Progress Brings You Happiness

As the weather gets warmer, many people are throwing poolside parties. It reminds me of a story about a Texas billionaire who threw a poolside party on a hot summer day. He had a couple of pet sharks in his pool swimming back and forth, so the guests were fascinated by the sharks and, at the same time, tried to stay away from the poolside.

After all the guests had arrived, the host picked up the microphone and announced,

“Ladies and gentlemen, I have a special announcement to make. Here’s my beautiful daughter, you all know. She is now at the age to choose a partner for life. I want my future son-in-law to be a man of courage. So, today, I have a challenge for all the men in the crowd. Anyone who dares to swim across the pool and get to the other side alive will get my daughter’s hands. But, don’t worry! If either of you thinks you are not a good match, I will give him a million dollars in cash for his courage to swim with the sharks.”

Suddenly, splash! A young man dove into the pool and swam across the pool swiftly. He got to the other side safely, jumped out of the pool, and looked at the crowd as if he was searching for someone. 

The crowd cheered for his courage, and the host asked him, “Young man, you are a true hero. Tell me what you want—the hands of my daughter or a million dollars in cash?”

The man kept scanning the crowd with a stern face without paying attention to the host. So, he asked again, “Young man, what do you want?”

He said in an angry tone, “I want … I want to know who pushed me into the pool!”

———-

Life is somewhat like a shark tank. The moment we are born, we are in this pool. The only way to survive is to swim to the other end swiftly and safely. There’s no use finding out who pushed you into this pool. The best attitude is to treat life as an opportunity and enjoy the swim.

Of course, life is not as dramatic as swimming in a shark tank. This story tries to depict a truth about life: the only way to find happiness in this life is to move forward and make progress. Don’t just take my word for it, but you can experiment with this truth. When are you really happy: during stagnation or progress?

Life is also like a stream of water. A flowing stream carries clean water, and a stagnant pool becomes stinky. So, don’t ask who pushed you into the water, but ask if you are making progress. Maybe the sharks are not there to eat you as long as you are moving forward.

Of course, not all progress makes you happy. Only meaningful progress brings true satisfaction. In fact, Jesus revealed that he wants us to make progress doing the meaningful works as he did. He says,

Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12).

Doing “greater works” than he did might sound challenging, but not so if you understand that he means progress. The word “greater” is translated from Greek, “μείζονα,” meaning “greater, farther, growing, expanding, progressing.” So, Jesus is not talking about you will do mightier work than he did, but you will proliferate or propagate what he has started.

If this verse makes you anxious, you interpret it wrong because, in the context, he said he left peace with you. Progress will bring you peace. Progress is also the nature of a believer. He says, if you are a believer, you will do the works he did.

His life is also a progression of works, from teaching a small audience to a large crowd, from small miracles to raising Lazarus from the dead, from making small sacrifices to giving his life on the cross. It’s always growing, expanding, and progressing.

Jesus gave many parables revealing the kingdom of God is a progress. He said that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that germinates and grows into a fruitful tree. He gave many parables like this. The kingdom of God is the place of ultimate happiness, and only progress will take you there.

So, he expects you to make progress in doing meaningful works as he did. Today, we have over two billion believers around the world. Believers have fed more homeless than ever before. Believers have built more hospitals than ever before. Believers have built more schools than ever before. We can go on and on to see how believers have made progress.

How about you? Are you part of this progress? Progress glorifies God, and when God is glorified, you are satisfied. That’s how we are created. In other words, like it or not, you are in the shark tank. Swim or die! Don’t ask who pushed you in; you are already in. Enjoy the swim and focus on the great prize you have been promised.

The good news is Jesus does not just reveal to us that progress brings you happiness, but he promises to give you a hand to make sure you get to the other end of the pool safely. So, today, let’s explore how Jesus planned to help you make progress by doing greater works based on this week’s scripture lesson. Let’s begin!

[Hi! In case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone—the Lightkeeper. You are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]

Today is the Pentecost, and the scripture lesson is from the Gospel according to John 14:8-17. [Listen to the Word of the Lord.]

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. (John 14:8-17).

[This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!]

