James Merritt - Joy Ride
Whether you're into Mickey Mouse or not, there's no place on planet Earth like Disney World. It is the most visited vacation resort in the world. On a given week, a million people will visit Disney World. I've stood in line behind 900,000 of them at one time. 52 million people a year visit this place. It has a combined 27,258 acres, which is the size of San Francisco, twice the size of Manhattan. Every day guests will wake up to 30,000 hotel rooms, 409 Wilderness Cabins, 799 campsites, and they're all served by nearly 70,000 cast members who are part of the Disney World's staff.
Now, if you get hungry, you can eat at one of the more than 300 Disney restaurant outlets that each year serve 10 million hamburgers, six million hot dogs, nine million pounds of French fries, 300,000 pounds of popcorn, 1.6 million Turkey legs, 13 million bottles of water, 79 million Coca-Colas, which is what we've all consumed since Thanksgiving. It is a big deal. And by the way, Disney better keep the ball rolling because their annual budget every year is $59.4 billion. That's over a billion dollars a week, roughly equal to the GDP of the entire nation of Croatia. And now, you don't have to know those facts, and I get it, to realize that Disney World is a special place. All you gotta do is just visit one time, you realize how special it was. I got a taste of it when it first opened. When Disney World opened, if you can believe it or not, I was a sophomore at Stetson University, and I went to Disney World not long after it opened.
Now you may be asking, wait a minute, how in the world could a sophomore in college afford to go to Disney World? Because my ticket was $3.50. And I had a blast. Now you can't even get a hot dog for $3.50 cents today at Disney World, but I got to go. And it didn't take me long when I walked into the magic kingdom for the first time as a sophomore to realize what made Disney so special. And what makes Disney so special is not how big it is, though it's big, and not how beautiful it is, though it's beautiful, but what I realized was the magic of Disney was how hard they work to accomplish the one purpose that inspired Walt Disney to build it in the first place.
And a recent article by an investigative reporter captured it perfectly when he said this, he said, "Every last brick that holds up Disney World was built to inspire joy for children". And, boy, do they ever hit the nail on the head? Because Disney, when he built this magnificent monstrosity of entertainment said, I want every ride and every attraction and every experience to do one thing, to bring joy to your kids and to bring joy to your grandkids. We've had the privilege a couple of times over the last several years to take our entire family to Disney World.
Now I will tell you, it will make you absolutely test every religious bone in your body if you do that. But I can also tell you the memory of watching my little grandchildren and the joy on their faces at everything we were able to do was just absolutely priceless. And to be honest with you, if you go to Disney World and you don't have joy in your heart, it's your fault. You can't blame them 'cause they pull out every stop to make that happen. And I can still remember the last time we went down there, we'd stayed a few days and then it was time for us to come home. We're driving out and everybody's kinda down. It's sad because here's what I learned. The good news is when you go to Disney World, you experience Disney World joy. The bad news is, when you leave, you can't take it with you.
I wish you could. I wish you could bottle it, I wish you could drink it every day, but that's just not the way life is. And then as I was driving out, it hit me, but God never intended for life to be that way. God never intended for our life to ever be without joy with all of these troubles and heartaches and headaches and pain and suffering, God created this beautiful universe so that His children, believe it or not, could experience and have complete and consistent joy. By the way, that's why Jesus came, to say what He said, to do what He did. He even said Himself, He said, "I've told you this so that my joy may be in you". And then He goes further, "And that your joy may be complete".
That's why we're in a series in the book of Philippians we've been calling "Joy Ride" because God wants our life to be a life of joy. Now let me just stop and make a distinction. You have not heard me use the word happiness, you have not heard me use the word happy. God's desire for us is not that we always be happy. As a matter of fact, can I be honest with you? If you're always happy, there's something wrong with you. You need counseling. You need help. Okay? Let me give you an example. You say, but you're a man of God, are you always happy? Read my lips. When Georgia loses a football game, I am not happy. When Florida loses, I'm deliriously happy, but when Georgia loses, I am not happy. No, I'm not always happy, but I am always full of joy.
And think about this, since you only take the ride of life once, don't you want it to be one of joy? I mean, is that what you would desire for your life? I mean, even with the bumps in the road and the sharp curves and the steep cliffs and the deep valleys, don't you really want to have the kind of life where you know every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year, you can be filled with joy? So here's my question, don't you wanna maximize your pleasure and minimize your pain? Don't you wanna face life every day with a smile on your face and a bounce to your step and joy in your heart, listen, regardless of your circumstances? Well, in the second chapter of this letter that a man named Paul wrote called Philippians, which by the way in your discipleship booklet is on page 42. In the second chapter of the book of Philippians, there was a church planner who named Paul and he gave a simple three step formula on how to do that.
