individuals seem to have more joy than I do?” To which the Lord responded, “It is because you count your life dear to yourself.” Then He took me over to a passage of Scripture in the Book of Acts where the Apostle Paul made a powerful and most revealing statement.
Again, in Acts chapter 20, as the Apostle Paul was summarizing his message to a group of pastors saying that he was aware of the chains and tribulations that awaited him in Jerusalem. Then he said, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy…” Through this simple, yet profound statement we see a major cause for the joy that the author of the book of Philippians obviously had.
The way the Lord taught me this was that the reason Paul was able to finish his race with joy was because, number one, he did not let anything move him and, number two, because he did not count his life dear to himself. But He showed me that it was specifically because he did not let things move him that he was able to finish his race. And the same is true for all of us. If we operate in faith - not letting circumstances or situations move us because we are not moved by what we see, hear, or feel, but we are only moved by what we believe - then we will finish our race. Yes, it is only in allowing ourselves to be swayed by the tribulations of life that we will be hindered from finishing our race and completing our course. But just because we are strong in faith does not automatically mean that we will enjoy the journey to the degree that we can. It is only when we learn to not count our life dear to ourselves that we will finish our race with joy. In other words, while letting nothing move us through trusting and believing in God will enable us to finish our race; coming to the place where we become selfless and focused more on the needs of others is when we will possess joy in the midst of that race. Amen.
So, what the Lord was saying to me was, sure, I was growing in faith and knowledge, among other things, but the key to joy coming alive in my life was found in dying to myself.
Friends, this is where happiness is found for all of us. It is found in the laying down of our lives daily and living to give. Again, Paul said, “I die daily”- meaning he had learned to die to himself on a daily basis. And it was in this learning to “die daily” that he truly learned how to live daily - for, as the Master taught us, the more one loses their life, the more they will find it. This was undoubtedly the reason that Paul possessed so much joy even in the midst of his horrific situations; he had learned the secret to satisfaction - to live is Christ. Amen.
You see, if we are going to experience fullness of joy, we must learn to become givers - to give of our time, our service, and yes, of our resources too. Sure, it is important that we cooperate with these other spiritual laws of God’s kingdom that we have looked at in our prior chapters, but in order to experience joy, being a giver is what I consider to be the single most important key that we have to unlocking joy in our hearts.
Now I want to encourage you to not just look at it from the viewpoint of giving finances. While being a giver of money is a part of this, there are other ways in which we need to excel in giving as well. We need to be better givers of our time - from giving a simple listening ear to someone to giving others our attention. We also need to learn to give our services - which can range from volunteering at our local church to doing kind acts of service for others that the Lord would lead us to do. Simply by adopting a lifestyle where we “live to give” in every area of life is where we will experience the fruit of God’s kingdom.
So again, do not just think of giving in one particular area, but rather think of giving in every way - the giving of your time, deeds, attention, money, help, etc. Think of the giving of your life.
But as wonderful as this promise is, by far the greatest benefit of being a giver is not this financial harvest that you will reap from your monetary seeds; the greatest benefit is how your cup will also overflow with joy when you give sacrificially and extravagantly. When a believer begins giving like this, they will experience the same net-breaking, ship-sinking, cup-overflowing provision of joy and happiness in their lives. This most definitely beats any other reward or harvest we could receive.
Church, there is no greater joy than being used by our gracious God to help meet someone’s need, grant their desire or be an answer to prayer. This is not only the privilege of every believer, but it is our duty as well.
So today, begin to think of ways that you can be more of a blessing - more of a giver to your church, more of a giver to other ministries, more of a giver to your neighbor, more of a giver to the simple stranger in the marketplace, and on and on. When you live your life to be blessing to others - sowing of your time, energy, and resources - you will reap the fruit of joy in your life. It is a principle God has set up here on the earth, and it will last for all eternity. Live to give today, and reap a harvest of joy, bliss and happiness in your heart. Amen.