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The Pursuit Of Happiness

So Connected, We're Disconnected

The Pursuit Of Happiness

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Rick Blackwood

Many of us are unable to remain happy for long periods because we are seeking happiness from the wrong sources. Only God can provide you with the kind of happiness that lasts. Discover this unshakeable joy in today's message from Pastor Rick.


No verses added for this sermon.


I want to take a moment to welcome all of you to Christ Fellowship. If you are a guest with us for the first time today, my name is Rick and I serve as Lead Pastor here. I thought I would take a minute to kind of bring all of us up to date as to where we are. Over two years ago we started a journey through a book in the Bible called the Gospel of John. For the past two plus years we have just been walking verse by verse, chapter by chapter through this incredible book. Today we crack the pages on John, chapter fifteen. We are also kicking off a brand new series that we have entitled “We are so connected that we are dis-connected”. So, I want to invite you if you have a Bible with you to open it to John 15. If you don’t have one, that’s okay. It will all come up on the screen and you can follow along with us that way.

I want to begin by reading a few verses from John 15 to kind of set the stage and put you into the scene. Jesus says this in verse five. (John 15:5) He says, “I am the vine, and you are the branches.” Listen to what He says in verse eleven. (John 15:11) “These things have I spoken to you ­– the vine and the branches – that my joy might remain in you.” Stop right there and let me set this up by sharing this with you. I have in my hand here a copy of the United States Declaration of Independence. Now folks, we all love this document, because it guarantees to us three fundamental rights, three inalienable rights. Here they are: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Now folks, it is that third right, the pursuit of happiness that I kind of want to zero in on today, because I don’t have to tell you that there is something in us, it is in you, it is in me, that longs to live happy. I mean, nobody has to tell you, “Come on. You need to try to live happier.” Nobody has to say to you: “You need to pursue happiness.” No. We do that intuitively. We do that intuitively because our Maker, our Creator, has hard-wired this passion for happiness right into our very soul.

Folks, don’t miss this, because the kind of happiness that we all long for is the kind of happiness that remains. By that I mean not the fleeting kind of happiness that is here for a moment and then gone, gone, gone. We long for a happiness that remains. To put it another way, we long for a happiness that is sustainable. For many people, if not most people, they are unable to sustain happiness. In fact, I was thinking back this week on a song that was written in the 80’s called “Jack and Diane”. How many of you recall that song? Sometimes the music of the culture reflects the sentiment of the culture. It reflects what the culture is thinking; how they feel. At any rate, that song “Jack and Diane” was written back in the 80’s by a rocker whose name was John Mellencamp. In this song, John Mellencamp writes about this young couple named Jack and Diane. In their younger days, Jack and Diane experienced the thrill of living, because there were all of these firsts: their first date, their first love, their first car. But then folks, as time goes on, as life goes on, the thrill of living, the joy of living, the happiness of living is gone. John Mellencamp laments that fact, life goes on, long after the thrill; long after the joy; long after the happiness is gone. So, most people settle. They settle for a life that is happy less, that is joy less, in spite of the fact that everything in their soul, everything that is in them longs for the kind of happiness that remains, that is sustainable.

You see, the reason why most people are unable to sustain happiness is because they are connected to the wrong source. Now folks, here is my proposition today as we kick off this series. This is what I want you to walk out the door with. This is so important: God, and God alone, has the power to provide us with a happiness that is sustainable through all of the ups and down of life. By the way, God calls that kind of happiness, joy. Now you might say, “Rick, what do you mean by joy. What is the difference between joy and happiness, and how can I have that kind of happiness that is sustainable all through my life, even in the ups and downs? How do I get that?” Well, we are going to find out as we crack the pages of John, chapter fifteen, as we sit at the feet of Jesus, as it were, through this chapter.

Now, I want to tell you before we dive into this, that today is going to come across more like teaching than preaching. So this is one of those you are going to have to keep your thinking cap on, even if it is early in the day. So, with that in mind, I want to give you two thoughts, as we unpack this narrative. Here they are. Number one is a news flash for some of you. If you are not a God person, if you are not a God follower, this may be a news flash for you. This may be what has kept you away from God, so you need to know this.

