Andy Kampman speaks about pursuing true joy through obedience.
Why do we do the things we do? There was a Frenchman from the 1600s named Blaise Pascal who said:
“All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war and of others avoiding it is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man…”
God designed us to seek happiness. Whether or not our actions are honoring God, we pursue our happiness in everything we do.
God wants our happiness, but He also wants our obedience. Naysayers object and ask, “How could I be happy if I try to obey all God has commanded for me? It’s impossible. I’ll have to do and say things that might offend people, or it’ll require me to change my life in ways I might not want to,” or they argue, “If salvation is based on grace alone and not on what I do, then why obey God at all? Why not just pray a prayer, believe in Jesus and then live however you want?”
Obedience is where the most happiness is found. It’s the key to joy. Without it, there is no full joy.
10 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. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:10-11 (ESV)
Yet, obedience is hard. It can require suffering. We don’t necessarily associate the word suffering with happiness. But happiness does require suffering. Obedience requires suffering. But the joy from obedience is better than the hardness of the suffering. The happiness is better than the hardness. Seeking your happiness and obeying God are not at odds, they’re actually one in the same thing.
11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11 (ESV)
God wants our full happiness and full joy and it’s found in obedience in Him.
Moses’ happiness in God motivated him to obey God, even when it meant suffering.
24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. Hebrews 11:24-27 (ESV)
Moses faced three common ways we suffer when we obey. He faced the suffering of…
1. The fear of man.
2. Leaving his lifestyle.
3. Leaving his location.
The Fear Of Man
The people of God were slaves in Egypt. Pharaoh didn’t like that they were multiplying all over. So he decided to start killing all the baby boys. Moses’ parents wanted him to live, so by faith, they put him in a little basket and floated it down the river. In God’s providence, Pharaoh’s daughter drew him out of the water and made him her son. Moses grew up as Pharaoh’s grandson, having everything he could possibly want. Later, Moses left Pharaoh’s kingdom to become a shepherd for the next forty years. God met with him, spoke vision back into his life and Moses went back to Pharaoh to free God’s people.
You can imagine what it was like for Moses going to Pharaoh, the most powerful man in the world, to tell him God spoke to him through a burning bush and told him to tell Pharaoh to let all his slaves go and that Moses was to lead them away. Sounds like happiness, right?
Yet, Moses knew the consequence of displeasing God was greater than the consequence of displeasing Pharaoh. The happiness found in pleasing God is greater than happiness from pleasing man. Moses was saying, “I’m not going to be afraid of Pharaoh, no matter who he is, because obeying God is where the best joy can be found.”
For us, Pharaoh represents several groups of people whom we live in fear of.
1. The Man. This is our boss, coworker, the government or anyone who’s trying to hurt us or make our lives miserable. Whether it’s in Austin or among unreached peoples, we can believe the lie that we can’t share the gospel with the man. So we tiptoe around leaving little Jesus hints, hoping that will be enough. Yet, God has more joy out there for us.
For example, in our Goer Missional Community, there is a guy who works at a small firm on the South side of Austin. His joy level at work was probably in the middle. We’ve been praying for boldness for him to share with his coworkers. He asked a coworker if he had ever read the Bible. The guy responded saying not as much as he should. He then asked him if wanted to read it with him. He said yes. For the last month, they’ve been reading the Bible together. The joy level increased for both of them.
I know many other salesmen, businessmen and guys that work at Starbucks who are doing things like this, because there is more joy in sharing the gospel than in keeping quiet.
6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? Psalm 118:6 (ESV)
Instead of walking into these environments with timidity, afraid of offending someone by sharing Jesus, let’s walk in with some confidence, knowing God is right there with us. If Almighty God were visible and was right there with you, you would share more boldly. He is your Helper and He’s on your side.
2. Our Families. Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. The suffering of the fear of man in our families is very intense for a lot of us.
You’re sitting across from your father-in-law at Christmas dinner and you know you should talk to him about Jesus. But you know if you talk to him, suffering will happen. It will cause a fight. He’ll get defensive, shut down, begin to attack you or make fun of you. It’s not like you’re trying to debate him, you just want to share your treasure with him. You have a choice to make; you can sit around the table and continue to talk about the usual things, football, work, the weather, or you can share about Jesus.
