What we mean by Have Fun

Pastor Jeff Struecker

This past week was Thanksgiving. Did you have a chance to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower coming across the Atlantic? Did you have a chance to celebrate 400 years after the Plymouth Colony was established? Did you sit at your table and eat a nice dinner, even though the COVID virus probably made this Thanksgiving feel very different from the rest?

Were you able to enjoy and spend some time with friends and family this week? Or, did you have that family member come over to your house? You know the one that I’m talking about, the one who always looks at the negative, the glass is always half empty. They can always find the bad in every situation, and they bring the whole family down. Did this “Debbie Downer” show up in your Thanksgiving tradition this week?

Well, I just want to talk to you about the core value at 2 Cities Church that we called Having Fun. Today is the fifth and the final message in our five-week series called At Our Core. This series was designed to describe our core values. And, just to remind you, core values are not things that we do; they are so important to us that core values are who we are as a church. 

And, today we’re going to talk about what it feels like to follow Jesus. Today, we’re going to talk about how much fun Christians are supposed to have. I want you to just hear from the Bible because God is our creator, and because He created human emotion, and because He created the emotion of joy (or the emotion of having fun), and He called us into a relationship with Him and call us His children, Christians, more than anybody else on the planet, should be able to have some fun together.

In fact, if following Jesus isn’t fun for you, then maybe you’re doing it wrong. If following Jesus isn’t fun, then maybe there’s something wrong with the way that you’re following Jesus. What we are going to do is take a look at one verse from the Bible. This comes from Psalm 92:4, and I want you to just see how much fun we are supposed to have as followers of Jesus. 

If following Jesus isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong.

But, I do want to set this up by saying, we take very seriously at Two Cities Church the idea of having fun. You heard me right. We take having fun seriously. And, here’s why: because we believe our God loves us, and we believe our God has called us into a relationship with Him. We believe that he knows everything about us, and yet loves us anyway. He invites us into a relationship with him, and we believe that we are supposed to be that kind of people who, if nobody else on the planet can find the good or find joy in circumstances, we believe that Christians should be able to.

So, I’ve got three very simple thoughts for you from Psalm 92:4. We’re going to read the verse, and then I’ll break it down:

Ps 92:4  For you have made me rejoice, Lord, by what you have done; I will shout for joy because of the works of your hands.

Free to be yourself

You see, there are a couple of things that this verse really teaches us about our relationship with Jesus. But, first and more than anything else, when we talk about having fun at 2 Cities Church, I need you to hear that we are free to be who God has created us to be. You are free to be yourself, with all of your mistakes and all of your failures.

You don’t have to hide anything or hold anything back. -not to our church, and not to God. Now, let’s talk about this verse, because Psalm 92 was written for the people of God back in the Old Testament times. When they got up, and they went to the Temple, or they went to the synagogue, they would often sing Psalm 92. Psalm 92 is all about our relationship with God, and in verse four, I just want to stress these two phrases. Psalm 92:4 says:

V.4 You have made me rejoice… I will shout for joy…

Now, I want you to pay close attention to the verb tenses. Because of what God has done for us, I can rejoice. Because of what God has done for me, I will shout in the future.

Now, I did a little Bible study, a little searching and preparing as I was working on this sermon. I was searching online for sermons about fun. I did this web search, and in this web search, I could not find any sermons…not one sermon… on the word fun. It seemed really strange to me.

So, I tried it another way, and when I typed in a web search on having fun, instead of F-U-N bringing up fun, it brought up the word funeral. Apparently, we Christians talk about funerals more than we talk about fun. And, that sounds like there’s something wrong to me. So, let’s talk about what this Bible verse is really saying.

This Bible verse is talking to us Christians about how much fun it’s supposed to be to follow Jesus. The word I, if you were to look at an English translation of the Bible, you’ll find this word, basically, nowhere in the Bible. In the Old Testament (Hebrew language), in the new Testament (Greek language), they don’t use the word fun like we do in the English language.

They use a different word. They used the Hebrew word sameach. The Hebrew word here can be translated, merry. It can be translated, glad, or most often in the Bible it’s going to show up as the word rejoice or the word joy. And, this is the idea that the original language of the Old Testament uses for having fun, enjoying our relationship with God.

