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Watch 2022 online sermons » Steven Furtick » Steven Furtick - The Hard Work Of Happiness

Steven Furtick - The Hard Work Of Happiness

Steven Furtick - The Hard Work Of Happiness
TOPICS: Happiness

You know what? It used to be when I would take a little summer break, the day we would get to our vacation as a family… We haven't been on one long vacation, but normally, we'll go away for a little while. I would start thinking immediately about the next sermon. It was weird, because I preached week after week after week, and I'd be like, "Okay. In a few weeks, I'm going to get a little break. I'm not going to have to tell anybody what to do for a little while. I can just focus on myself and get myself right," and I would start thinking about the next sermon. The Lord told me one day that was stupid. He said if I'm always thinking about talking to others, how can I hear from him? Some of the best stuff God speaks in your life doesn't happen when you're straining to hear it but just when you're open to receiving it. So, I wasn't trying to think of a sermon to preach about. As a matter of fact, I was on a bike ride with Holly.

Now, we had a big celebration since I last saw you: our twentieth wedding anniversary. Yeah! I think I need to do a marriage series just to give you all the stuff I've taught her in those two decades and unpack that for you. Oh, I've missed you all. It's good to see you again. We were riding bikes to breakfast one day, and I had said to the Lord, "I'm not going to try to write a sermon or a series, but if you say something to me, I'll write it down". We were riding to breakfast, and I felt like the Lord gave me what we needed to talk about when we got back together. So, I could say this sermon today has been a few weeks in the making, but I really think it has been a few years in the making. It's a subject I've never spoken directly about before in this church, not because I was scared to but because I didn't think I was ready to, but I'm going to speak about it today.

I've talked indirectly about these things. I've probably mentioned it, but in 16 years of pastoring Elevation Church, I think I've never put this word in a sermon title until today. This is historic. The word is happy. When the Lord told me riding my bike that he wanted me to preach about happiness, I laughed. I thought, "Lord, you must be confused here on vacation. We talk about holiness in church, not happiness. If we're going to talk about happiness, then we shouldn't talk about happiness; we need to talk about joy, because, you know, joy and happiness aren't the same thing". You'll hear Christians sometimes make weird distinctions. "I'm not happy, but I have joy. I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart". "Where"? "Down in my heart"! "It's not on your face". Added to that, all of the Pharisees who watch my YouTube just to say mean things to me in the comments. I thought, "How could I preach about happiness"?

So, I started doing a little research. I thought, "If I'm going to preach about this, let me do a little research, but I'll do it informally," because I told the Lord I wouldn't work on a sermon before I came back to the church. So I would ask people questions. I asked the family at lunch one day, "Who's the happiest person you know"? I didn't tell them this was a preamble to my sermon in a few weeks. I just said, "Who is the happiest person you know"? "Oh, Dad, that's a dumb question. How can you answer that? You don't really know if people are happy or not". Ah! Maybe that'll preach. Then they started listing the happiest people they knew, and none of them said, "You, Dad". I mean, I teed it up, you know. I'm paying for lunch. I ordered appetizers. I let everybody get real drinks. I didn't make them just drink water, and nobody said, "It's you". I even… Y'all pray for me and my family.

Even right before it got to Holly's turn, I said, "Holly, you're the happiest person I know". She said, "That's so sweet," and then she said somebody else's name. I'm thinking, "Well, of course. If I was married to me, I'd be the happiest person I knew too". She really is. Holly is a happy person. So, I said, "Lord, if we're going to preach about happiness, you will have to show me how, because there are going to be people who listen to me preach about happiness and say, 'I do not want to be in one of those feel-good churches.'" The same people who say that get massages, eat doughnuts, and do all kinds of things to feel good. "But when it comes to my faith, I don't want to feel good at all. Spank me"! Y'all are weird. Everywhere else but spiritually, you want to feel good. You have butt warmers in your car, and you come to church like, "Kick my butt. Tell me what I need to hear. Make me feel like God is old and mad and slow".

We'll have some Scriptures about that as we go. I think it's going to take a few weeks, but I want to jump right in. I didn't want to preach a little "Welcome back" sermon. I wanted to get right into what God told me to preach. I argued with him. I told him I was a hypocrite, because I'm not the happiest person. I have… They call it RBF, resting blessed face. I don't have one of those. I look mad. I mean-mug. But the Lord said, "Okay. Then preach it like this. Talk to the people about the hard work of happiness". In Psalm 126… Y'all, open your Bibles. Y'all didn't bring your Bibles. I'm going to make you feel bad about it since that's what you came to church for. Why didn't you bring your paper Bible, you digital demon? All right. I'll put it on the screen. Let me read you this. Here we go.

