That’s right — multiple studies, neurological studies, sociological studies and even theological studies suggest that serving others leads to personal happiness and fulfillment.
Neurological Studies — Brain scans by neuroscientists indicate that generosity — serving through giving — carries its own rewards. Dr. Jorge Moll’s team, doing research at the National Institutes of Health found that when a person was encouraged to ponder an act of generosity, parts of the brain lit up that are normally associated with personal pleasures like eating or sex. God has hard-wired us to be generous.
Sociological Studies — Dr. Jonathan Haidt, — psychology professor at the University of Virginia and author of the book, “The Happiness Hypothesis” — notes that sociological studies suggest that nobility can lead to happiness. One thing that can make a lasting difference to your contentment is to work with others on a cause larger than yourself.
I see that all the time. I talk to people at church who were busy, and almost reluctantly got involved in a good cause — maybe just because it was the right thing to do — and sooner or later they found that their sacrifice had become a source of joy and satisfaction.
Theological Studies — Bill Leslie had a remarkable ministry at LaSalle Street Church in Chicago. He told of a time when he nearly had a breakdown, physical, emotional, spiritual. A spiritual mentor directed him to Isaiah 58. He said it was vs 10-11 that turned his life around.
And if you give yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness, and your gloom will become like midday. And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places [like urban Chicago], and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
What struck Pastor Leslie so powerfully was the fact that if we pour ourselves out for others, God promises to make us like a watered garden that is, we will receive the water we need for refreshment. But even more: we will thus be a spring of water that does not fail for others no matter how demanding or draining. This gave him a pattern of divine life that got him through his crisis and kept him going for years more.
You see there is something very close to the heart of Jesus in Isaiah 58. Jesus announced his own calling with similar words, the Spirit of God has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim deliverance to the captives.
Sometimes people think there is a great divide between worship and service. Between the spiritual and the practical. In Isaiah 58 they are intimately connected. This weekend — Saturday and Sunday — hundreds of us will be asking God to make Isaiah 58 come true in our community. Rather than a worship service, we are going to do service worship.
I don’t usually do this, I’m asking God for a sunny weekend, but regardless of the weather, we will worship. See you around town.