We’re supposed to enjoy it, and we’re supposed to have fun. We’re supposed to be merry in our relationship with God. Do you know any crabby Christians? In fact, most of us watching this stream probably know somebody who is both a Christian, and generally speaking, in a bad mood most of the time. I often think to myself, there’s something wrong with this relationship.

If you have been invited out of your sin and called into a relationship with the King of the universe, why are you in such a bad mood all the time? Why are you always looking at the bad in every situation instead of looking at the good? You see, when I studied the life of Jesus, it looks like He was the kind of guy who had fun.

He, more than any other human being who has ever lived, understood who he was. He was free to be himself, and he understood his relationship with the father. When the religious leaders criticized John the Baptist, they criticized him because he was austere, because he avoided all of the things that other people tended to enjoy.

When they criticized Jesus, on the opposite side of the scale, they criticized Jesus, because he was always hanging around parties, always hanging around people who were having a good time. They considered him to be a party animal (in modern English language). Jesus was the kind of a man who understood the eternal and abundant life.

When we use the name 2 Cities Church, those two cities that it refers to are the eternal city (This is what Jesus talks about in John 3:3 when he says being born again and being a son or a daughter of Heaven), that’s one city. But, if you were to go back and read John 10:10, the life that God has for us is not just something that is miserable here on earth and then we wait to get into Heaven, and it all starts to be fun when we get to Heaven.

No, the life that he’s inviting us into is the abundant life. John 10:10 says, “I have come to give you life, and I’ve come to give it to you to the fullest (to the freest, abundant life).” See, the first city is the eternal city where we have eternal life waiting for us in Heaven. The second city that our name refers to is this earthly city where we have abundant life, free life, full life here on earth. God’s people should be able to have fun, because we have eternity waiting for us in Heaven, and we have abundant life here on planet earth. 

I’ll give you a quick example of this. When I was a soldier in the United States Army, each year I had to tell my boss what my goals were for the year. Now, I was a combat soldier, which means that there was stuff that I knew I had to get better at technically to understand my job. I had to get better tactically to be able to do my mission on the battlefield. I had to get better physically so that I could meet my enemies wherever I found them. But, when I had to fill out my list of goals, I listed these tactical, technical, and physical things. But, number one on my list of goals while I was in the Army for many years was two words: have fun. 

I often thought to myself, “If I’m in the Army, and I can lose sleep and be freezing out there in the cold snow, and I didn’t eat in the last several days, and I’m surrounded by bad guys that want to kill me, but I can still have fun, then this is something that I will keep doing for the rest of my life.” And, the day that I stopped having fun, I decided it was time for me to leave the Army, because here’s the truth: Life is just too short to go through it and not have fun. So, I put as the number one goal, “I’m getting shot at. I’m cold. I’m tired. I’m hungry… but I still am having fun. And, when it’s no longer fun, then I’m not going to do it anymore.”

I want you to know that if I can have fun under those kind of circumstances, a Christian should be able to enjoy himself or herself. We should rejoice, be merry, and be glad, no matter what the circumstances that you find yourself in are.

Uncontainable goodness of God

Here’s the second thing, the second reason why we Christians, and why we at 2 Cities Church should be able to have fun: because of the uncontainable goodness of God. You see, we are people who should be able to have fun, not just because of who we are and what’s going on in our circumstances, because circumstances come and go, situations get better, and then they get worse. No, we are the kind of people that should be able to have fun, because of our great God. -because of how good our God is, because we know our God has us in the palm of his hand. 

This is a heart situation that I’m talking about. You see, real joy, real fun, it happens at the heart level. It’s not based on circumstances, and because we have this rock solid faith in a God who is great enough to handle anything that the world may throw at us, who is good enough to take care of us no matter how bad life gets, because that’s the kind of God that we worship, we should be able to have fun even when life gets tough. 

If you were to keep reading just one more verse in Psalm 92, you would hear how the writer of this psalm tells us what it’s like to have fun even in the midst of difficult circumstances. Read Psalm 92:5: 

V.5 How magnificent are your works, Lord, how profound your thoughts!