"When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, 'The Lord has done great things for them.' The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them".

Isn't that cool? It's called a psalm of ascent. Going up to Jerusalem, they had songs for the three festivals they would go to, and they had songs for what we would call celebration. There are 15 of these Psalms of Ascent. Two of them are called songs of lament. Isn't that interesting how they're going up to Jerusalem, which is high in elevation physically, geographically, where the temple is where they're going to worship and celebrate these festivals, but they're singing a song of lament. Lament can be associated with mourning or grief and repentance, whether it's over sin or devastation. This is one of the two songs of lament within the 15 Songs of Ascent. They would sing this or share this or declare this or pray this on their way. Right in the middle of it, it says, "Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy".

What really gets me about that is somebody on your row, somebody three seats from you, somebody who's just one room over, somebody who's separated by very little physical space from you is experiencing something in between those two extremes as I speak today. Sowing with tears and songs of joy. A lot of times, when we come to church, I think we ask the question, "Does God have a word for me today? God, speak to me". This is a community psalm. When they would come together like this, they realized, "It's not just about me. This might be for somebody I know today. This might be for somebody I don't…" You have no idea what's going on on your row right now. Or in the words of my kids, how do I know who's really happy? I don't really know them.

Now look at your neighbor and say, "I don't know you. I don't know you like that". Sit down and look at your other neighbor and say, "I don't know you. I don't know you". You don't know what's going on on your row. You have no idea what's going on on your row. "They didn't lift their hands at all during worship. They must not really love the Lord". They might have a shoulder injury, a rotator cuff tear. You know what I'm saying? Like, they barely got to church. They couldn't even drive because of their shoulder, and you're judging them because they didn't lift their hands. You don't know them. You don't really know. This is why it's so hard to preach about happiness.

You ask, "Who's the happiest person you know"? and someone will mention the funniest person they know. I didn't ask you who's the funniest person you know. Have you ever met a comedian? These are some of the saddest people. It's true. The reason they're making all of these jokes is because sometimes…not all the time, but sometimes…they're compensating for something on the inside that's not right. That's why we can't believe it when somebody who has everything we think is supposed to make you happy is in a headline saying they took their own life. "How could they make me so happy as an actor but couldn't make themselves happy in life"? I understand there's mental illness. I understand there are issues beyond the control of life decisions, but I think, according to Psalm 126, there are some decisions you can make in the dry places of your life that will lead you, no matter where you're starting from, into a place of supernatural happiness.

"The Lord doesn't care if I'm happy". What? The Lord doesn't care if you're happy? You take your kids on a trip, and they're sitting there mad and screaming and yelling and crying. Well, you don't care if they're happy; it's just for the experience. No. You care if your kids are happy. You're just not willing to sacrifice their long-term good for their short-term happiness. That's what God is like. So, when we see in Psalm 126, this is not happy-clappy. This is not the shortcut to feeling good. This is actually a spiritual path for the daily decisions we can make in the dry places of our lives. So, I want to give you today… Are y'all all right if I teach? I have notes everywhere for this one. Because the sermon came to me in the restaurant after riding my bike, my notes were on receipts. I didn't even move them over to my iPad, because I wanted to preach from the receipt. I thought that would be cool, that would be hardcore. I thought it would make it feel authentic and gritty.

"He was preaching from receipts. My pastor never takes a break". I mean, I prided myself on that for years, because I'm good at hard work. Ask my kids, "Who's the hardest-working person you know"? They'd better say me, because I'm the one who paid for everything they call drip. If it isn't from my faucet, they don't have any drip. I might not be happy, but we have central heating and air in the house, and the fridge is full, and you're not hungry. I prided myself on that for years. Do y'all remember the story of the prodigal son in the Bible? The one boy goes, and he spends all of his father's money. He rolls around with pigs and lays around with prostitutes and squanders his fortune, because he just had to have it now. He just had to be happy. He just had to go get it. He just had to go see.