It’s a happiness question; where is the most happiness found? If you’ve shared, you know there’s more happiness in knowing you loved him well and talked about Jesus rather than feeling the shame and guilt of not saying anything. When the opportunity comes to share the gospel with our families, we have a choice to make. We can choose more joy and share the gospel or we can go through life on cruise control and have conversations that don’t mean much. We can step into conversations that have eternal significance.
One of our Goer Missional Communities have been praying that they would share more with their families. One group of girls, in just the last five months, have seen four of their family members come to Christ. These girls are not special, they’re just normal people like you and me who prayed for boldness and have seen fruit. This can happen in your family.
Yet, family is hard. Especially when it comes to going to the nations. The fear of family is the number one reason why many people don’t go to the unreached peoples. Moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas, all try very hard and persistently to talk their loved children out of going. They believe the happiness in safety and the family being together is greater than anything else.
These are great things, but there are people out there who haven’t heard of Jesus who need to hear about Him. There are people outside of the family who need to hear about Him and say yes to Him and become a part of the family of God. That is the truest family happiness we could have. It doesn’t get better than that. The family of God is eternal.
Fear Of Leaving Our Lifestyle
25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. Hebrews 11:25-26 (ESV)
Moses had everything growing up as the grandson of Pharaoh: the latest clothes, the best food, and the fastest chariots. He had it all. He could go anywhere he wanted, whenever he wanted. He could do anything. Yet, he left it.
26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. Hebrews 11:26 (ESV)
The reward was ultimately more of God. Moses wanted to experience more of who God was. The more he wanted of God, the more he knew of God. The more he knew of God, the more he wanted of Him.
Moses continually experienced the holiness of God: the Living God spoke to him through a huge burning bush, he saw the finger of God write the Ten Commandments, he stretched his hand out over the Red Sea and saw God part it right in front of him, God hid him in the cleft of a rock and allowed him to peak and see God’s glory which was so magnificent his faced glowed afterward. Do you think Moses asked himself if it was worth leaving Egypt? At the end of his life, Moses never once questioned if it was all worth it.
God had more happiness for him, even when it meant suffering.
Let’s say I was hungry for barbeque. There are a lot of good options in Austin Texas. Let’s just pick two. On the one hand I could get a McRib from MacDonald’s. There are some of you out there, like me, who like McRibs. I’m actually a recovering McRib guy. I used to love them. I lived in Iowa, it was all we had. On the other hand, I could go to Franklins Barbeque, on the east side, which is amazing.
Let’s say my friends convinced me to go to Franklins. It’s amazing barbeque, but the line to get some is so long. It can take up to an hour and a half, standing in line, in the hot sun.
We’re cruising down the road and we drive past MacDonald’s. There’s a sign on the window saying, “The McRib is Back!” If you didn’t know this, it comes back every year. I used to wonder if it would come back. They got me for three years until I started noticing the pattern. What if I were to compare the ninety minutes of waiting for Franklin’s barbeque to getting a McRib in ninety seconds? There’s some suffering in choosing to pass on that fleeting option. The pleasure of a McRib is very fleeting. It passes quickly. No offense to MacDonald’s, but that’s what happens.
So we get in line at Franklins, waiting in 110 degree weather, for a couple of hours. We finally get in and have that first juicy bite of those pork ribs. All of a sudden, the suffering of saying no to a McRib, the suffering of standing in line, all start to dim.
There’s a greater reward waiting if we’re willing to endure.
That’s how sin is. Sin is like the fleeting pleasures of a McRib. It’s instant gratification and then you pay for it right away. If you tell a lie to make yourself feel good, you feel good and get people’s praise, but then instantly you feel shame.
We have to fight for lasting happiness, not quick fixes. That is what Moses did when he chose to be mistreated with the people of God instead of enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He knew there was more happiness waiting for him, but he would have to suffer in order to get it.
This concept of suffering for the sake of greater happiness is all over the place. What about those of you trying to work out to have that healthy body? Think about moms, who carry a child inside of them for nine months, enduring all the stress, pressure and pain that comes with being pregnant. It’s not easy. Yet, when the mom receives that precious little life into her arms, all that suffering fades away. Adoption is similar in many ways. Many people have to go through great suffering in preparing to adopt. But when that little life gets there, you say it was worth it.
The greater the sacrifice, the greater the happiness.