The people of God, while they are at church, are shouting God’s praises. They are rejoicing at who God is, because they know how great he is and because he has been good to them. Have you ever met one of those pastors who likes to give this theological disclaimer whenever they use the word joy? They’ll tell you, “Hey, God promised to give his people joy. It’s a fruit of the spirit, Galatians says. But, He did not promise to give them happiness.” 

Look, I don’t want to argue with those pastors. I agree with what they’re saying theologically, but it always feels to me a bit like that disclaimer that you read at the bottom of a commercial for medicine. “Hey, this medicine can fix your itch, but there’s also five life-threatening side effects that go along with it. So, you won’t have to itch anymore, but you might end up dying from one of the side-effects.” 

Well, that’s kind of what it feels like when those pastors, when those theologians, talk about joy. It really feels like they’re trying to qualify joy by saying, “Hey, you may be miserable, but at least God will be with you in the middle of your misery. You may be in terrible situations, and completely unhappy, but God’s going to give you joy anyway.” And, I often think to myself, why can’t I have joy and happiness? Why can’t I have joy and fun? Why do I have to have joy, but can’t, or don’t, get the happiness that goes along with when they make this theological disclaimer about joy? 

Here’s the truth: I really believe that God wants his children to enjoy him, to enjoy him in every circumstance of life and to enjoy life from time to time. I believe that the goodness of God can penetrate even our worst circumstances. I believe that our God is so good that even when you’re in prison, you can find joy in your relationship with Him. And even when circumstances are terrible, you can still have a happy, a fulfilled, and a merry part.

I’ll tell you an embarrassing story. When I was working on the graphics for this sermon series, I asked the graphic artist to help. I was talking to this person on the phone about it, and I asked if she could develop individual icons for each one of our five core boundaries. The graphic artist said, “Okay, can you tell me what those are?”I was out, and I was busy. I said, “I can just list them for you right now if you’ve got something to write with.” And then right off the top of my head, I started listing off core value, core values, core value, core value… but I forgot one. As hard as I tried while I was on the phone, I couldn’t think of this fifth core value.

I finally just got so embarrassed that I said, “I’m sorry, I’m going to have to go to my office, go to my computer, look at the list, and tell you what this fifth core value is, because I’m completely blanking right now.” In fact, I sent a little text message that said, “I can’t believe that I forgot to have fun!”

Would you look at this response in the text message, because this is brilliant theology. What this person said is, “You know what? I think Christians forget to have fun all the time. We make mistakes, we get overwhelmed by the circumstances of life, and we’re so busy, we’re so stressed out, we’re so worried, that fun often gets pushed out of the picture.”

The reason why we have this silly logo for this core value of the glasses with the fake nose and the mustache is just to remind us when we see that, it should make our hearts merry. It should remind us that God has called us into a relationship with him, and we can still have fun, no matter the circumstances that you’re going through right now.

Maybe you’re struggling. Maybe life has gotten really difficult. Maybe you are going through some physical problems because of the virus. Maybe you’re going through some economic challenges because of the response to the virus. Whatever it is, I need you to know that our God is so great that you don’t have to stress.You don’t have to wonder, bite your fingernails, and be concerned about what’s going to happen next. —which brings me to the third and final point of this idea at 2 Cities Church of having fun. 

Never have to worry again

You never have to worry again. When you are a follower of Jesus Christ, no matter what happens to you in life, you have nothing to worry about, because our great God who controls the universe, loves you, and he’s going to protect you, take care of you, and hold onto you even in the midst of the most challenging circumstances. Let’s read just a couple of verses further into Psalm 92. Verse seven says:

V.7 though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they will be eternally destroyed.

The guy who writes this psalm has his focus on God, on who God is, what God has done for him in the past, and what God will do for him in the future. And so, even when he sees great problems and great difficulties around him, he doesn’t have to worry because he knows that he’s protected. He’s in the palm of God’s hand.

You see, if he’s taken care of me in the past, if God promises that he will take care of me in the future, then now the pressure is off of me. I don’t have to worry, and I don’t have to wonder about what’s going to happen to me next. I can’t tell you how much of a relief it is to not have to play the “what if” game. You know what I’m talking about.