We preach about that boy, not realizing that wasn't the point of the story Jesus was telling. It was his older brother back home who was home but not happy. He wasn't happy when his brother came back. He was mad that it had dipped into his college fund with his brother's dumb decisions. In fact, in Luke 15, when the father started throwing a party for the son who came home who was lost… He said, "He was dead, and he's alive. He was lost, and he's found. We have to celebrate". The older brother said, "I've been slaving for you all of these years, and you never did any of this for me". I always thought I didn't really relate to that story because I wasn't that wild in college. I never had this season of my life where I developed a horrible addiction to a substance. The Lord started showing me recently, "You are often like the brother who stayed home, working for something that is already yours". I put a lot of my worth in my work. I remember many times when we were starting in the ministry thinking, "If I get there, I will be happy". Legitimate. Real.

One of my buddies has a church here in the area, and he had 2,000 people coming. I remember going to see him one time. Now, at this point in our church we had 20 people. Like, that row. And five of them were the same ones who are there right now. "I'd be happy if I had 2,000". Since we're taking a psalm of ascent and talking about the lament within the psalm, I want to point out the fact that you can be on your way up and still have to deal with being down. Watch it in the text. I want to ground this thought in the text so you don't think I'm off on a tangent here. Instead of talking about truth, I'm talking about feelings. No, watch it. He said, "When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed". "We were shocked".

They had been in Babylon for almost 50 years, and God brought them back. They had been captives in a strange land for almost 50 years, since 587 when Babylon came and got all of the Jews. The ones they didn't kill, they deported. The ones they deported they detained. For 50 years, the people of God had to live in the patterns of Babylon, but now we see that they have been brought back. That's what he means. "When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion…" This is a past tense event he's remembering. "When the Lord brought us back, we were shocked. We couldn't believe it had actually happened. It had been so long since we had expected this result that when we actually experienced it, it didn't even feel real".

Sometimes you can't even be settled into your own blessing because you have gotten so adjusted to a negative experience. This is it. This is a decision you have to make in the dry places of your life if you are to really be lastingly happy, supernaturally happy. What the Bible calls "Joy unspeakable and full of glory in the Holy Ghost". Holy Ghost happy. Jesus joy. The world didn't give it, and the world can't take it away. Your boyfriend didn't give it, and your boyfriend can't take it away. Your ex sure didn't give it, and your ex can't take it away. Situational happiness has no interest in the kingdom of God. It is too cheap, and Jesus paid too much for me to need for my life to be going a certain way to feel a certain way.

So, part of the process of coming to church and listening to sermons and having your mind conformed not to the patterns of this world, but transformed to have a new mind, is this decision. Write this down. Are you ready? Negative is not my normal. Help me, holy angels of God. I feel like a hypocrite saying that, because, honestly, my first view of a situation… I need you to raise your hand if you're like me, because I feel awfully lonely up here. I don't even have a collar on this jacket to keep me company up here. I feel all alone with y'all looking at me so judgmental right now. My first instinct in a situation is to see vulnerabilities, liabilities, and even sometimes hypothetical liabilities. Oh, I am a creative finder of things to fear and dread. Y'all pray for Holly, the happiest person I know.

This is what she has to live with. I came by some of it honestly. I was born into a family called the human race. My first parent, Adam, screwed up really badly. He had the whole thing on lock, walking around with plenty to eat and no clothes on and a woman he said was very good, and he had to have an apple. That was my first father, so I came by this… I can't really be too hard on myself, because the Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The prophet Jeremiah took it further and said, "The heart is deceitfully wicked above all else. Who can know it"? That's why I had you tell your neighbor, "I don't know you. I don't know you like that. I don't know what you cry about behind all that clapping you do when we're in church together. I don't know you like that". Really, it takes a while before you know yourself well enough to ask the question…Do your patterns match your prayers? Psalm 126 is not only a song; it's a prayer. It's a petition. "Lord, restore to us the fortunes of Zion. Lord, restore our fortunes. Lord, restore us to the state we were intended for".

Now, I want to make this clear. If you are a Christian, it is not normal for you to be ruled by the same cynicism you see seething from this angry world. It is not normal for you, if you are a Christian, to spend all your time running after solutions to problems God is not staying up late about, pacing the halls of heaven, wondering what he's going to do about them. Furthermore, for those of you who might have grown up in an atmosphere, in a family, or in an environment where you say, "Everything was pessimism how I grew up…" Well, you know what? That might have been your background. That might be your default setting, but it is not your destiny in Christ.

