Famed author and evangelical pastor Francis Chan said at Saddleback Church that God commands Christians to “rejoice in the Lord always” in spite of how bad the world looks.
Speaking in place of Rick Warren, Chan said Scripture tells us “to straighten up and look up and know that your redemption is coming.” He explains that what we see in the media may be terrifying, but with the knowledge of how the end will be we can look forward to that, and “because of that we have to rejoice.”
“Some of us will look at each other a hundred years from now, but it is going to be completely different. God is going to fellowship with him. There is no more death and sickness.”
Chan remembered that as a child he would always focus on the wrong and tried to fix it. His aunt would ask him, “Why you never happy?” he recalled. One time, his father was cooking a fish, and he commented on how sad the fish looked. Chan said in Cantonese-accent English that his father responded, “That is how you always look,” which drew much laughter.
Chan said that rejoicing in the Lord is not about being naturally happy or smiley, but it is because of our salvation in our Lord that we have this joy. He said the Holy Spirit gets us to focus on the right thing. He reminded the Saddleback church congregations that even the breath of air that we’re breathing is given by God.
“There is a being up there right now. He gave me that breath,” said the founding and former pastor of Simi Valley Cornerstone Community Church. He said that despite knowing all the bad that we’ve done God gave his son to die for us, because He “wants to demonstrate that there is no one that loves them like I do.”
Chan then continued explicating Philippians 4:5, where he said that because of our relationship with the Lord “we don’t faze out no matter what happens.”
Chan recalled the time when he fell in love with his wife 20 years go. He said he couldn’t believe that Lisa, who was former Miss Teen California, would go out with him. On one occasion, he had just bought a blue Chevy Mustang convertible and was about to go on a date with Lisa, but he accidentally ran into a light pole in a parking lot all by himself.
“I wrecked it…you know normally that would have devastated me,” he said. “Oh well…I’m going out with Lisa,” Chan said, recalling how nothing else mattered and how the church that he was at was splitting from so much fighting.
“That’s the idea…I’m in love,” he said. “The world should see you in this. You’re constantly reminded yourself of what God is giving to you.”
Chan then explained how God commands believers to not worry about anything but to pray and offer up supplications. He said to doubt or worry after praying is like treating God like an unfaithful employee, where we don’t really trust God.
“That’s the thing that kind of goes when you are stressed. I can’t just sit around thanking God for something to be fixed…but this is arrogance,” said Chan.
“There is a battle for your mind and thoughts. You can dwell on your problem,” said Chan. “God says just give them up to me. I heard you and I will take care of it. It may not be how you think it will be, but it will be better.”
As a father of five, Chan told a story of how her oldest daughter came home one day with a F. “That’s unacceptable in my house. You should never get a F. No Asian should get a F (crowd laughs).”
Instead of giving penalties or punishments, he told her daughter “I’m going to take you out to dinner, movie, ice cream. I want to show you what grace is about.”
“Instead of punishing us, God blesses us. I should be destroyed for some of things that I’ve done in the past, but God forgave you. He gives me this and promises an amazing future. That’s what grace is all about. I want you to experience this today, but don’t make this a habit.”
The next day, her daughter told her friends at school what happened, and they were envious and wished that he was their dad. “He wants us out there, so rejoicing that ‘I wish that I had your dad.’”
As Chan finished telling this analogy, he confessed that he has “a bit of hypocrisy”, which kept him from rejoicing in life. He was looking through an Easter message that he had preached a while back, and he realized that he has “slipped” in some of these areas.
He recalled in that sermon he said with all honesty that while his wife was giving birth to their first son and his daughter was helping to deliver the baby, he felt that his intimacy with Jesus so much better compared to that moment.
“After reading this, I’ve realized what happened to me. I’ve let the business of life take me away from the relationship with God,” he said. “Francis, I know you love me and you think I am the greatest thing, but you are letting all these things pile up on you.”
Chan urged the congregation, “Let’s have this week be a turning point. Is it really up to me to change everything? Let’s just rejoice in the Lord always…stop thinking you are going to fix something, but just go and pray.”
He then ends with Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”