Number one: God wants you to be happy, to be joyful. Again, for some of you, you may be thinking, “Really? I didn’t know that about God. He wants me to be happy?” Oh yeah! Listen to what Jesus says in verse one. John 15:1. Jesus says, “I am the true vine.” Then He says this in verse 11. (John 15:11) “These things I have spoken to you that my joy might remain in you.” Translation: God wants you to be joyful. God wants you to be happy.

Now, before we dive into happiness and joy, the vine and the branches, I want to give you the backdrop against which chapter fifteen is spoken; sort of a setting. To begin with, the events of John, chapter fifteen, do not take place in the Upper Room. Now mind you, John chapter thirteen and fourteen, all of those events, do take place in the Upper Room. We have been talking about those for months. In that Upper Room, Jesus gathered His little band of disciples together, in this private upper room, and it was in that Upper Room that He began to teach them and encourage them. It was in that Upper Room that He got down on His knees and washed their feet. It was in that Upper Room that He exposed Judas, and sent Judas out in the night to betray Him. It was in that Upper Room that He warned the disciples that He was going to die. All of that happened in John 13 and 14 in the Upper Room.

But folks, as we crack the pages of John 15, and as Jesus begins to talk about the vine and the branches, you need to know that they have left the Upper Room, and they are on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane. So slip into the scene and feel the moment. Jesus and the eleven leave the Upper Room. At the end of chapter fourteen they leave the Upper Room, and are quietly walking through the dark streets of Jerusalem. By the way, they would have gone down the back slopes of Jerusalem, down into what is called the Kidron Valley, across the brook Kidron, and into the Garden of Gethsemane. It was in the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus will be arrested; He will be put on trial, and then inexorably crucified on the cross. But folks, check this out: On the way to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus and the disciples come upon a vineyard, and Jesus stops the eleven right there in front of that vineyard and begins to teach them about how to have sustainable joy through the ups and downs of life.

To teach them that, He seizes upon a visual of vineyards, and He begins to talk to them about the vine, the branches, and the fruit on the vine: the grapes. Now, keep your thinking caps on for a moment, because private, small vineyards were very common place inside the city of Jerusalem. The people grew them on the hillside. They would be terraced in levels sort of descending down the hillside. At any rate, Jesus and His disciples, on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane, come upon one of these, and Jesus stops them and He begins to talk to them about the vine. He begins to talk to them about the branches, and He begins to talk to them about the fruit on the vine. We’re going to dive into all of that in a moment.

Before we dive into the branches, the vine, and the fruit, we need to know first why Jesus spoke about them: the vine, the branches, and the fruit. Why did He speak those things to them. He tells them, and us, in verse eleven (John 15:11) This is what He says:“These things I have spoken unto you - the vine, the branches, and the fruit- that my joy might remain in you.” In other words, the whole vine, branch, and grape illustration is all about your joy, your happiness. So, here is what we need to know. Joy is happiness that remains. Again, Jesus says, “These things I have spoken unto you that my joy…” The kind of joy that God gives to His children is the kind of joy that remains. It is the antithesis of “Oh yeah, life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone.” You see, the kind of joy that God gives to you and me as His children is the kind of joy that makes life fun; that makes life enjoyable; that makes life expectant. Not only that, it is the kind of joy that has staying power.

Folks, here is what I love about joy. Your joy glorifies God. By that I mean when you have this sustainable joy, and when people see your joy that remains in you in spite of what happens in life, that kind of joy reflects greatly on your God. It reflects greatly on your God because it shows people that your God likes happiness. It shows people around you that your God can give you joy even when life is like this; and let me tell you, that kind of joy is very attractional to people. Don’t you like to be around somebody who is not moody; who is sort of stable along the way in the ups and downs of life? Listen, that kind of joy attracts people to you, but not only that, it attracts people to your God. Again, our culture that we live in thinks that God is a killjoy; that God doesn’t want us to have fun; that God doesn’t want us to be happy. So when you have that sustainable joy, you glorify God. You reflect greatly on Him. You show people that God is a God of happiness.