God is calling every one of us to sacrifice, to leave parts of our lifestyle, for the sake of more joy and lasting happiness. God has more joy out there for us. We don’t need to be motivated by guilt, let’s be motivated by greater joy and happiness. These are the things He has for us, if we’ll just leave parts of our life style.
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9 (ESV)
What does this look like for us? Jesus gave everything, embracing the suffering of becoming poor for the sake of happiness, his and ours, that we would become rich beyond comparison. When we begin to enter into this same poverty, we’ll experience more joy. More joy than what we currently have. But it requires us to leave our lifestyles.
Fear Of Leaving Our Location
Jesus and Moses didn’t just leave their lifestyles; they also left their locations. Moses left Egypt to go to the Promise land. Jesus left heaven to come to earth.
27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. Hebrews 11:27 (ESV)
This whole sermon could be summed up with this verse. “By faith,” this is something God does in us. It’s not about trying harder to be happy. It’s about us confessing we want to be more happy and asking God to do it in us. “By faith he left,” goers and senders alike, we all need to leave something. For some of us, it’s our locations. “Not being afraid,” there is greater joy in God who casts out fear (look up 1 John 4:18). “As seeing him who is invisible,” this is the reward—seeing, knowing, and experiencing the invisible God to be our everything. He is the ultimate reward.
This reward is what motivated Moses to leave his location. He didn’t just go across town. He left his country, everything that was familiar, his family, all of it for the sake of greater happiness. Moses didn’t know what it was going to look like to get there and he didn’t know what it was going to look like when he got there. He just knew he was supposed to leave. So with lots of questions and fears, Moses left.
Today, God is calling hundreds, maybe even thousands, of you to leave your location, to leave Austin, or the United States, and go where there is no church or kingdom of God yet.
This invisible kingdom is what prompted Moses to face his fears and leave his location. He left for lasting happiness. He believed there was more happiness in going than he would have if he stayed put, even if it meant suffering in his life. He was following the example of Jesus.
2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2 (ESV)
Jesus went to the cross for the joy that was set before him. He didn’t enjoy the cross or the shame that came with it. Yet, for the sake of joy, He went.
12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Hebrews 13:12-13 (ESV)
The reward of the city that is to come, where God is at the center being enjoyed and worshipped, where there is no death, pain or sickness is. This is what motivated Jesus and it’s what motivates us.
This is what motivated Ronnie and Anita to go to Libya. This is the happiness that Ronnie died for. Just like Jesus, Ronnie and Anita knew there would be suffering. Embracing suffering is always part of living for the reward.
Moses, Jesus and Ronnie and Anita embraced that suffering.
Did Ronnie and Anita miss their families? Of course they did. It was the hardest thing for them to leave. Yet, for the sake of those outside the camp, they left. It wasn’t because God wasn’t using them here. Ronnie was a gifted preacher. It wasn’t because God didn’t have more opportunities for them to serve in Austin. There was another church that wanted Ronnie to be their lead pastor, where he could use his gifts to bless the body of Christ. Yet, they left.
Ronnie said this before they left:
“Anita and I felt really good about it and we were going to do it. But one thing just kept gnawing at me…there’s a healthy church here in Austin…And so you’ve told me before and Halim has told me before, “Go somewhere and make it count.” So we were looking at Boston or New York or possibly Ann Arbor or going back home or something like that. But it just kept gnawing, it just kept gnawing on me that anywhere I go in the United States there’s a good church, someone can find a healthy church that preaches the Bible, that loves God, that lives on mission anywhere in the United States.
But there are people – in the world – that don’t experience the joy that I have. There is a joy and a freedom, just amazement found in knowing God and enjoying God. And these people don’t even have access to it. They don’t even know. And I want them to know. I want them to know the relationship they can have with God. I want them to know the freedom that’s found in forgiveness. I want them to know what it’s like to have a personal relationship with God and enjoy Him. I want them to know that God. I want to go where there is no church. I want to go where no one could find a church if they wanted to. Where no one has access to this Gospel. And that is what drives me.”
Do you see how the desire for enjoying this happiness motivated Ronnie and Anita to leave, to face their fears, to face their sufferings and leave?
We’ve been praying since Ronnie’s death that God would raise up more and more people to go, to leave Austin and go. We believe there is a greater reward, the reward of knowing God and seeking the city that is to come. May this same passion drive us, so that we give everything to enjoy more of Him.