Now here's what I'm gonna surprise you with at the end of the message. You've already heard this before, you've had your parents tell you this, you probably have taught your kids this, but what you did not know was it comes right out of the Bible because Paul even gave the reason why he was giving this advice on how to have a joy ride in your life. He said, "If you will live a joy filled life," he's talking to his people now, he said, "If you will live a joy filled life, you will make my joy complete by being like-minded". Now that's very interesting. Paul said, "My joy will not be complete unless your joy is complete". I'm not gonna have the joy that I ought to have unless you have the joy that you ought to have. And by the way, we all know this, how many of you are married? You're married man, hold your hand up. You're married man. All right. True or false, mom ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. That's true. I learned that one day after we were married, mom, ain't happy, nobody happy.
All right, that's just true, right? If Teresa is not full of joy for whatever reason, I'm not full of joy. If my kids or grandkids are not full of joy, I'm not full of joy. My joy is complete when their joy is complete. That's the secret to a life that's enjoyed. So, if you want to enjoy the ride of life, if you'd say, you know what? Pastor, you're right. I don't know how much time I've got left on this earth, but whatever it is, I want to enjoy the ride. Then Paul says, "Okay, do three things. And it will not guarantee you'll always be happy, it will guarantee you will always be joyful". Ready? Number one, you've gotta give Jesus preeminence. You gotta give Jesus preeminence.
Now, the thing that Paul's about to tell us hinges on the very first sentence which he talks about in the first two verses. This is all one sentence. Paul says, "Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind". Now, you wouldn't know this, but in the Greek language, that's not a conditional sentence. It's not a possibility, it's a probability. What Paul said was, since you are united with Christ, since you do have fellowship with the Spirit, since you do have a common love, you should be full of joy.
Now here's what I want you to notice, Paul is starting out with an assumption. He is assuming that the focal point of your life is Jesus. He's assuming that your life revolves around Jesus. He assumes that Jesus has first place in your life. He assumes that nothing or no one surpasses the importance that Jesus holds in your life and in your heart. Because you think about this, let me give you one thought. The fact that Jesus came to us, died for us, lives in us, to be with us throughout all eternity, that one thought ought to bring you joy, inexpressible, irrepressible, joy. And beyond that, Paul says, it's not just that we have Jesus in us. He says, we have the comfort of His love. In other words, Paul said, you know what? You don't wanna feel you full of joy? It's not just that Jesus lives in you, but just Jesus loves you. You know, that's one of those things you've said it so many times people get kinda indifferent to it. Don't get indifferent. This Jesus that created you, this Jesus that holds the power of death and life in His hand, this Jesus that will determine where you're going to spend eternity, this Jesus loves you. And that's why we love Him because He first loves us.
Now think about the added benefit to that. Here's what Paul was saying. He was saying, "If I love Jesus and you love Jesus, then we're going to love each other". And the reason why that's so important is this, why do we exist as a church? What's our mission? What's our purpose? We've told you this many times. It is to point people to Jesus and inspire them to live the cross-shaped life. That's why we exist. If we're not doing that, we're out of business, okay? That's our job to point people to Jesus, inspire them to live the cross-shaped life. Now here's my question to you, how's the number one way? What is the biggest thing we can do as a church to pull that off? What's the one thing... If I knew you could do just one thing and I knew if you do that, we're gonna pull this off, we're gonna be pointing people to Jesus and it's finally gonna live the cross-shaped life, you'd say, okay, what's the number one thing we can do? You ready? It's not hard. You ready? Love one another.
Say, really? That's what Jesus said. Jesus said, "By this everyone will know that you're my disciples". How are they gonna know that? How are they gonna know that our job is to point them to Jesus? How are they gonna know we're trying to inspire them to live the cross-shaped life? How are they gonna know that? Jesus said, "If you love one another". When people outside of our church walk inside of our church and they sit down and somehow they sense, you know, these people really love each other. They're not just hanging out. They're not just filling up a seat. These people really love each other. They love their pastor and their pastor loves them, and they love each other. That's when it's gonna dawn on them. There's a difference that they have. There's a difference in this place, that following Jesus makes, and the way we give Jesus preeminence, the way we keep Him first is through what Paul calls the common sharing in the spirit. Now this is not hard to figure out, that phrase, common sharing literally means to share in common.