Spoiler alert: that's why I named the church Elevation: because I think you're going up. I think if Christ is seated in heavenly places, you are not going to spend all of your days down here on this earth, wallowing around in stuff God has called you to win over. I don't believe it. I'm not settling for it, and I'm not going to be the older son, standing around going, "Well, God, I'm serving you, and it sucks, but one day in heaven I'll get wings and sing and play harps, and then I'll be happy". You won't be happy playing a harp! "We're not supposed to be happy until we get to heaven". Well, if heaven is happy and they let you in with that attitude, it won't be happy once you get there, so you're not going, because it would ruin the whole program. Say it. "Negative is not my normal". No, no, no. It might be natural, but it's not normal, not for a believer. My Bible says, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation". That means I have a new nature. That means the way I wake up in the morning doesn't determine how I walk through the day. I have to get my mind right and my heart right.

How many of y'all are over 40? Wave at me. How many of y'all have to stretch before your maximum capacity can be achieved? If it's true in the body, it's true in the spirit. You really wake up in the morning and consult how you feel in your mind to see what kind of day you're going to have. So, the psalmist begins this prayer. There are two things going on in this psalm. If you study it, there's what God has done and what God hopefully will do. In the middle of all that, there's an amazing verse. I need to show you this slowly. Can I go slowly? Oh man. We might take a week or three weeks or five weeks. I might preach this until everybody in the church gets happy. I might preach this until everybody in the church… Touch somebody and say, "Get your happy back". It has been a long time since you had what Psalm 126 is describing. "Our mouths were filled with laughter…" There was no room in your mouth for laughter this week. You were complaining so much there was nothing to laugh about. It wasn't funny to you. You've been going through some things.

Now, this psalm is interesting, because it gets to a point where it says, "God restored the fortunes and brought us back to the land". Then in verse 3, he makes a declaration. "The Lord has done great things for us". Stand up if that verse is true in your life. I'm sorry. I wasn't smiling when I asked you that. I was looking at you like, "Did the Lord do anything great for you"? See, my default is kind of like this sometimes. I have to remind myself that the Lord has done great things. Okay. Stay standing. I'm far from done with this illustration. How many of y'all think they were telling the truth when they said that? "The Lord has done great things for us". They just got out of 50 years in Babylonian captivity. Is that true? They don't have a temple to worship in yet. It's still destroyed and lying in ruins. Is it true? They don't even have a wall around the city yet.

Nehemiah hasn't even showed up yet when Psalm 126 is written, so they have no infrastructure, so they are exposed to enemy attack from all sides. Is it true? Is this a Bible verse or a hallucination? Is this just positive thinking? Is this a yoga class? What is this? What is he talking about? "The Lord has done great things for us". Is that a fact? No, no. I'm asking for real. Is that a fact? Now, in your life, is that a fact? Is it? Come on. Your mom got diagnosed with Alzheimer's last year. Is that a fact? Wait a minute. You hate your job. I figured out what hit everybody in the room at least one day this week. The Lord has done… And you stood up so quickly. That kid was sleeping, and he stood up automatically. I think his mom yanked him, but… You stood up so quickly. You stood up like something was on fire. I said, "The Lord has done great things for us".

You didn't hesitate. You didn't pull out a calculator. You didn't check a bank balance. You didn't start reading a report. You didn't pull up CNN or Fox News. You weren't checking anything. Something instinctively in you knew, "Wait a minute. If I don't stand up on this verse, I have to explain to these exiles, who were taken out of their homeland, why I'm not standing up to say God has been good to me. I don't want to have to explain to them who are trying to figure out how to settle back in after 50 years of being gone". That's half a century. Some of their kids have never even seen Canaan, and now they have enemies on every side. Not everybody likes them being back, and not everything is finished yet. Kind of like your life. You have some walls that are down. You have some altars that are dismantled. You have some habits that have you by the throat. You're kind of hung up on some stuff, kind of can't get over some stuff, kind of weeping over some seasons that got past you and got away from you and some opportunities you didn't seize and some loyalties that were not made good on and some checks that weren't cashed and some promises that are partially fulfilled.