After the Last Supper, Philip asked Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” I believe his question is what we all want to ask. Don’t we all want to see the Father, meaning God? Confucius said, “If I see the Tao in the morning, I am happy to die that evening.” We think seeing the image of God will make us satisfied, but Jesus revealed to us that God is not seen in an image but in progress.

As a student of the scripture, Philip knew that Moses tried to see God, but God showed him only his back. You can see only his back because he is moving forward.

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:9).

From the beginning of his Gospel, John stated, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” (Jn 1:18). He said that Jesus was “the Word became flesh,” or God in human form. Anyhow, this created a teaching opportunity for Jesus. He said,

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” (John 14:10).

Anyone can claim to be God, but the proof is in the pudding. The evidence is in the words and the works. Everything Jesus had said and done reveals God’s presence in him and his presence in God. Then he said,

Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.” (John 14:11).

Again, Jesus wants us to pay attention to his works as evidence of his oneness with the Father. That led him to teach us that the evidence of a believer is also in his or her works. So, he stated this in a serious tone,

Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12).

Every time Jesus began his sentence with, “Very truly, I tell you …,” he was telling us something very important and asking us to pay attention. Yes, we are saved by faith, but Jesus doesn’t want empty faith. Faith without fruit is futile. James said,

So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (James 2:17).

Jesus expects to see our faith in our works. Not only did he expect us to do the works he did, but also to do greater works, meaning to make progress. Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Philip thought satisfaction comes from seeing God, but Jesus said satisfaction comes from doing God’s works and making progress by doing greater works.

Satisfaction is another word for happiness. So, Jesus reveals to Philip that happiness comes from participating in the progress of God’s meaningful works, not seeing God’s image. Like a mustard seed turning into a fruitful tree, the growing progress makes you happy.

You can say that God’s image is like a movie rather than a photo. Maybe that’s why God doesn’t want us to create and worship an image because no image can fully represent him. To see God, you must be part of the movie. You need to be part of the movement. Jesus wants you to join the progress.

The good news is Jesus gives you everything you need to take part in the progress. He said, you “will do greater works than these because I am going to the Father.” His return to the Father will enable you to do greater things. Now let’s see what he will provide us by going to the Father so that we can do greater works. In other words, what should we do to make progress in doing greater works.

1. Pray for Progress

I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14).

Jesus said, by going to the Father, he can focus on answering our prayers. When he was here physically, he could only do so much. Now, he had taught the believers what to do, and he would empower them to do greater works by answering their prayers.

To ask in his name is to embody him, just as Jesus embodied God to make progress in God’s works. He said, “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” (v. 10b). In the same way, we want to make sure we are progressing correctly by praying for progress first so that we can say, “Jesus who dwells in us does his works.”

2. Practice the Great Commandments

Every promise comes with a premise. The premise is to practice the Great Commandments. Jesus said,

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15).

Repeatedly he stated that his commandments are nothing more than loving God and loving one another. It’s simple but not easy because he expects us to love our enemies. It’s easy to love those who love us, but not so to love those who hate us. However, that’s the condition for God to dwell in us and the premise for Jesus’ promise to give us the Holy Spirit.

3. Proceed with the Holy Spirit

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” (John 14:16-17).

The word “Advocate” is translated from Greek, with no equivalent English word. That’s why you see different translations in different versions of the Bible: “Counselor,” “Comforter,” or “Companion.” Luke says it’s “the Power from on high” to enable us to make progress doing greater works.

He says “another” Advocate because Jesus was the other Advocate. Also, notice it says, “to be with you forever.” Jesus was with us on earth temporarily, but the Holy Spirit is omnipresent and can be with us forever.

How do you receive the Holy Spirit? The simple answer is “believe and breathe!” I have talked about this in detail in a few other messages, so I won’t repeat it here. According to John, after his resurrection, Jesus delivered the Holy Spirit by breathing on the disciples. Just like the hymn says, “Breathe on me Breath of God,” receive the Holy Spirit through your breath with faith.

So, let’s join Jesus’ movement of love and grace by

1) praying for progress,
2) practicing the Great Commandments, and
3) proceeding with the Holy Spirit.

You will swim safely to the other end of the pool joyfully and receive the reward of eternal satisfaction.

That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound happiness.

Amen!

Bye now!

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