But folks, here is what God knows about happiness. Happenings cannot sustain happiness. Happenings cannot sustain happiness. One more time: Happenings cannot sustain happiness. You say, “Meaning what?” Well, put your thinking caps on, because most people tether their happiness to their happenings. By the way, that is why it is called happiness. For most people, their happiness is directly related to their happenings. So, here is what their happiness looks like. If the happening in their life is good, their happiness is up. If their happenings in their life are not so good, their happiness goes downward. You have met people like this, because whatever is happening controls their happiness. For example, if what is happening, somebody speaks badly about them, their happiness goes down. If what is happening in their life is somebody cuts them off in traffic, their happiness goes down. If the stock market went down for the day, if that is what happened, their happiness goes down with it. So, their happiness is like a yoyo. By the way, that is what is called moodiness.. If you have ever lived with somebody like that, or worked with somebody like that, you never know what their mood is going to be, because it all depends on what happened. When that person walks through the door, you never know: happy, sad, or angry, because it all depends on the happenings in their life. Folks, contrast that with the joy that God offers us. Listen to what Jesus said. “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you.” I love that, because the joy that God gives us is not a moody kind of joy.

The joy that God gives to us is an unshakeable, unmovable kind of joy. Here is one thing that makes it so unshakeable; that makes it sustainable. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. You say, “So, what do you mean by that?” Well, watch what Jesus says again. “These things I have spoken unto you that my joy might remain in you.” You say, “What does He mean by joy is going to remain in me? Listen to Galatians 5:22. The Bible says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, and joy.” Listen: sustainable joy comes from the Spirit of God and it comes out of your spirit. Theology caps on for a moment: You need to understand, and I remind you of this a lot, but you need to remember that you are a three part person. You are a trinity, just like God is a trinity, you are a trinity. You are created in the image of God, and just like God is a trinity – that is He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet all one person. Just like that: you are a trinity. You have a body. You have a soul, and you have a spirit. All three are one person.

Stay with me, because you know that your body is your physiological dimension. It is that part of you that people see; can touch, and relate to. It is your physical dimension..However, you are not just a body, because you also have a soul. The word soul is translated from the Greek word. Any time you see the word soul in your Bible, it is translated from the Greek. Your Bible was originally written in koine Greek and then translated into English, Spanish, French, whatever. That word “soul” is translated from the Greek word psuche, and psuche is the word we get the word psychology. So, your soul is your psuche. It is your psychological person. It is that part of you that can hope, that can dream, that can think, that can reason. Your soul also is that part of you that can be happy or unhappy. So, that is where happiness is expressed. It comes out of your soul.

But, you are not just a body and a soul. You have a third dimension, because you also have a spirit. Spirit – when you see that, it comes from the Greek word pneuma. Your pneuma is your spirit, and your spirit is that dimension of you, that third dimension of you that connects you to God. Your spirit is what makes you different from the animals. The animals have a body. The animal world has a soul. They have feelings and emotions. They can think, but they don’t have a spirit. They don’t have a part of them that connects them to God. You do. Your spirit is that part of you that connects you to God, like a branch connects to the vine.

Folks, here is the point I want you to walk away with. This is what I want you to go out the door with. Joy comes when your spirit is connected to God’s Spirit. Your spirit is connected to God’s Spirit. Folks, to give us a visual image of that so that we never forget it, Jesus reaches for the vine and the branches. What Jesus teaches us is that He is like the vine. We are like the branches that are connected to that vine. I don’t have to tell you that the vine is the source of all nourishment to the branches. The vine rises up out of the ground and it provides to the branches all of the resources of minerals, nutrition, nourishment, and water. Folks, when the connection, and the relationship between the vine and the branches is solid, the branches produce great fruit. The branches produce fruit. That is exactly what Jesus says.