Yet something in your soul knows, "God has done great things for me". When I really focus… See, it's a fact when you focus. If you focus, it's a fact, not a feeling. The whole time we've been sitting here talking, your heart has been pumping blood, and that's why your fingers aren't blue, because the Lord has done great things for you. The whole time we've been talking, we've still been making our little trip around the sun, and nobody needed you to make sure to press the gas pedal or fill the tank, because God has done great things for you. Some of y'all are standing next to the great thing God has done for you. Some of y'all are standing next to the praise report that is currently your prayer request that is going to be your praise report again in the near future. Just don't die. You have to make some decisions in dry places. He said, "The Lord has done great things for us…" Is that true for you? How about the next part? "…and we are filled with joy".

If you struggle with that second part, sit down. I do. I'm going to sit down. How could God be so good to me? How could God give me all of this and I'm not happy? Now, when I told you I started writing this sermon on the bike, that wasn't the whole truth. It was the partial truth. I started writing this sermon four years ago. Two things happened that scared me a little bit. One was here, and one was on an island. They both had one thing in common. In both situations, I was in the middle of something I had told myself at one point in my life would make me happy, and I wasn't happy. One was here. I can't ever decide how much to tell y'all. I don't want to freak you out, but I want to be real. I was getting ready to come out here and preach, and the room was packed out. People were coming. I was starting a new series. In fact, the day we opened this building at Ballantyne where I preach from, one of my best friends was being removed from his church. I was on the phone trying to help him, because he was devastated. It was the church he started. I was coming out here smiling at y'all.

"Praise the Lord, everybody". I was sowing with tears. The Sunday I came out here to preach… You would remember this Sunday, Chunks, because I think it's the biggest crowd we ever had…at that point at least. I mean, this was not 2,000 people; this was like 32,000 people in the building. I'm not saying that to brag; I'm saying that to set a contrast. I couldn't feel anything. I think I had set so much as a goal… "Oh, if I had 2,000 people in my church, I would feel like a real pastor, and if I felt authentically valid as a pastor, I would be happy as a person". So, why was I back there feeling like I wanted to cry and having to come out and say, "Y'all give the Lord a shout of praise"? I'm not saying it was bad. Maybe I was just tired. It could be that I was just exhausted, but it scared me a little bit. I thought, "If I don't feel happy now, when will I"? The other one was a couple of months after that, because then I said, "Well, I just need a break. I just need to get away".

We were on an island, and we weren't even paying for it. Somebody else was paying for it. They invited us to an island to vacation for a week. I was so sad on the island, like I was in a prison. I was in prison on the island, and it was beautiful, and it was free. My friends were there, and my wife was there, and I wasn't. I was there and not there, and it scared me. Have you ever gotten scared because you had what you asked for and you still weren't happy? Now you feel guilty because you're not happy, and God gave you what you asked for. Please don't nod at this point, because your husband might think you're talking about him. The best strategy for this part of the sermon is for you to look totally confused. "I don't know what you're talking about, Pastor. The joy of the Lord is my strength. Oh, yes, it is. This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…"

So, it goes like this. This is the hallucination of worldly happiness. I want to contrast it for you. It's not the same thing to have your happiness in Christ and what he gives as it is to put your hope in the things of this world, which are really sinking sand. It's not the same. The one goes like this: "If I had…I'd be happy". Have you ever done that? That's a math equation for frustration. "If I had kids, I'd be happy". Why did he laugh? I'm asking. No, I'm asking. If kids make you happy… Did y'all hear him laugh? I haven't heard a peep out of that guy all service. He said, "Go get you some. Children are a blessing from the Lord". People who say, "Children are a blessing…" They say it mad. I'm like, "You don't sound convinced". It reminded me.

There's an Old Testament character named Leah. She had a sister named Rachel. Rachel was really pretty. Leah had a great personality. I said it nice. She had a great personality. Leah had a fruitful womb, and Rachel had a beautiful countenance, but not a fruitful womb. They start going back and forth, these two sisters who were both married to Jacob. Jacob. Do you recognize that name? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So, this is an important guy. They're both married to the same man, which is a recipe for happiness, and they're both trying to have his babies. Leah has about four, and Rachel has none. Rachel, according to the customs of this day… This sounds sketchy when we hear it now, but she gave her maidservant to Jacob so the maidservant could conceive for her, like, as a stand-in, as a surrogate. So that works, but then Leah can't have any more kids, so she gives her servant to Jacob. She already gave him four, but he doesn't love her. "Oh, but I'll give him another one". And he still doesn't love her. "Okay. I'll give him another one". And he still doesn't love her.