Here's what Paul was saying. It is the Holy Spirit's job to keep you and me focused on Jesus. That's His full-time job. He says, I want you to stay focused on Jesus. I want you to stay in love with Jesus. I want you to keep pointing people to Jesus. I want you to keep your minds and heart on Jesus. But now that raises a big question. And I know it's a question that you've been asked, or you've asked many times, I've been asking many times. So, if the Holy Spirit lives in every Christian, then can you explain to me then why do Christians fight and why do Christians argue, and why do Christians divide and why can't Christians get along? Well, it's really not hard question to answer. And here's the answer. May have never heard this, but I want you to think about it. I'm looking to a group of people right now.
Most of you say you love Jesus, you Believe in Jesus. Love Jesus. Okay, I buy that. Every one of us, every one of you listen to me right now, if you're a true believer in Jesus, you're a true follower of Jesus, we are all in dwell by the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit lives in you, Holy Spirit lives in me. I'm not a privileged character, He lives in all of us. However, there is a difference between the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the influence of the Holy Spirit. Now listen carefully. We are all equally in dwelled by the Holy Spirit, but we're not, not all equally influenced by the Holy Spirit. And the truth of the matter is, and what Paul was saying was, when we get out of fellowship with the Holy Spirit, guess what's going to happen? We're gonna get outta fellowship without each other, or turn it around. You cannot pit the Holy Spirit against the Holy Spirit. He's not gonna fight Himself. You can't divide the Holy Spirit.
So what Paul is saying is, "James, as long as you are filled with the spirit and you're in fellowship with the spirit, and James, as long as you're filled with the spirit and you're in fellowship with the spirit, we're gonna get along". We're not, you know... Now, we may disagree, we may debate, we may discuss, but we will never divide over anything unless it's over a biblical belief or principle we can't compromise on. That's why Paul goes on to say, "Make my joy complete," now watch this, "By being like-minded".
Now let me tell you what he didn't mean when he said that. To be like-minded doesn't mean we will always think the same way. What it does mean is we will always think on the same things. By thinking the same way, that means we'll all agree on one thing, Jesus ought to be first. We ought to give Jesus preeminence, everything we are, everything we do. We will agree on that. That doesn't mean we'll always think the same thing, it doesn't mean we'll see things the same way. And so let me give you some good news. There is nothing wrong with having differences, there's nothing wrong with having disagreements, there's nothing wrong with having discussions, there's nothing wrong with having debate, nothing wrong with it at all. Here's what it does mean. If we give Jesus preeminence, listen carefully, buckle your seatbelt, politics will not divide us, personalities will not divide us. Preferences will not divide us.
Paul goes on to say, here's what will happen. "We'll have the same love, be one in spirit and of one mind". If I love Jesus supremely and you love Jesus supremely, we will love each other. And when you're hitting on all ... with the Son of God, the love of God and the Spirit of God, you will be full of joy because you're giving Jesus the place He belongs. You wanna a joy ride, first thing you gotta do, all starts with Jesus. Give Jesus preeminence. Well, how do you know if you do that? Well, the second step is, and it gets harder, when you give Jesus preeminence, you give others priority. You give others priority. How do you know you've given Jesus preeminence? How do you know that Jesus is really in first place in your life?
Here's how you know you ready, when Jesus is in first place in your life, you will be in third place in your life. Not second, you'll be third. Others will be second. And here's the rub. That doesn't come naturally. It comes supernaturally. 'Cause the first thing you gotta do is you gotta take care of you, the first thing you gotta die to is selfishness. So this is why Paul goes on to say this. He says, okay, so you're gonna give Jesus preeminence, right? You're gonna be on hitting on all ... with the love of God, the Son of God, the Spirit of God, the word of God, he says, "Okay, then you'll do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit".
Now what does that mean? Selfish ambition is when you wanna put other people down, vain conceit is when you wanna build yourself up. Selfish ambition is when you wanna win. even if everybody else loses. Vain conceit is when you want to win no matter what else happen and you believe you deserve to win and everybody else deserves to lose. And you know why it's so hard to deal with that? Because we're all born with selfish ambition and we're all born with vain conceit. I mean, you think about it. If you're a parent of a young child, let me help you out. The first thing you're gonna have to teach that child is not to be selfish. The first thing you gotta teach that little boy, that little girl, you may think they're an angel, you may think they got wings, but they got horns as well.
Let me tell you something, little Johnny's gotta be taught, "Dude, you're not the only person on the planet, there are other people around". 'Because we're just born that way. You know what their favorite words of a child all they first learn, me, 'ma, mine. First words. Hey, give it to me. That toy is mine. That is my doll. And one of the first lessons you've gotta start trying to teach your child is to think of others first, before you think of yourself. And the problem with that is, we're just born with that desire that other people put us first. I love the story of the young mother that was fixing pancakes for her two sons, Kevin was five and Ryan was three. Well, they began to argue over how to get the first pancake. So the mother saw, this is a great opportunity I have a teaching moment for my two kids.