Listen to verse five: “I am the vine. You are the branches. He who remains in me, is connected to me and I to him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing.” Now, folks: what an explicit image. Jesus is saying, “I’m like the vine. You are like the branches.” We have that connection. That is the relationship, like the vine and the branches. What Jesus is saying is that when you are connected to Him, He supplies you with all of the resources of love, and mercy. He guides you. He directs you. He replenishes your soul, and as you have that connection, and as He is feeding your soul and your spirit with all of that, guess what you produce. You produce fruit, and one of those fruits is the fruit of joy: the fruit of sustainable happiness.

Let me take you back to the vine and the branches, because the fruit is what everybody sees, right? The fruit is on the outside. It is what everybody enjoys about you. The fruit is what everybody enjoys; it’s what everybody sees. But listen, what is not so easily seen is that the source of the fruit is in the unseen world, where the branch connects to the vine. It is in this hidden, unseen world where the vine and the branch are connected, that the branch receives all of its resources to produce the fruit of grapes. Folks, what an image of how we receive the power to produce joy.

Joy is the fruit on the outside that people see. In other words, if you have that sustainable joy, that is what people see. That is what people enjoy about you. The source of our joy, the source of our happiness is on the inside where people don’t see. In other words, the joy that you have on the outside, what people really don’t see, comes from that unseen world where your spirit connects to God’s Spirit. It comes from that unseen world where you get alone with God to pray, to talk, to worship. In that unseen world that people are not aware of, where God just lavishes you with His love, and His mercy, and His goodness, and His kindness, and His grace, and His forgiveness. As you receive that joy, it produces in you a joy. As you receive those resources, it produces in you a joy that nobody, or no thing, can take away from you.

Does that mean we don’t have hard times? Does that mean we don’t have sadness? We are not on a yoyo. You say, “Rick, how do I make that connection to God like the vine and the branch. How do I do that? Well, I want to give you three ways: very practical. It is like Christianity 101. Here we go. Here is how you do it. Number one: We connect through His Word. Listen to what Jesus says in verse seven. He says, “If you abide in me and my words abide in you.” You see, one of the ways we receive resources from God is through the Word of God. By the way, this is so important. The term “word” there – if my word abides in you – that is a translation. It is not the normal word the Bible uses for word. The normal word that the Bible uses for word would be translated from the Greek word logos. Logos refers to the whole of the Bible. The whole of the Scriptures.That is not the word here. The word here is a very rare word, and it is the rare word rhema. Here is what a rhema word is. A rhema word is a special word for God’s word that becomes very special in your life.In other words, when you are going through a tough time and things are hard in your life, and God just gives you that special word that supplies you with His love and His grace and His mercy to make it through that time: that is a rhema word. That is a special word. Nothing can keep your joy more than a rhema word.

Yesterday we had the funeral for Annabel. She was killed last week. It was just a freak accident: riding a bicycle, hit, killed. George, her husband, sat right there. Their two children are left alone with him. I want to tell you, that kind of happenings in life are enough to take your joy for a lot of people. But you see, George has a rhema word from God. He is looking at the body of his wife who is not there anymore, sitting right there. She is gone. But George has a rhema word, a special word from God. Do you know what that rhema word is? That rhema word is to be absent from the body and present with the Lord. He knows Annabel is present with the Lord. Yes, he misses her, and yes, he wishes that she were still here, but he has this rhema word that she is in the presence of God and that she is happy and she is filled with joy. He also has a rhema word that promises that one day they will be reunited.

We had a couple right there that lost their child a couple years ago. She was ten years old. They have a rhema word that their little girl Kelsey, right now, is in the presence of God. While I’m up here trying to explain the word of God, Kelsey knows it completely. She is a Bible scholar deluxe. She is not trying to read about it. She sees those kind of rhema words that keep us like this through life. Feed your soul the Word of God.

