How can we maintain joy in today’s world? Where does true joy come from? How can we build God’s joy in our life?
Media Download Options [ Download Media: right-click on link ]
MP3 Audio -
A funny thing happened several years ago. Edith, a mother of eight, was coming home from a neighbor's house one afternoon and as she walked into the living room, she saw five of her youngest children huddled together, concentrating with intense interest on something. As she slipped near them, trying to discover the center of attraction, she couldn't believe her eyes. Right dab in the middle were five baby skunks. She screamed at the top of her voice, children run! Each child grabbed a skunk and ran.
Now life's like that sometimes. Somebody takes all of the fun out of what you are doing. You're going full steam ahead with the wind in your sails and suddenly you hit a sand bar. It's like confronting a room full of skunks. You just want to get out of the room. Maybe you're confused, angry, and discouraged, but all you know is suddenly all the joy is gone.
There are so many things that seek to rob us of joy. Circumstances can shake our faith. People will discourage us. And things can distract us from what God wants us to enjoy. He wants us to experience his abundant, overflowing joy. And that actually involves a choice on our part. I believe that one of the commodities that is missing in life today is joy. Turn on your television and even the sitcoms are centered around making fun of someone's misfortune or something crude. The leading stories in newspapers today are bad news. An examination of most newspapers will show that there really is little good news to report. Even consider the weather report. Often you hear tomorrow will be sunny with a 20% chance of rain instead of its going to be mostly clear with an 80% chance of sunshine.
And often there is confusion to what joy really is as well. Sometimes even people in God's church have a hard time expressing true joy, and of course, for us here today and on this special weekend we have to remember that joy is a fruit of God's holy spirit and God expects us to come to know his joy.
What is joy? Joy is something that we choose to express. It's not pie in the sky; it doesn't come and go like the wind. And where does this kind of joy come from? Well, as you know, it's a matter of attitude that comes from God's holy spirit dwelling in us and our confidence in God, the belief that he is at work, that he is in full control, that he is in the midst of whatever has happened, is happening, or will happen. And so in the sermon today, just one day before the Feast of Pentecost, we're going to take a look at the fruit of the Holy Spirit, joy. And I believe this will be helpful for us to focus on during the Sabbath day. I've titled this sermon: Maintaining God's Joy in Your Life.
What does the Bible say about joy? The foundation and source of this kind of a joy comes from God himself and Paul affirms the source of Christian joy in Philippians 3. Let's turn over to Philippians 3 and read just verse 1 for now. Philippians 3:1 where Paul says...
Philippians 3:1. "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord."
So here we're given a focus of what we're to rejoice and where that joy comes from. Rejoice in the Lord. But one thing that is ironic, our capacity for joy is often directly relational to the depth of sorrow we might experience and you'll see what I mean here. Turn with me to John 16:20. And here Jesus encourages his disciples with a certain promise because often our capacity for joy is related to the depth of sorrow we might experience. John 16:20, Christ said...
John 16:20. "Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice..."
Of course, Christ is talking about the fact that he was to be sacrificed in just a few short hours.
Verse 20. "...and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy."
And then verse 21.
Verse 21. "A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world."
And then verse 22.
Verse 22. "Therefore..." Christ said, "...you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.
So you see even through sorrow and hard times and pain there is a certain joy that can be given to us that no one can take away from us no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. There are times when we grieve. That's normal. Perhaps it's the loss of a loved one or a job relocation or a sickness. We will experience normal times of grief. In fact, often we can feel as though we're alone in our pain. This is a part of life, however, we are not meant to descend into the pit of despair forever. God's word promises us a much more certain future. A joy that cannot be taken away by any body. As we go through the Bible we see that God's word is a biography of men and women who faced insurmountable odds. Insurmountable odds to achieve victory and to maintain any kind of a joy in their lives. They experienced pain, but never let go of their contagious joy that they had.
There once lived a man who became a Christian as an adult and left the security of another career to follow Christ. Persecution became his constant companion. He was misunderstood by his friends and maligned by his enemies, nevertheless, he pressed on joyfully. This man was a brilliant scholar, an eloquent public speaker, a fearless lawyer and religious theologian. He once boasted of his attainments, but would later write, yes, truly I'm ready to give up all things for the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord which is more than all for whom I have undergone the loss of all things and to me they are less than nothing so that I may have Christ as my reward. Philippians 3:8. It's the apostle Paul.
If there was anyone who had a reason to give into despair and claim that he was a victim of his circumstances it was the apostle Paul and yet he said, rejoice in the Lord. We just read that a moment ago. From his prison or his prison house in Rome, Paul writes one of the most joy-filled letters that anyone could ever read. The book of Philippians was a prison epistle and one of the last letters Paul wrote before being beheaded, possibly by Nero. How then could Paul maintain such a joyful spirit? He's in prison and his life is on the rocks. The secret is found in verse 21. Philippians 3:21. Now I just read to you Philippians 3:8. Look at Philippians 3:20 to begin with. Paul was content because Christ was central in his life. It gives us focus in all of life.
Philippians 3:20. "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself."
