hapter Twenty-Two - JOY
We’re in our BELIEVE SERIES. We did 10 sermons on WHAT DO WE BELIEVE. We did 10 sermons on WHAT DO WE PRACTICE. And… beginning last week we started the last part of this series WHO ARE WE BECOMING.
Today, we are talking about having the virtue of JOY in our lives. (If you will notice – we are dealing with the Fruit of the Spirit) in this section of sermons.
Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV) 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control…
Despite my circumstances, I feel inner contentment and understand my purpose in life.
John 15:11 (ESV) 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
We are talking about joy today. The problem lies in that most people tend to equate “happiness” with “joy” but they are two totally different ideas because they each spring from a different source.
One comes from the world around me. The other originates directly from the Spirit of the Living God.
Happiness is conditioned by and often dependent upon what is “happening” to me. If people treat me good, if things are going well in my life, then I’m happy.
If my circumstances aren’t favorable, then I’m unhappy.
Joy, on the other hand, throbs throughout Scripture as a profound, compelling quality of life that transcends the events and disasters God’s people deal with.
Joy is a divine dimension of living that is not shackled by circumstances. The Hebrew word means, “to leap or spin around with pleasure.” In the New Testament the word refers to “gladness, bliss and celebration.”
To have the fruit of joy ripen in our lives is to recognize the journey involved in getting there. It takes time, diligence, patience, and hard work to make a grapevine produce grapes.
Fruit is not instantaneous because it has to overcome weather, bugs, weeds, poor soil and neglect.
Likewise, in our journey to joy we’re faced with the waves of apathy, the currents of pessimism, the deluge of doubt and the waterfalls of despair. There is no way we can manufacture this fruit on our own.
If we want to see this fruit ripen in our lives, we desperately need the Holy Spirit to prune away whatever it is that hinders our joy and then empower us to make some choices that move us closer to a lifestyle of rejoicing.
We need to guard against three common Joy Busters and we need to cultivate some Joy Builders into our lives.
Before Paul wrote to the church at Galatia about the Fruit of the Spirit in chapter 5, he asked a very penetrating question in Galatians 4:15: “What has happened to all your joy…”
Galatians 4:15 (NIV) 15 What has happened to all your joy? ….
That question needs to be asked in the church today. What has happened to all my joy? What has happened to all your joy?
William Barclay has said that “a gloomy Christian is a contradiction in terms, and nothing in all religious history has done Christianity more harm than its connection with black clothes and long faces.”
Let’s look at three common joy stealers that often give us long faces.
1. Unsatisfied Expectations
Do you ever feel like you’re just going through some joyless routines in life? If the truth were known some of us are discontent with the way our lives are progressing.
It could be that your expectations for your marriage have not been met. Or, maybe your kids aren’t living like they should.
Perhaps you don’t have everything you want – a bigger house, a nicer car, and a better job.
I’m convinced that a spirit of discontentment can rob many of us of joy.
Listen to how Paul discovered the secret of being content with what God had given him inPhilippians 4:12:
Philippians 4:12 (ESV) 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
I find it interesting to note that Paul calls contentment a “secret.” There’s a mystery about it.
He also had to “learn” how to live with unsatisfied expectations. Likewise, we must learn to live with plenty or with little. Contentment doesn’t come when we have everything we want but when we want everything we have.
Do you have some unsatisfied expectations that have led to a spirit of discontentment?
If so, determine to do whatever it takes to learn the secret of wanting everything you have and not necessarily having everything you want.
When you do, you’ll begin to experience joy in even the small things of life. Confess your discontentment to Him right now.
2. Unresolved Conflict
Our joy evaporates when we allow conflict between ourselves and another person to go on.
When someone’s offense against us occupies our mental and emotional attention, we have little left over for the Lord.
Anger clouds the eyes of our heart and obscures our view of God, draining away our joy.
Hebrews 12:14-15 challenges us to not allow relational ruptures to fester because bitterness can set in:
Hebrews 12:14-15 (NIV) 14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
We addressed this last week when we established that love keeps no record of wrongs.
If you’re still itemizing people’s mess-ups, the fruit of joy will be squashed in your life.
Paul recognizes the link between joy and unity in Philippians 2:2:
Philippians 2:2 (NIV) 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.
Are you involved in some conflict with someone? If so, confess it to God and make plans to meet with that person face-to-face so that you can be reconciled and get back on your journey to joy.
3. Unconfessed Sin
This third joy buster is perhaps responsible for chasing more joy out of lives than any other. Guilt can gut your joy faster than anything I know. Sin can send joy far away.
David understood this very well when he attempted to ignore the promptings of the Spirit.
Take a look at Psalm 32:1-5:
Psalm 32:1-5 (NIV) 1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. 3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"-- and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah
I love how this Psalm ends. After David owns his sin, his joy returns.
Notice verse 11:
Psalm 32:11 (ESV) 11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
Did you catch that? He was not able to rejoice and experience the joy of the Lord until he confessed his sins!
That’s very similar to what David wrote in Psalm 51:7-8:
Psalm 52:7-8 (ESV) 7 “See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and sought refuge in his own destruction!” 8 But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.
Is God’s hand heavy upon you right now because of some sin that you’ve not confessed and repented of? Don’t keep silent any longer – it will only chew up your joy. Acknowledge your transgression and taste the joy that was once yours. Then you’ll be truly glad and rejoice in the Lord again.
Now… I have some great news this morning. Lost joy can be restored.
David had messed up royally. His joy was long gone.
And yet, he boldly prays in Psalm 51:12…
Psalm 51:12 (ESV) 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Billy Sunday once said, “The trouble with many men is that they have got just enough religion to make them miserable. If there is not joy in religion, you’ve got a leak in your religion.”
