Okay, full disclosure. I had an ugly cry watching VeggieTales. One particular scene in one particular tale—the Christmas classic about Saint Nicholas. Little Nic jumps on a boat to explore the world and find life and meaning after his generous, Jesus-loving parents tragically pass away.
Toward the end of his adventure, he stumbles into a church to find a young woman feeding the poor. What she's doing looks familiar to him since it's what he's seen his parents do all his life. And something about this woman's demeanor is right. She has the same contented look his mom and dad had. Nicolas thinks he's found it! If he does what this woman is doing, he'll finally be happy. If he can follow in his parents' footsteps by serving people, his heart will be filled. So little Nic musters up the courage to approach the woman and ask her the big question:
Miss, does this make you happy?
Chuckling, she replies something like, Oh, honey! this doesn't make me happy. I get to do this because God has made me happy.
Cue ugly cry. Through those Veggie tears, sweet gospel truth washed over me. And for the first time that particular day, I got off my boat of searching and remembered . . . I am happy. I am no longer in search of a next level. The next hit song. A larger ministry. A higher-paying job. A more respectful family. More affirming friends. Some unknown earthly pleasure.
I am happy—so long as I remember that I've stumbled on a treasure in a field (Matt. 13:44). That if I have Jesus, I have everything, and if I have everything, there's no longer anything I'm looking for. And if there's no longer anything I'm looking for, I am free to love and serve with no return.
My search has come to an end, and in his strength I can say today, "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil. 3:8).
What About You?
If little Saint Nic walked up to you after you led worship or preached on a Sunday, or while you were directing cars in the parking lot, stacking chairs after Bible study, or changing the slides for the next worship song, and asked Does this make you happy? would your response be like the young woman in the VeggieTales film? Maybe it's what would come out of your mouth, but would it be true? Or perhaps your true response would sound something like:
My ministry does make me happy. I love the affirmation and the applause of people. It motivates me to continue to work hard at "ministering" to them.
It does make me happy. It makes me feel good about myself when I pour into others.
It brings a smile to God's face when I serve him in this way.
Maybe you are still on that boat today. Looking for that next stroke to relieve your restless heart. Maybe you are like me and you just need to be reminded a lot.
The gospel is so freeing. Especially to us creative folk who have a strong tendency to find our identity in what we do and not in who we are, or whose we are. It would serve us well to take some time every morning before the craziness starts to think about these things. To get into God's Word and remind ourselves of our reward. To remember that today our "flesh may fail, and our heart may fail, but God is the strength of our hearts and our portion forever" (Ps. 73:26). To see the beautiful smile of God—not because of our perfect service, because of his perfect sacrifice (2 Cor. 5:21). To daily ask for the "strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that [we] may be filled with all the fulness of God" (Eph 3:19).
What else is there, friends? What can man give to us? What can man take from us? What can man even offer us that would take our eyes off of this prize that we have in Jesus?
What can hold a candle to:
Chosen before the foundation of the world!
Blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places!
Predestined for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ!
Redemption through his blood!
Forgiveness of all our sins!
Grace lavished upon us!
The mystery of his will made known!
Peace from God our Father!
And those are just a few things from the first nine verses of Ephesians.
How could we set our sails in pursuit of other loves? What could trump the riches we have in Christ?
Even though the answer is, of course, nothing, I will wake up tomorrow morning on a boat. Feeling the weight of my sin. Hearing the groggy voice of the old man. Feeling my proneness to wander. Sensing this self-serving, self-exalting war deep inside my members, until by the power of the Spirit who lives within me, I dock my boat on the solid rock of his Word and remember again: I am happy.
Place for You
We have spent the last couple of years developing a resource that will do exactly that: daily remind us of who he is, and who we are in him. A place for creatives, worship pastors, musicians, and songwriters to be encouraged by the truth of God's Word. A place where you as a musician will also be trained and equipped in your craft in order to leverage those giftings to best bring glory to the Father.
It is called The Worship Initiative. Come visit us. We would love to meet you!
Shane Barnard makes up half of the musical duo Shane & Shane. He also helps lead The Worship Initiative and the Linger Conference. He is happily married to Bethany and is the father to three amazing little girls. Shane and his family reside is Dallas, Texas. You can follow him on Twiiter