Summary: Sermon #3 in a Stewarship series. When we become a giver in life, we find happiness and satisfaction that only God can give.
Delight to Give
Pastor Glenn Newton
Oct. 17, 2004
Text: Psalm 37:1-7
Delight yourself in the Lord
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
While reading the newspaper recently, I discovered there is a new field of scientific research. In an attempt to locate “a formula for lasting joy,” researchers are now studying the “science of happiness.”
It certainly sounds more fun than studying clinical depression, doesn’t it? One professor and pioneer in the field says he gets a hundred E-mails a day from people who want to talk about happiness.
Author Martin Seligman has even written a book called Authentic Happiness, in which he discusses “how to increase the total tonnage of happiness in the world.”
You might ask how researchers can be objective with such a fuzzy, subjective topic. It’s much simpler than it used to be. They just give their subjects PDAs and beep them randomly to ask how happy they are at that moment.
Some of the results fall into the “obvious” category—for example, optimistic people are happier—but others come as a surprise. For instance, a study of lottery winners and people with spinal cord injuries found that neither group was affected by their circumstances as much as one would expect.
What they have also found is that what we think will make us happy is not a good indicator at all. Our predictions are not very accurate. What we think will bring us pleasure—a new car, the Razorbacks winning the NCAA championship, or a move to the location of our choice—usually doesn’t bring as much joy as we might expect, and the impact certainly doesn’t last as long as we would like.
One pioneer in the field discovered “Getting more stuff” doesn’t seem to work either. He says, “People don’t realize their aspirations always escalate.” As income rises, they simply want more. For example, a new Toyota might give some happiness, but after adapting to it, the person will want to make more money to buy a Lexus. The result—“The good life ends up always being just out of reach” (Elizabeth Large of the The Baltimore Sun in The Kansas City Star, May 4, 2004).
Our scripture for today offers wisdom for finding happiness. The psalmist tells us if we “delight in the Lord,” then God will give us our “heart’s desires.” That sounds like a good formula for happiness to me. And it’s a formula that works just as well in the area of Christian stewardship. This is the third step in the cycle of victorious giving—we delight to give. Do you remember Step One—Trust to Live and Step Two—Commit to Grow? We now arrive at Step Three—Delight to Give.
When Jesus taught the principle, “Give, and it will be given to you,” (Luke 6:38). He was saying giving can and should be “more blessing than burden.” I doubt you’ll find anyone who will express regret, instead of joy for having obeyed the principles of God’s Word in giving (Toler, p. 41).
Steve Weber, a former missionary who now serves in the field of Christian stewardship, says, “If you want to change what you are getting, change what you are giving.”
We Are on the receiving end of God’s Goodness
Jesus himself set the pattern for giving, and we are the benefactors of His goodness. Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9).
No one has ever given as the Lord gave. He stepped out of heaven to live among us—to be tempted; to be ridiculed; to be spit upon; to be persecuted; to be tried, beaten, and dragged through the streets only to end up hanging on a cross. He gave His very life that you and I might experience life; and not just average life, but as the Gospel of John describes it—abundant life. Though our redemption was expensive and the result of painful sacrifice, Christ laid down His life and gave it with joy. The writer to the Hebrews said Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before Him” and then “sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:2).
“Christ’s gift of salvation tells us joyful giving involves more than a smile on the face and a skip in the step. Real joy is deeper than that. It involves the pleasure of doing God’s will, and it delights in the success of another. Real joy can accompany any circumstance, no matter how difficult” (Charles R. Swindoll, in the Bible study guide, Hilarious Generosity, 1996, p. 6).
We acknowledge God’s generosity to us when we give back to Him. Paul instructed the Corinthian Church, “I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him” (2 Cor. 2:8). How do we show our love for God, and what can we give back to Him?