God not only wants to restore our lost joy, He also wants us to cultivate those things that will build lasting joy into our lives so that we don’t have any leaks in our religion. The Bible gives us at least six ways to experience this joy.
Six Ways To Experience Joy
1. Recognize God As Joyful.
We can be helped greatly in our journey towards joy if we learn to see the Almighty not as a taskmaster, but as the God of the Universe with a smile on His face.
Your view of God is so important here. Look at how God feels about you in Zephaniah 3:17…
Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV) 17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
God delights in you and breaks out into song when He thinks about you! That’s hard to believe, isn’t it? I love how the Living Bible paraphrases this verse: “Is that a joyous choir I hear? No, it is the Lord himself exulting over you in happy song.”
Psalm 104:31 (ESV) 31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works,
Isaiah 65:18-19 (ESV) 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.
If you have little or no joy in our lives, it could very well be because you don’t know God well enough because joy is one of His character qualities.
When we recognize God as joyful we will be even more drawn to Him. He is not an aloof judge just waiting for us to mess up so He can unleash His fury. He has created us to be His delight. He finds great joy in you! He exults over you in happy song.
As we view God this way, we will discover that He takes great pleasure in us. He is the Good Gardener who toils over us with constant care. He waits patiently for His fruit to ripen and with great joy He longs to gather in the harvest.
Since there is enthusiasm in everything He undertakes and sweet satisfaction in all He does, His joy can be transmitted directly to us by His Holy Spirit who lives within us.
That’s exactly what Nehemiah discovered in Nehemiah 8:10:
Nehemiah 8:10 (ESV) 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
2. Rehearse God’s Attributes In Worship
God delights in us and finds great joy in His creation. Then… when we celebrate His attributes in worship we allow our joy to flow back to Him.
The Westminster Confession states it well: our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We’ve been designed to respond in worship through both reverence and rejoicing.
Psalm 66:1-4 (ESV) 1 Shout for joy to God, all the earth; 2 sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! 3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you. 4 All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.” Selah
Our collective worship of God on Sundays should be the culmination of our individual and private worship during the week.
We make room in our lives for God’s joy through the traditional disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, Scripture memory, meditation, fasting and singing.
Then, whatever service you come to on Sunday, it’s our prayer that you come ready to revere God and ready to rejoice. It is then that the fruit of joy will begin to blossom in our lives.
When David focused on God’s character in Psalm 28, he couldn’t help but break out into joy. Listen to verse 7:
Psalm 28:7 (ESV) 7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.
3. Reaffirm Your Commitment To Others
The first two joy builders are vertical and have to do with how we view God and how He views us.
If we’re serious about drinking deeply out of the rivers of joy, we must also make sure that we are doing OK on the horizontal dimension by living in biblical community with others. We can’t do it alone.
Romans 12:15 (ESV) 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
We’re not able to do this unless we’re connected to others. If you’re not in fellowship with believers, your joy will leak out.
When contemplating whether or not it would be better to die and spend eternity with His Lord, the Apostle Paul concludes that it would benefit the church greatly if he hung around for a while. Look at Philippians 1:25-26:
Philippians 1:25-26 (ESV) 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
Here’s the point. As I connect with you and you connect with me, our joy will overflow. We need each other.
If we’re not attending church on a regular basis, or coming and not interacting with others, we could be jeopardizing the joy of other people.
When we live in loving relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we’ll be more joyful and we’ll be helping others jack up their joy.
4. Reignite Your Passion For Evangelism
One of the best ways to build joy into your life is by talking to others about Jesus.
Luke 15 records for us how much rejoicing takes place when the lost are found.
Luke 15:3-7 (ESV) 3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Jesus reminds us in John 4:36 that we can be filled with glad joy when we participate in the process of evangelism:
John 4:36 (ESV) 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.
Not only do we appreciate God’s gift of grace in our lives when we tell others about Jesus, we also get to see the inexpressible joy of those who experience the new birth.
When people give their hearts to Christ – there is a noticeable joy in their facial expressions.
5. Release Your Problems To The Lord
One of the hallmarks of Christian joy is that it can be experienced in the midst of intense sorrow and loss.
Often we define happiness as the absence of something undesirable, such as pain, suffering, or disappointment.
But Christian joy is the proper response to the presence of something desirable: God Himself.
In Acts 16, the authorities beat Paul and Silas. After they were severely flogged, they were thrown into prison.
In order to make sure they didn’t escape, they were put in the inner cell and had their feet fastened in stocks.
Sounds dreary… dreadful.
Verse 25 says that Paul and Silas “were praying and singing hymns to God…”
This word for praying is not the word used for making requests but rather the word used for praise, or worship. Instead of asking God to get them out, they turned this tough situation into an opportunity for rejoicing.
This reminds me of what Matthew Henry, a Bible scholar from the 1700’s wrote in his diary after some thieves robbed him and took his wallet: “Let me be thankful first, because I was never robbed before; second, because, although they took my wallet, they did not take my life; third, because, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because, it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”
The only way to have an attitude like this is to release our problems to the Lord. Because He’s in charge we can have joy – no matter what happens.
Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 7:4:
2 Corinthians 7:4 (ESV) 4 …In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.
James 1:2 (ESV) 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
This takes a conscious decision. We’re commanded to work at it. While we can’t manufacture joy we can give our problems to the Lord by leaning on Him with everything we’ve got.
6. Remain Close To Jesus
To discover joy we must abandon the search for it and go looking instead for the one who is Himself joy. Joy is the flag that flies over the castle of our hearts announcing that Jesus is in residence today.
John 15:10-11 (ESV) 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
If we want the kind of joy that is complete, lacking nothing, then we must remain close to Jesus. Apart from Him we can bear no fruit.
John 15:4 (ESV) 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.