She is trying to win the love of someone who up until this point in Scripture has given no indication that he even loves himself. In fact, the whole reason he's there in the house is because he was running from himself, pretending to be his brother. So, now you have Sister Rachel trying to pop out babies like Sister Leah. Jacob loves Rachel, but he gets his babies from Leah. I pulled this verse, just this one for you, to show you something Leah did. I've done this before, and you've done this before. How long will we keep doing this? When she had about the fifth or sixth kid… Look at this in Genesis 30. "Leah's servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son". This is the second son the servant gave, about the fifth or sixth Leah has given in all. Next verse: "Then Leah said, 'How happy I am! The women will call me happy.' So she named him Asher". Which means gladness or happiness. "How happy I am!"

Who are you trying to convince? "How happy I am"! I did the funniest thing. I've been researching for this series, The Hard Work of Happiness, so I watched people take selfies over the last four weeks. Do you know what the best moment of a selfie is when it's a group picture? Watching the people who don't want to be in the picture when they un-smile. I can tell how strong the manipulation was from the picture taken by how quickly you un-smile. I started pointing it out to Abbey. I said, "Abbey, watch how quickly that boy is going to un-smile after this picture. He doesn't want to be in that picture. His wife is making him take that picture. He does not want to take a picture right now".

Just as quickly as the camera is over, Boom! Which makes me wish I could go home with you after church and see how quickly you un-smile. Some of y'all cut out the middleman, and you don't even smile at all while you're here, so you don't have to change back into Clark Kent. You never go in the phone booth to start with. But I wish I could see how long it takes you… How long does it take you to un-smile? How long is that happiness, Leah, going to last? Did you see what she said? "How happy I am"! What's the next thing she said? "The women will call me happy". What does your happiness have to do with what they call you anyway? Are you really going to put your happiness in somebody else's hands? You do that with your phone. You let a complete stranger either make you happy or make you miserable. That's a horrible strategy for happiness, because now your happiness is only as safe as the sanity of the person whose hands you put it in, and (bonus notes) people are crazy.

What does it take for you to…? She's having babies left and right for the approval of someone who hasn't even truly met himself, and so are many of us. I can't wait to preach at YTHX this week. I can't wait to talk to my 16-year-old self, because that's what I'm going to do when I get up here. I'm going to talk to my 16-year-old self and say, "There is no formula for happiness that starts with 'If I had…'" It doesn't come from them. You can be on an island or you can be in the backroom ready to preach to thousands… God has had me on this journey of realizing that my joy is my job. I may never write another book again, but if I did, that would be a great title. My joy is my job. In fact, I kind of want to point at you today and say, "Your joy…" I'm going to make you do it. Look at the person next to you and say, "You can't make me happy". Are they offended? I promise you, if you said that to somebody you live with, they're relieved, because you are heavy. They always have to make you happy.

See, it's not their job description to make you happy. It's not God's either. Look at it. He said, "Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev". The Negev is the southern part of the desert. It doesn't get any drier than that. To have a stream in the Negev only happens in the winter rain season. When the rain comes in the winter season in the Negev, it floods the banks. It'll tear up the bridges. It'll tear up the roads. It'll wipe out the livestock. You have to be ready for the rain when it comes. Some of us are praying for things we haven't built the infrastructure for, and even if God gives it, it will not feel like a gift; it will feel like a burden, because your joy is your job. Not an event, not a promotion, not knowledge, not an amount. Your bank account keeps going closer and closer to that level you thought you would need to feel secure, and you are still scared, because blessedness is not a state of affairs; it is a way of life. We have some work to do, the hard work of happiness.

Look at what it looks like. He said the Lord can do a miracle and send it like streams in the Negev, which is a completely supernatural phenomenon. That's not an ordinary thing. We need to pray, "Lord, restore my joy," but watch what the psalmist instructs us to do. I don't know if you're ready to do this or not. For many years of my life, I wasn't ready to do that, because I was addicted to self-pity. That was my addiction. In fact, one of the most powerful things the Lord ever told me was, "You have let your mood become your master". I read in the Bible about Pharaoh, and the Lord will say, "You have let your feelings become your Pharaoh, telling you when you can go and what you can do and what you can say". When did you get the idea that your feelings are in charge of your obedience to God?

