By Peter Amsterdam
May 6, 2014
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Today our topic is celebration, and it’s closely related to both gratitude and praise.
All throughout history, mankind has marked great advances, victories, and momentous occasions with celebration—some of which continue till today. There are many secular and cultural celebrations that we're all familiar with, such as birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, promotions, etc. Some Christian examples would be Easter and Christmas.
For we who are Christians, knowing God as our Creator, Savior, and Redeemer brings deep and lasting joy. Our gratitude and happiness should result in celebration! We have constant and eternal cause for celebration. In fact, we will celebrate eternally in heaven.
Besides the wonderful gift of salvation, there are many other reasons in life to celebrate. Even small things are worthy of celebration, because celebration boosts morale. It generates unity and brings encouragement. A celebration doesn't have to be elaborate or time-consuming and expensive. And besides the fun, there is great value in the act of celebrating, which is what I want to talk about.
Here are five points that highlight the benefits of celebrating.
Isaiah 63:7 says, “I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us—yes, the many good things he has done… according to his compassion and many kindnesses.”
It's spiritually healthy to think about things that are good. The Bible instructs us to keep our thoughts centered on the good. Here’s a classic verse on this.
Philippians 4:8 says: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
A celebration is a good way to acknowledge the Lord’s goodness. It reminds you and others of how much the Lord is doing.
We live fast-paced lives with numerous challenges, and as we go from one thing to the next, it can be easy to overlook or forget about the good things, the lovely things, the wonderful and notable things that are happening that can be celebrated. It's easy to get caught up in the many mundane affairs of this world, and to lose sight of the Lord's goodness. If you continue in that vein for long, pretty soon you can feel like you're in a rat race for survival!
There is so much that we each have on our to-do lists, we will likely never reach the end. Someone told me the other day, “As soon as I cross one thing off my list, three more take its place!” Isn't that the truth? The temptation is to run faster and try to fit more in. But that’s not the answer. That will get you through a few more items on your to-do list, but it might also land you in bed sick or overwhelmed or frazzled because you’ve pushed too hard, and you haven’t taken care of yourself.
As the classic quote says, “Life is a marathon, not a sprint.” Celebrations help you to make it through the marathon of life.
Celebrating good news, accomplishments, victories and miracles increases your faith for the future. It also serves as a testimony of the wonderful things that God is doing for you and for others. Not only does it glorify the Lord, but it encourages others. People (most people, anyway) are happy to see others doing well. And the Bible says that we should rejoice in the joys and good fortune of others.
When you’ve achieved a goal in your life, it's important to have someone to share that with. That can be as simple as telling a friend over the phone or via chat, or posting your good news on Facebook. Sharing the victory with others is important, and is part of the fulfillment. It makes the victory all the sweeter.
When you can, celebrate with others. With everyone’s busy schedules, that can be easier said than done.
Someone told me recently that when a friend of theirs took a big step in their life, that the two of them got on Skype that evening and had a little celebratory face time. They celebrated together, even though physically they were thousands of miles apart. It cost them no money, just a little time, and was a meaningful way to celebrate a significant development in someone's life.
Sometimes I hear about friends or acquaintances of mine who are making a lot of progress, crossing milestones in their lives. I know it's costing them a lot and that they've worked so hard to get there. I really hope that they're stopping to take a deep breath and to appreciate their success, and to acknowledge the great effort and sacrifice that they, or others, have given to make that come about.
Everyone needs recognition and appreciation for their efforts. It’s important. It’s worth stopping the frantic pace to honor a win in your life, or in the life of one of your loved ones. It’s worth carving out a little time to acknowledge and appreciate what someone has gained. Or what you have gained.
Celebration helps you to reflect, to stop and appreciate how far you've come. If you don't pause to appreciate and celebrate when you've come to the end of one project, or have had a particular win, before you know it, the next project will be rolling over you and the joy of the win or accomplishment will be buried beneath your new to-do list. That victory can almost be “lost,” or end up being a non-event.
When you work very hard for something, whether launching a new mission venture, studying, working on a big project, helping your kids to reach a goal, or whatever the case may be, you should stop and bask at least a little while in the knowledge that you completed the task. You made it. You did it! You reached the goal, and by celebrating you are more likely to fully realize that all that you expended in the form of time, energy, lost sleep, hard work, finances, etc., was really worth it. Your investment paid off. By acknowledging this, you're more likely to feel that the next time you're called to make similar sacrifices, that those, too, will be worthwhile and will pay off.
When you’re climbing a mountain and you’ve been at it for hours or even a couple of days, and you’re tired and achy, it can still look like you’ve got such a long ways to go till you reach the summit. At that point, it can help to look down the mountain and to see how far you’ve come. Measuring or tracking your progress provides a sense of satisfaction and conclusion. It also bolsters your confidence that you’ll make it to the next marker, and that eventually, you will reach your goal.
It’s pretty easy to remember what you did last week or last month, but as the months fly by, it can be pretty difficult to recall all the hurdles you had to jump to reach the finish line of your goal. But those very hurdles that you overcame are the wins that deserve celebrating, because in pushing on, you reach the finish line. Those milestones are worth remembering, and for some of us, at least, the way to remember something is … to write it down.