So she sat the two kids down and she said, "Now boys, if Jesus was sitting here, you know what He would say? He would say, let my brother have the first pancake. I can wait". Kevin turned to Ryan and said, "Ryan, you be Jesus". Now isn't that the way we are? Look, I'm not preaching at you, I'm preaching to me now. Don't we all have that kind of attitude? Hey, you be Jesus. Don't don't we husbands wanna say to our wives all the time, "You be Jesus". Don't the kids wanna say to the parents, you be Jesus. Don't the parents wanna say to the in-laws, you be Jesus. We all wanna do that and let's face it. We all want everybody else to be Jesus. And yet Paul says there's only one antidote to self, there's only one way you'll ever put others second and yourself first. You know how it is? Here it is. He said, "Rather in humility," now this is so hard, "Value others above yourselves".
In other words, Paul said, "Instead of running all over each other trying to be in first place, we ought to be falling over each other, trying to be in third place". Now I know that's counterintuitive and I know that's countercultural, 'cause everything you hear and everything you read and everything Madison Avenue tells you is, look out for number one, take care of number one, satisfy number one. And yet God says, no, the way to have joy is to look out for number two. We're told by the world, do everything you can to get ahead. That will bring you joy. God says, no, do everything you can to stay behind. That will bring you joy. We're told, if you gotta step on other people to get to the top, you just step on 'em. God comes along and says, no, put other people on your shoulders and help them get to the top.
And see the way to joy is to think of others the way you ought to think, and to think of you the way you ought to think of you. Think of others the way you ought to think of others, think of you the way you ought to think of you. You say, well, how do you do that? Well, Paul told us. He said you value others more than yourself. By the way, that word value is a very interesting word. It refers to a conclusion that is based on a carefully thought out mindset. In other words, hear what Paul will say. I don't want you just to pretend other people are more important than you, I don't even want you just to hypocritically act like you believe more people are more important than you. Paul said, "If you look at you the way you ought to look at you and you look at other the way you ought to look at others, you will come to absolutely believe that other people are more important than you".
'Cause in another letter called Romans, Paul wrote this, he said, "By the grace given me I say to every one of you," now I love this part, "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment". Now let's just... Y'all get a little uncomfortable here for just a moment, including me. How many times have you thought more highly of you than you should have? We have been married very long. I said, "Teresa, how many great preachers in the world do you think there are"? She said, "One less than you think there is". We all tend to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to.
I read a story the other day. It's a true story. It happened when Don Shula was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. He had just won the Superb Bowl with the only undefeated team in the history of the NFL. His popularity is at an all time high, everybody wanted a piece of him. They wanted to do radio interviews, TV interviews. He had booked... People wanted to write a book. He could go to a restaurant without eating, people in his autograph, people wanna shake his hand and he was just losing it. And he told his wife says, "We gotta have some privacy". So they came up with an idea. They got on an airplane and they flew to Maine, landed and rented a car and drove about two hours to an out of the place, nothing town, had one red light in, I mean, in May. And so they got there and they unpacked their bags and they didn't really know what to do.
And there was one theater in that little town that had one movie running. That was it. So he said, "You know what? Let's go to a movie". "I haven't been able to go to a movie a long time and just enjoy the movie. Let's go to a movie". So they walk into the theater, and when they walk in, they hadn't even sat down, the people stood up and gave him a standing ovation. He was so frustrated. He said, "I can't believe this. I can't even go to a movie in the middle of Maine and not, you know, people just leave me alone"? So irritated. So he sat down and he leaned over to the man that was sitting next to him and he said, "Man, I just didn't think you guys would recognize me". And the guy looked at him and he said, "I'm supposed to know you"? Shula said, "I'm Don Shula. I'm the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. We just won the Super Bowl and we went undefeated. And you all applauded when I walked in". Then he' said, "Well, sir, it's a pleasure to meet you. But the reason why we applauded was because just before you walked in, the manager came in and said if two more people don't show up, we're not gonna run the movie".
Don't think too highly of yourself. Don't think of yourself more important than others. Now let me tell you something, that raises a big question. Okay? Wait, when you say time out, if I'm going to think that everybody is more important than I am, then who's gonna think I'm important? Well, it's a fair question. It's a good question. But when you think it out, you'll reach the conclusion that another man reached who said this, "If I think you're important than I am and you think I important than you are, and he thinks she is more important than he is, and she thinks he is more important than she is, then in the end, everyone feels important, but nobody acts important".