Psalm 126 is a picture not only of what God is going to do… I have a feeling that God is in the process of restoring someone's joy even as I speak, but it won't look like it, because what he said is those who sow with tears will reap with joy. What's that about? I thought we were talking about happiness. But the Bible says that in order to get to that place of happiness that will last… Not to get a high. You can get a high. Hey, if we all want to feel happy, we should have skipped church and met at Krispy Kreme, because we could have gotten happy fast. It's called Hot Now, and it can do it a whole lot quicker than Psalm 126. Oh yeah. I don't need a Bible verse for that. I just need some sugar. I could get happy real quick. There's a better way to get happy than to come do this, but if you want it to last, where the Enemy can't un-smile you 15 seconds after it happened, then we will have to learn the hard work of happiness.

What's that? Sowing with tears. That means faith is in charge, not feelings. I'm sowing with anticipation, even though I'm having a hard time even believing it's possible. I'm getting in this spot. I'm showing up for this task. I was going for a song write the other day, and I didn't feel like going. I started saying out loud, "Good things happen when I show up". Say it out loud. "Good things happen when I show up". Now say, "Nothing good happens when I sleep in". Good things happen when I show up. You keep hiding your talents in the ground. Do you know why you do that? Because you don't really believe God has joy to give you. In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, there was a man who had five talents that were given to him. That's like a bag of gold, a measure of money. The one who had five talents to give went out, invested it, and doubled it. It turned into 10. The master was like, "That's good".

Now here's what's crazy. To another he gave two talents. The dude with the two talents had every right to say to the master, according to our human view, "Where are my other three"? Instead of doing that, he realized something that… Well, I think it's a cultural lesson that needs to be spoken. Jealousy is the enemy of joy. I don't need anybody else to tell me I'm blessed. If I have peace and contentment in my heart with God, I am blessed. I love Abbey because it's hard to compliment her. Not because she's insecure. It's the opposite. She's like, "Oh, I know". "You look good today, Abbey". "Oh, I know". I'm like, "Is this good, Lord? Do I need to rein this in a little bit"? It's like, no; I don't want her to need somebody else to tell her what she is. The psalmist said, "Then the nations will say, 'The Lord has done great things for them.'" The psalmist said, "The Lord has done great things for us".

Whether you "like" my post or not, whether you like my car or not, whether you see my value or not, whether you think I'm worth calling back or not, whether you like my ministry or not, whether you think I know God or not, whether you agree with my decision to pull aside and get my heart right or not, whether you want to go the next mile with me or not, the Lord has been good to me. I don't need anybody to tell me that. I already know the joy of the Lord is my strength. I know. So, the next time somebody tells you, "Oh, you're so good at that," you don't have to say it out loud, but let it be the cherry. Don't even let it be the icing, let alone the cake. You need to know in your soul, "God's hand is on me to do what I do, and what I do I do well. Who I am I am fully". "When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy".

When you fill your tongue with praise, it floods your heart with faith, and then you can sow with tears. You can do it regardless of the mood you're in. The man with the two talents turned his two into four. The master called him back, and he said (this is Matthew 25), "You entrusted me with two bags. I have gained two more". For all of y'all who think God is like your most cantankerous relative at the family reunion, look at the next verse, what Jesus said God is like. "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'" "Huh? Wait a minute. The other guy with five gave you ten. I only gave you four. Aren't you disappointed in me"? "No, no, no. I only hold you responsible for what I gave you".

I just set you free from a lot of misery right there, didn't I? You wish you were a little bit taller. You wish you were a baller, and you're not. My biceps will never look like that. God gave me different fibers. I'm doing good with my fibers. I'm going to maximize my fibers. It's something we're so surprised to find in the Bible. We think we have to go somewhere else for this. We think we come to God for holy and go to the world for happy. Look at what the master said. When you do what God gave you to do… "You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share in your master's happiness". You mean God is happy? That's good news!

A lot of Christians are tiptoeing around church like, "Dad is in a bad mood again". A lot of us are running around like the older son in the Prodigal story, saying, "I'm slaving for you, God. Okay. I'll do it. No one notices". You weren't supposed to do it to be noticed to begin with. God knows, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you openly. I just want to teach you today that to really get to this place you've been praying about, it's going to take some new patterns. Sometimes that will mean I am crying while I am carrying. It means I will take the seed with me into my day, and I will sow it in contradiction and defiance to every dry place in my life. Do you want to do the work or do you want to wait on the faith fairy to put peace under your pillow? How in the world am I going to pray about something, like, "God, give me my joy back," if I am not willing to sow into the very thing I am asking for?