Connect through prayer. Here is what prayer is. Prayer is you talking to God. The Word of God is God talking to you, but this is a two way street between the Bible and the branch. Prayer is you talking to God. Do you know what to talk to God about? Let me put it to you in a word: everything. If you want to figure out how not to run out of what to say to God, just start talking to God about everything. I want to tell you, that is what I do. I talk to God about everything. I get up and I say, “God, I don’t feel good today. My nose is running, and God, hel me through with this stuff. God help me not to lose my voice. God, I don’t know if I can remember all of this. Help me, God. I’ve got to talk to this person.” I just start going through the day, and I know God is just going Whew! I wish that guy would shut up. No. He doesn’t say that. He loves to hear from us. If you want to find out what to pray about, talk to God about everything: your children, your job, your finances: Everything in your life that matters to you, because He loves you. You are His son. You are His daughter. He loves for you to chatter in His presence. Talk about everything to God.

By the way, did you know the Bible says that when you have those times when you don’t know how to say what you want to say; have you ever had those times when you are just so much in pain that you are just uttering. You don’t know what to say. The Bible says that God is able to untangle all of that and interpret what you are trying to say to Him? That is how close the relationship is between you and Him. Pray. He is listening.

Finally, connect through praise. Do you want to fuel your soul with joy? Start praising God for what He has already done. Just take an inventory. Go back and say “God, I don’t have that, but thank you for what I have. God: Thank you for what you did here. Thank you for those years I had with my child. God, thank you for the way you have provided for us. God, thank you for the way.” You see, sometimes what happens is we lose our joy when God blesses us. That sounds like a paradox but here is what happens. With blessing always comes a challenge. Right? Every time God blesses you, there is a challenge that follows that blessing. Sometimes we get so bothered by the challenge that we forget to thank Him for the blessing. Thank Him for the blessing. God, that I have this job. Thank Him for the things He has blessed you with; not just the challenges. Thank Him for the blessings.

By the way: When you connect to God, I will give you a couple of things to make sure it happens. Schedule time alone with God. Schedule time alone with God. I always say to you, what gets scheduled gets done. If you don’t schedule it, don’t expect it to happen. Schedule a time alone every day with God. Schedule that time alone with God before the day gets started. I don’t know how your day goes, but as my day goes on, it gets crazier and crazier. It gets more stupid as it goes on, and I think, “How stupid can a day get?” I need to start with God before it gets stupid to help me through it. Plan time alone with God at a place. Maybe it is a rocking chair by a window. I just talk. If you should walk up on me praying you would say, “That’s so impressive.” It is not. It’s like talking to your dad about what is happening today. Talk to God.

By the way: Avoid drive through quiet times with God. You know what a drive through is. You pull up, “Give me a sandwich to go”. Try not to do that with God. Try not to be talking to God, the only time you are talking to Him, while you are going ninety-five miles an hour down I-95, when it is going crazy. Get alone with God and settle your soul before the day starts.

One more thing, make sure you connect to the true vine. Jesus said in verse one: “I am the true vine.” In the Greek, the way Jesus actually states this, He says, “I am the vine, the true one.” In other words, He emphasizes the adjective. Meaning what? Meaning there are a lot of vines out there that you can connect to, but there is only one true vine that can give you sustainable happiness. Let me give you a couple of untrue vines that will not make you happy. One is the vine of religion. If you are connected to the vine of religion, you thought you were connected to God. But religion connects you to religion. God wants to connect you to a relationship with Him. Religion is about doing a formality; about going through the formality; about going through the routines, the rituals. You show up at a religious place, at the religious hour of the religious day, and you wind your way through some meaningless routine. It is so meaningless to you that you went week after week, month after month, year after year to the point that you walk away from it. It never makes you happy. It never sustains you. God doesn’t want you to connect to religion. God wants you to connect to Him in a relationship. Here is another vine that won’t make you happy: Success. A lot of people think that if I could just achieve this, that would give me sustainable happiness. Listen, it will not. You see, the problem is, success in the same way as an untrue vine. It will not leave you happy. It will not give you sustainable joy.

This document that I have here = The Declaration of Independence – gives you the right to pursue happiness. This document from God – The Bible – tells you where to find it. You can’t find it in a person, not in religion, not in success. You find it through a relationship with Christ, and not only does that source provide you with happiness, it also provides you with everlasting life. That is the only source. It is through that relationship with Christ that you receive it.

Let’s bow our heads for prayer.

Listening Guide

No listening guide added for this sermon.