Isn't that good stuff? Just give other people priorities. That's joy. Not when you come in first, not even when you come in second. What joy is is when you come in third. So you'll be joyful, give Jesus preeminence, step one. How do you do that? You give others priority. Step two. What happens when you do that? You give yourself purpose. When you give Jesus preeminence, you give others priority, then you give yourself purpose. Now you do realize, you do realize, that when you give Jesus first place, other second place, yourself, third place, you're going to be full of joy, and guess what? When you're full of joy, that will bring you the most pleasure. So Paul ends by saying this. He says, "Not looking out to your own interest, but each of you to the interest of others".
Now I wanna tell you why I know this works. Of all the billions of people that lived on this planet, can you name me one person that had more joy and gave more joy than Jesus. I had to find you to tell me, go find that person. Nobody lived a more joy-filled life than Jesus. Nobody gave more joy in a relatively short period of time in a brief life than Jesus. And the reason why His life was pure, unadulterated, undiluted, undeniable joy, was this, from the moment He came to planet Earth to the moment He left, He was always looking out for our interest. Not His own. Never came into His mind. He was looking out for us and the way you would... If you wanna get to where you wanna go in life, help us get to where they wanna go in life. My late friend, Zig Ziglar, put it this way. He said, "If you wanna get to where you wanna go, help others get to where they wanna go".
So let me start asking you a question. In fact, a question I'm pretty sure some of you asking me. Kind of goes back to the other question a minute ago. So wait a minute. If I look out for others, who's gonna look out for me? It's a fair question, I'll give you that. So I wanna share with you a principle, which is also a promise that I can tell every one of you. I'm a satisfied customer because I look back on my life and son of a gun, God has done this throughout every day of my life. He never fails. When you look out for others, God will look out for you. I promise you, that's true. When you look out for others, God will look out for you.
There's a strange law in the kingdom of God and it goes against everything you're taught in success seminars and success books and success classes. It goes against all of that, but I'm telling you, it works every single time in the kingdom of God, the lower you get, the higher you go. I don't understand it, I don't... I'm just telling you, the lower you get, the higher you go. The secret to joy is not being able to climb to the top of the ladder, it is being willing to go to the lowest rung and help somebody else up the ladder. It was a wise person who said, "There's no life so empty as a self-centered life, and there's no life so centered, as a self-emptied life".
So let's get practical. How does this work out in your life? Why do you think we talk about people living the cross-shaped life? You said, you know, we've told you what that means. That means you do four things; you worship, you disciple, you serve and you... Okay, let's take those just for a second. Worship, you know what you're doing when you worship? You're giving Jesus preeminence, whether you realized it or not, you came today. You didn't have to come today, could stay in bed. Some people did. Now whether you realize or not, you are giving Jesus preeminence, you got outta bed, came to church, got here on time, fellowship with God's people, praise God, listen to God's word. You know what you're doing? You're saying, "Jesus, you are the most important thing in my life," period. That's what you do in your worship. That's why we want you to worship.
Well, guess what? When you serve or you disciple, you know what you're doing? You're giving others priority. When you serve others, you're putting them before you. When you disciple, when you get into a small group or you lead a small group, when you take time out of your schedule to get with a group of believers and study the word of God and encourage them and get encouraged, let them know you're going through tough times. Talk to 'em about the tough times they're going through. And you want with other believers in their problems in their life, you know what you're doing? You're giving them priority. Yeah. You're telling them, you know what? I didn't need to be here. There's a lot of other things I could be doing, but I chose to take time out of my schedule to be in this group of believers because we need each other. You're giving others priority.
And do you know what? When you have your one, when you're determined, I'm gonna reach this year, that one person, that one couple, that one family, that one family member, I'm going to reach that one. When you say this year, you know what? I'm gonna do something I've never done. I'm gonna get outta the confines and comfort of my own country, I'm gonna go on a mission trip. I'm gonna go somewhere where other people need to hear the gospel. Yes, there's gonna be a sacrifice of time and effort and money, but I am going to do that because there's nothing more important than the people to hear the gospel and receive Jesus Christ.
You know what you just did? You just gave yourself purpose. So let me put these three points together and watch how this works. And then you're gonna go, ha, I didn't know that was in the Bible. Sure is, watch this. What have I told you? Give Jesus preeminence, give others priority, give yourself pleasure. What's that spell? What's that spell? Mama told you that, grand mama told you that. Put Jesus first, put others second, put yourself last, and that is joy. You know what? They were right? That's the joy ride, comes right out of God's word. You put Jesus first, you put other second, you put yourself last and I'm telling you, whenever and wherever you do those three things, life will be the joy ride that God designed it to be.