I want to talk about this. I want to go through in the next few weeks and talk about the difference between supernatural happiness that comes from God and can't be taken away by the world that lasts, that permeates, and that makes a difference and the shallow, superficial stuff that will end up costing us everything we have in the pursuit of realizing we don't even want it when we get it. You're like, "Pastor, you shared some pretty…I'm going to be honest…disturbing stuff, saying that you were not happy coming to preach, and all that, and you weren't very happy". Just like I have to go to the gym every day to keep my body resembling something I can feel good about and feel good in, I have to go to God every day to get my joy where it needs to be. You worked out one time in 2013, and you think you're going to be in shape for the rest of your life? Emotionally, we're so weird. We want a breakthrough, but the Lord said it's going to be hard work.

Now, the interesting thing about sowing in tears and reaping in joy… The Bible makes the connection. It says those who sow with tears, who press past the pain of what they feel into the purpose God is accomplishing, which may be where God has you right now, doing the hard work to stop blaming other people for where you're at… I got home the other day. The toilet was broken before I left, and I told everybody not to use it. I got home, and the only two of our kids who were there (because Abbey and Holly and I were gone) were Elijah and Graham. I went to use that toilet, and it was filled. Not with the joy of the Lord, but it was filled. I have to clarify. Oh, I lost it, y'all. I lost it. "I told y'all not to use it!" I was mad at first. Not crazy mad, but mad. "Who did this? Who did this"? You know, like the Bible says a man came and sowed tares among the wheat. "Who did this?"

I texted Elijah, "You did me dirty," because he was there when I found out the toilet was broken, so it had to be him who forgot and used it. He said, "I'm so sorry for what you're dealing with right now," because I said, "It smells like a sewer down here. I don't know how many days this has been down here, but I think you did it the first day I left, and you left it". He said, "Dad, I promise it wasn't me. I'm sorry for what you're going through. I'm here for you in any way you need me to be here for you, but it was not me". He wasn't there, and Graham was there, so Graham felt the wrath. I said, "There's only one left. If it wasn't him, it was you". Graham said, "It wasn't me". I said, "Oh! We have a mystery pooper, just breaking through the window, just sitting on the toilet. Just coming through the back, kicking down the door, and using the toilet. This is great. This is great".

It kind of stole my joy for a minute. But when they came out with the plumber… So, what happened was I went out in the yard a few days later after the case of the mystery toilet abuser… I smelled something in the yard, and I saw some water on the ground, and I saw a light on something that looked like a tank. I realized I was walking around looking for who did it, and (the plumber confirmed my suspicion) the pump was broken. It became to me a parable, a parable of the mystery… You can run around blaming people for crap for however much longer you want to… Come on y'all. I'm back. I'm happy to be back. I have to fix this at the pump. I have to be willing to get in my heart and say, "You know what, Lord?"

There are some things in me right now in this season of my life that if I don't dig through this and sow through this and cry through this and process through this, I'm going to always stay at the surface, settling for a high, but never really being happy; trying to look like a hero but never being happy; having another baby and naming him Asher but never really being happy. The invitation is "Here. Come and share in your master's happiness". Consider Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame.

Now stand up if God has done great things for you. Are you filled with joy today? I think that's a decision you make in the dry places. I think whether you sow in these tears in this season of your life determines whether you will carry sheaves of grain home in the next. It doesn't happen on the same day. You don't carry home sheaves the same day you sow seed. That's why God gave you the Holy Spirit: for these in-between spaces, for these Negev deserts that we all find ourselves in. "I'm home, but I'm not happy. I've accomplished some things, and God has done some things, but honestly, my pump is broken". So, let this day be a day of declaration. It's no more "Was it you? Was it you? Is it this? Is it that? If I had, then I would". Stop, and let this psalm of ascent be the declaration of your life. "When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, 'The Lord has done great things for them.' The Lord has done great things for us…"

Will you make that declaration? Maybe even lift your hands. Yeah, just do that. Lift your hands and say, "The Lord has done great things for me. In spite of all the Enemy did to try to take me out, the Lord has done great things for me". Look at me. Stop taking the great things for granted. It's here. It's now. It's not going to be one day. It's here, it's now, and it's in you. The joy of the Lord is our strength. Would you tell at least seven people, "God has done great things for me in my life"? Put it online. Put it in the chat if you can. "God has done great things for me".
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