Pastor Craig Carter
Our current sermon series is based on the premise that God doesn’t want us just to settle for being “good” Christians, He wants us to become “great.” That’s because He is a great and mighty God who has made us in His image.
So far, we’ve discovered that before we can do great things for the Lord we first have to think great thoughts, dream great dreams, and surround ourselves with great people. Now it’s time to turn attention to some activities that enable us to become great.
How would you answer this question: What are some things great Christians do?
Most would say, “Great Christians pray great prayers, make great sacrifices, exhibit great commitment, and take great risks.” Clearly, being a good Christian is not an easy road to travel and the journey toward becoming great is even more difficult.
There is no doubt that living the Christian life is an arduous task and involves many hard issues and heavy responsibilities (i.e. Jesus calls us deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him).
But, like most endeavors, following Christ requires balance. It’s what the wisest man in the history of the world, Solomon, was talking about when he penned these familiar words:
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven…A time to plant and a time to harvest…A time to tear down and a time to build up…A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 NLT excerpts)
So there is a time to make great sacrifices and exhibit great discipline for the sake of Christ, but there is also a time to have fun and be footloose and fancy free.
As Solomon goes on to say: God has made everything beautiful for its own time…So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. (Ecclesiastes 3:11-13 NLT)
Did you know that being happy and enjoying life are gifts from God?
After all, the Lord made everything that exists – for His pleasure and for ours.
Unfortunately, most people don’t associate being amused and enjoying life with being a Christian.
Some way, somehow we’ve been fooled into thinking that all the fun stuff belongs to the Devil. We even call them “guilty pleasures.”
But the truth is, Jesus came to bring us life to the full. And He demonstrated that fact by the way He lived His own life. Folks loved being around Christ. He was generally the life of the party. So much so He was accused of being “a glutton & drunkard, a friend of sinners.” Remember His first miracle? He turned water into wine at a wedding!
If you and I want to follow Jesus and become great in God’s eyes, there is a time for tremendous sacrifice, deep commitment, and intense discipline, but there is also a time to enjoy great moments and experience the fullness of life.
The reason I want to tackle this activity of enjoying life before we get to the heavier matters of discipleship is because most of us are out of balance. If someone were to ask the people closest to you (spouse, children, co-workers), “How would you describe ____ ? Is he someone who enjoys life and grabs for all the gusto he can get? Is she a person others really want to be around?”
I’m afraid folks would say of me, “He’s always on the go and constantly busy…He seems to be stressed out a lot…He never really takes time to enjoy life.”
Committed? Determined? Focused? Hard-working? Yes, yes, yes, yes.
Fun to be around? Relaxed? Satisfied? Full of joy? No, no, no, no.
So, more for my sake than for yours, I want to talk about how to enjoy great moments. I’m indebted to Chip Ingram who wrote the book, Becoming Great in God’s Eyes, for these insights on what it takes for us to enjoy great moments…
1) Slow down.
I don’t think I need to tell you that most of us live in a constant state of busyness. Some of our busyness is caused by our society but much of our busyness is self-imposed.
In many ways, busyness is our “drug of choice” as it has an intoxicating effect on us. As such, it becomes a way to escape – from others, a situation, or even ourselves. Busyness can be just as detrimental to our relationships as any other type of addiction.
I once heard a preacher make this comment about the gospels’ portrayal of Jesus: “He was always busy, but never in a hurry.” Christ always had time for others. Can that be said about each of us?
At its core, our habitual hurriedness is a kind of arrogance that suggests we are more important than anybody else. It’s why we get upset with slow drivers who impede our progress or roll our eyes at dawdlers in the checkout line. That kind of attitude doesn’t go over very well with God as He opposes the proud.
So we need to find a way to humble ourselves and we do that by slowing down.
“Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God…” (Psalm 46:10 MSG)
Instead of priding ourselves in our ability to do six things at once and always being the fastest at any task, we need to make a conscious effort to slow down, take a deep breath, and savor each moment.
Let’s never forget the words of the noted theologian, Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
2) Slim down.
The key word here is simplify – your schedule, commitments, meals, goals. It’s okay to say “no.” it’s not a dirty four-letter word, only a two-letter one.
It’s also okay to question activities, traditions, oughts, and shoulds in your life. Instead of constantly adding new things to your schedule, how about asking God where you need to subtract a few?
Our constant state of busyness keeps us from what is most important. Remember the story of the two sisters entertaining Jesus in their home? Martha was rushing from task to task trying to be a good hostess, while Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and listened.
Surveying the situation, Jesus commented, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things. Only one thing is important. Mary has chosen the better thing, and it will never be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 NCV)
What was the better thing? Being fully present with Jesus.
On one occasion, Jesus gave a very simple formula for living a great life:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength & with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27 NIV)
Our church vision statement, Love God and Love Others in life-giving ways,” is based on these instructions from Jesus.
In our complex world we oftentimes make life way too complicated. Ultimately, it’s very simple: it’s about loving relationships with God and with others. You and I need to slow down and slim down to enjoy great moments with both.
3) Sit down.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)
The action words in this verse are written in the present tense. Why? Because enjoyment is found in the present. Don’t wait to enjoy life until after the to-do list is finished, you’ve married the right person, raised some kids, retired, etc.
As I’ve said before, our society’s greatest lie is: “When life settles down, I’ll…”
The truth is, life will never settle down so we have to settle (or sit) down ourselves.
Most of us live for tomorrow or we live because of yesterday. But focusing on the future causes worry and staying stuck in the past brings regret. Both cause us to never really enjoy the present.
It is in the here-and-now that we experience truly abundant life, especially when we pause to…
4) Look around.
Attention, all! See the marvels of God! He plants flowers and trees all over the earth… (Psalm 46:10 MSG)
Many of God’s greatest blessings are right in front of us but we miss them by rushing on past in our haste to get somewhere or to do something. Imagine getting to heaven and finding a door with your name on it. Inside are stacks and stacks of beautifully wrapped gifts.
“So this is what heaven is like, huh?”
The Lord replies, “No, heaven is much better than this. These are all the things I wanted you to have on earth, but I couldn’t get you to stop long enough to look up and receive them.”
You and I need to stop, look, and listen in order to enjoy great moments.
5) Plan in.
God scheduled great moments through His Law in the form of feasts and festivals. These were mandated vacation days because the Lord knew we’d never get around to resting and enjoying life if it was optional.
As a result, Israel celebrated just about anything and everything with a party.
In addition, God declared that His people were to enjoy a great moment each and every week by declaring a Sabbath.
Remember to keep the Sabbath as a holy day. You may work and get everything done during six days each week. But the seventh day is a day of rest to honor the Lord your God. (Exodus 20:8-10a ICB)
It never occurred to me until this past week that we get our word, holiday, from “holy day.” Originally, all holidays were religious observances, but now the term refers to any special day when we can rest, relax, and enjoy life.
Since taking a break and relaxing doesn’t come naturally for most of us, we need to plan for them. We need to schedule great moments into each day, week, month and year. Did you know there are more than 1500 “holidays” throughout the year? They range from the absurd to the sublime. I’ve decided to try and make every day a special occasion. Can anyone say, “Taco Tuesday?” For more ideas, Google “National Holiday Calendar.”
We have observed in this series that the Early Church is our model for becoming great. Look to what is said of the first followers of Jesus in the Book of Acts. “[All the believers] worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity – all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people.” (Acts 2:46-47a NLT)
In other words, they knew how to enjoy great moments with God and with others. When you and I go and do likewise, we become great in God’s eyes and give others a marvelous example to follow.