As I watched the worshippers at Kamonkoli Presbyterian Church yesterday, I kept asking myself, “where does their joy come from?”
The more than 1,000 people in attendance walked, some for many miles, to church. They drank water from wells on the church grounds. They ate little, if any, breakfast because food is in short supply.
These people have nothing.
So, where does their joy come from?
They sang songs of praise with wild abandon. The choir danced in circles around the front of the church. The smiled. They laughed. They shouted to Heaven.
Where does their joy come from?
Two people publicly professed their faith in Jesus Christ. Their decision was not met with a polite “golf clap;” but instead loud, raucous applause and shouts of celebration.
After the service, there was no rush to leave. There were no crowds to beat at the local restaurant. No NFL games to watch on television. Instead they stayed for fellowship. And I don’t mean covered dish, devilled egg and ham fellowship. I mean pure fellowship. Laughing together, sharing news, offering prayers and providing help. And it was all done in selfless, gracious love.
So, where does their joy come from?
As my mind continued to circle this question, Pastor Lanelle, a member of our mission team, got up to preach.
At the very beginning of Lanelle’s sermon, he read from John 15:1-8, where Jesus says:
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.
I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.”
Then Lanelle said, and I love this, “Jesus is saying when people have a close relationship with Him, there will be fruit bearing proof of that relationship.”
So that’s where their joy comes from!
Their joy comes from a pure, passionate and uninterrupted relationship with Jesus Christ.
No wonder I was confused and curious.
You see, my joy comes from living in a comfortable home and eating what I want, when I want. My joy comes from switching on the gas fireplace and watching Christmas movies, cuddled up with my wife and kids on the couch. My joy comes from flipping on a light switch and seeing light, and turning a knob and getting an endless supply of hot water. (Actually, that last one isn’t true. I take for granted the ready access to power and water…so there is no joy in that. Just a mindless expectation.)
Maybe that’s why I sit quietly and politely in church, but shout for joy when Alabama scores another touchdown. Maybe that’s why my mind wanders during the pastor’s sermon, thinking about all the things I will doing later in the day, rather than reveling in the joy of being in my Father’s house.
The truth is, my branch is connected to the wrong vine. I’m not connected to a Heavenly vine, but a worldly one.
I’m like the rich young ruler who went away from Jesus because he could not surrender the worship of his wealth in order to faithfully worship the one true Savior.
The truth is, the rich young ruler had nothing, and neither do I.
It’s the people of Kamonkoli who have everything.
They live out the Biblical truth that I apparently refuse to accept:
Don’t collect for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
If you’re thinking this is the part where I tell you I am selling everything and moving to Africa, you would be wrong.
That would be too easy.
My true transformational awakening will be to see my stuff as a gift from God, not the result of my hard work. To see lights and water as a gift from God. To see daily creature comforts as a gift from God.
Put simply, I must love God, not the stuff; because He owns it all anyway. And He can take it away anytime He wants.
That’s why I have to reconnect my branch to the right vine. Not the vine of temporary stuff, but the vine of eternal life.
Because, if I don’t, my true storehouse will be empty and the storehouse of those I worshipped with yesterday will remain full.
In that way, the people of Kamonkoli have everything.
And I have nothing.
Swimming in His grace,