If you jot down those accomplishments, even just in one line, and keep them in a notebook, in a few months’ or a year’s time, you’ll probably be surprised to see just how much you’ve actually done. Like counting your blessings, counting your wins or steps of progress will serve as a boost to your faith.
It’s good to revel in a win, even if it’s a small win. And when you acknowledge that something you did, or that someone else did, went well and was successful, that boosts your self-confidence and self-esteem for the next thing that you’ll tackle. This is especially important when it comes to children’s accomplishments and progress, not to mention that kids love celebrations probably more than anyone does.
It’s powerful to have something to look forward to. If you know you’re going to celebrate, anticipating the joy or fun you’ll have when celebrating can give you the last bit of oomph that you need to get over the finish line.
Some people set rewards or perks for themselves ahead of time, things that they particularly enjoy and can look forward to as they slog through a grueling job or part of a project.
Maybe your team has a fundraising goal for your mission project, and you’re working hard to raise that money so that you can build another wing on your community center. It’s slow going, but you’re keeping at it. Perhaps you’d decide ahead of time that when you reach the 30% mark, you’ll celebrate with a special dinner and relaxing evening together. At the 60% mark, you’ll take your families and mission project colleagues to a theme park for the day, and at the 100% mark, you’ll celebrate together with a weekend vacation away from home. Celebration generates community, inspiration, and even creativity.
I have some friends who are natural celebrators, and in being around them, I’ve discovered that I’m not much of a natural celebrator. I’ve been thankful over the years that others have carried the celebratory torch, if you will, because oftentimes I wouldn’t have thought of celebrating a particular accomplishment, or been inclined to put time, thought, and prayer into planning toward it. But when someone makes a celebration happen, it’s really nice and I actually really like it! Whether it’s 15 minutes or a few hours, it’s healthy to stop and think about what has been achieved. And once I’m in the celebration, or after it, I realize that I needed that too.
God made human beings to celebrate. He instructed us to praise Him, to glorify Him for the wonderful things He has done, to “magnify His name with thanksgiving.” That's a command to celebrate!
Even God celebrates. When he created the world, it says, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. … So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”
That sounds to me like God stopped and looked at all that He had done, at His accomplishment. He had completed the project of creation, so to speak, and it was “very good.” Then He rested. If even God can take time to look over His handiwork and rest from His labors, surely we can make time for it too, don’t you think?
So, what type of things should we celebrate? It could be anything, really, but some examples would be…
You might ask, What about when things aren't going well? Even if you don't have anything monumental to celebrate, you can dig a little deeper to seek out that hidden “celebratory jewel,” even something that happens on a regular basis that you've never taken the time to specifically celebrate, such as:
I read an article the other day and this story stood out to me, told by Mike Robbins. The story goes like this:
I was in a cab in Houston a few years ago, heading back to the airport after speaking at an event for Chevron. The cab driver and I got into an interesting conversation about life, family, and the state of our culture in America. The driver told me he was from Ethiopia originally, but had been living in the United States for about twenty years.
I asked him, "What's your take on American culture, given that you didn't grow up here." He paused for a long time; then asked me, "Can I be honest with you?" I said, "Of course." He then said, "I think most people in this culture act like spoiled brats."
"Why do you say that?" I asked, a bit surprised by his response. "Mike," he said, "I'm from Ethiopia...every day here is a good day. I don't understand why people just don't walk around here with their hands in the air saying 'THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!"
Isn't that true? Especially for those of us who know the Lord, we should be walking around with our hands in the air, saying “thank you” to the Lord over and over again because we’re so blessed.
Here are seven practical tips on celebrating:
1. A celebration can be free or cheap; it doesn't have to be expensive.
It could be taking a relaxing hot bath; savoring a glass of your favorite juice while sitting outside; sharing a glass of wine with a friend; a celebratory phone call; watching an old movie at home with popcorn; or sharing your appreciation over a meal.
2. A celebration can be simple; it doesn't have to be fancy and time-consuming to plan.
Don't let the word “celebration” scare you off. It doesn't have to take a lot of time, work, hassle, or money. It doesn't have to be a big deal or an elaborate event. It can be as simple as an acknowledgment, such as making a toast at dinner in honor of a person or a collective goal reached.
3. Celebrate as close to the event as possible; don't let a lot of time pass.
4. Try to celebrate when you're not dead tired.
You'll enjoy the time more and be more present and focused, and you’ll be better company for the others involved.
5. Take photos of the event for visual milestone markers. You'll cherish those memories later.
6. Do something that you (or the person you are celebrating) enjoy.
A celebration should be fun, enjoyable, and relaxing. It shouldn't add stress to the person or the group of people being celebrated. It shouldn't make them feel nervous. That defeats the purpose.
7. When you have an especially big or lengthy goal that will take months or years to reach, plan mini-celebrations at various marker points.
As one author said: “Don't wait to celebrate until you have accomplished ALL that you've set out to do. Celebrate the increments; this affirms your goals and gives you energy to continue.”
The act of celebrating is a habit that you build. So if you're not good at it, don't worry, you can improve. I know I can improve, and I plan to improve … and I plan to have more celebration in my life!
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).
“That there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:25–26).
 Genesis 1:31a; 2:3.
 Tom Gunnels, Keep Your Lights On (Thomas More Publishing, 1998).