What if something happens to me? What if I get the virus? What if I don’t survive? What if I lose my job? What if my business closes, because of the fallout? What if I get evicted? What if I don’t have a place to move into? What if, what if, what if… That’s a miserable and oppressive way to live.

Christians, you don’t have to live that way, because God has you in the palm of his hand. And, not having to stress out about what’s waiting for you around the corner should make it possible for us to enjoy life. Enjoy our relationship with God, and enjoy the circumstances that we’re in, because we have nothing to worry about.The Psalmist says, “Even though there are evildoers all around me, I don’t have to worry, because I know what happens next. I know how things are going to turn out for me in eternity, and I know that our God is just. So, I know how things are going to turn out for all of those wicked people around me.”

If you want to read a beautiful, even more vivid picture of this, look at what the prophet Habakkuk says in Habakkuk chapter three, because he describes this in vivid detail. Maybe this is something that you need to hear right now, because maybe this is what’s going on in your life. Habakkuk 3:17 and 18 say this: 

“Though the fig tree does not bud, and there is no fruit on the vine, though the olive crops fail, and the fields produce no food, though the flocks disappear from the pin as though there were no herds in the stalls. Yet, I will celebrate in the Lord. I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.”

What Habakkuk is saying and what Psalm 92 is saying is, no matter how bad things get, I don’t have to worry about the future. What this prophet is describing is both economic disaster and ecological disaster. Maybe there was a drought. Maybe there was no rain. Maybe there were no crops because there was no water to produce the crops, and so there was nothing to feed the animals, and the animals started to die. 

If you lived in Habakkuk’s day without crops in the field and without flocks in the field, you were basically facing starvation and bankruptcy. And this prophet says, “Look, if all of that happened to me, I don’t have to worry. I don’t have to fear.”

He takes it a step further and says, “I can celebrate in spite of all of these difficulties, because I know who my God is, and I know that he’s got me in the palm of his hand. I know that he will take care of me.” You see, we take having fun seriously at 2 Cities Church, because we believe it’s one of the ways that we show the rest of the world what our faith is like.

A really quick story: The Saturday Evening Post was a news magazine published in the United States for many years. The Saturday Evening Post told a story about President Charles de Gaulle of France. De Gaulle was a famous general, very successful, and then after war, the country selected him to be their President. Charles de Gaulle was selecting ambassadors to go serve other countries on behalf of France. He was getting ready to send these ambassadors out, and Charles de Gaulle had a meeting with one of his ambassadors. 

He told this ambassador, “I’m sending you out as a representative. You’re going to represent me, the President, to other countries. But you’re also going to represent the people of France to other countries.” 

The Saturday Evening Post says that during the course of one of these meetings, one of those ambassadors said to Charles de Gaulle, “I am filled with joy at the appointment as ambassador.” And then the Saturday Evening Post said this: “Charles de Gaulle dryly, coldly replied, ‘You are a career diplomat. Joy is an inappropriate emotion in your profession.’”

Charles de Gaulle was saying, “I want you to be serious. You don’t get to enjoy or to have joy when you serve overseas.” And when I read this reply, I often want to ask myself, “What does it say when the ambassador of France serves as a miserable, joyless representative of the President? What does this say about president de Gaulle?”

What does this say about the people of France if the ambassador has no joy serving on their behalf in another country? (You’re probably already making the connection.) You see, as a Christian, you’ve been called out of your sin, and you have been called into a relationship with Jesus Christ. But, you’ve also been commissioned, you’ve been sent out to be his ambassador. What does it say about the God of your salvation if you’re always sad, always scared, always stressed out, if you’re always miserable?

The truth is, the people that are around you who are far from Jesus, they’re looking for something. But, if what they see in you is just miserable, stressed out, sad, they’re looking at your faith and they’re trying to decide, do I want what she’s got? If you’re always sad, they’re thinking, you know what? I’ve got enough of this in my life. I don’t need more.

This is why as a Christian, we are ambassadors of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Because King Jesus sends us all over our community and all over the world as His ambassadors, it’s really important that you enjoy your relationship with Jesus in the good times and in the bad times, so that people will see you, and they’ll see that you have something in your heart that allows you to be glad, allows you to rejoice, allows you to be merry when others around you are miserable, and when they see that, they decide they want that.