That was what Paul was focused on. He said, rejoice in the Lord; he said all the suffering he goes through it counts as nothing for the opportunity to know the truth, and of course, verse 21 here, to look forward to the gift of eternal life. In spite of his circumstances, Paul is confident even though he's victim. Chains that were binding him could not shackle his joy. Read verses 12-14 and see if you hear someone who is wallowing in despair in prison. I think not. This is what Christ would do for us, just like he did for Paul and our limitations can become a challenge, rather than a chore. Philippians 3:12.
Verse 12. "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
Do you see what Paul was focused on here? Of course and eventually later on in the chapter it says, and that goal is eternal life. Paul writes of his circumstances as serving a greater purpose. He considers things most people would see as setbacks as progress. He was growing from it. And Paul remained hopeful regardless of the uncertainties of his situation, even though as I said, he was a victim. Paul was confident of his eventual deliverance. He was confident in the prayers of the Philippian brethren on his behalf. He was also encouraged because of the infilling of the Holy Spirit in his life, and in the broadest sense, Paul was confident regardless of the outcome of his circumstances, so he has every reason to expect victory and deliverance. His mind is firmly fixed on this hope. In other words, his present circumstances were not the end of the story. Everything would turn out exactly as God had promised and he had faith in that.
Well let's take a look at several aspects of this subject for you to take some notes on and I'll provide some easy little chapter breaks as we go along and the first point is a short one, something we know, but for you to note down. Chapter one. Joy is fruit of the Holy Spirit. And of course this helps set the groundwork for us as to exactly what we're talking about. Joy is fruit of the Holy Spirit. We're all very familiar with the listing in Galatians 5:22-23 where joy is shown to be a fruit of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of God. We read...
Galatians 5:22-23. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law."
There's nothing against living this kind of a life, no law against this. The Bible Knowledge Commentary states...
"Joy or chara is a deep and abiding inner rejoicing which was promised to those who abide in Christ and obey his commandments. It does not depend on circumstances because it rests in God's sovereign control of all things."
So even the Bible Knowledge Commentary states that joy does not depend on circumstances; it rests in God's sovereign control of all things. The Bible Knowledge Commentary references John 15. Let's turn over there for a minute regarding joy; they reference John 15:10-11. Here we see that there's a certain choice we can make when it comes to having joy in our lives.
John 15:10-11. "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. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full."
The reason we keep the commandments, one of the reasons, is so we have true joy in our life by living the right way, by living the way. And from this passage we see that joy is the by-product of obedience and Jesus himself is the source of our joy. He says that his joy may remain in you. It's safe to say that joy is one of the most illusive fruits at times for us. Part of the problem is that joy is often misunderstood. We 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 us; the other originates directly from the spirit of the living God.
Happiness is conditioned by and often dependent upon what is happening to me. Happiness depends on what is happening to you. If people treat me good, if things are going well in my life, then I'm happy. If my circumstances aren't favorable, I am unhappy. Joy, on the other hand, is shown throughout scripture as a profound quality of life that transcends the events and disasters, which may confound God's people. Joy is not dependent on circumstances like happiness is. Joy is a divine dimension. A dimension of living that is not shackled by circumstances as we'll see in point two here in a moment.
Now if we want to see this kind of fruit ripen in our lives, we desperately need the holy spirit to help us prune away whatever it is that hinders our joy and then empower us to make some choices that move us closer to a life style of rejoicing. And so our first point here, joy is fruit of the Holy Spirit. That's where it comes from. It's a divine thing. It's more than just happiness.
Chapter two or point two, which is circumstances don't have to destroy our joy. Circumstances don't have to destroy our joy. You might be unhappy, but circumstances don't dictate whether or not we have joy. Romans 8:28 is a good passage in this regard. Romans 8:28. And we know that all things work together for who?
Romans 8:28. "...all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
So you see the requirements there? If you want things to work out for the best for you, you have to love God, which of course includes keeping his commandments, and you have to be called according to his purpose. If you are called, converted, have the Holy Spirit, love God, are keeping his commandments, then, yes, things will work out for the best for you in the long run. These elements all work together for the best for people in this category. Now not necessarily for other people in other categories, those who are not yet called, but for those who are called and chosen and love and obey God, you can have faith and trust and confidence that in your life eventually things will work out for the best no matter what circumstances you might find yourself in.
Life is full of ups and downs. Part of it is just developing godly character in our lives. Life is full of all sorts of happenings. Maybe you get confused, you're angry, maybe discouraged, but all you know is that suddenly your joy is gone. And there are a host of situations that can rob us of joy, that can take that away from us. It may be the loss of a loved one; it may be the loss of a job. It could be the break up of a relationship. What about pressures at work? Relationship problems with colleagues or bosses. It could be a problem in our family; the behavior of your spouse. You expected that promotion and it went to someone else who has only been at the company for half the time you have. Maybe you expected to be used in the church in a certain way, but this hasn't happened. Your car was written off in an accident and now you don't have any wheels. All kinds of situations that can get you down. It could be concerns about the future.
Your children's education. A life partner. Will I ever get married? My exam results. What will they be like? Will I get a job when I finish school or college? And the list can be endless of course. Current circumstances. People that have hurt you, concern about the future, even concern about the past. And all of these can be joy stealers so-to-speak. These things can distract us from the life that God wants us to enjoy. We need to guard against some of these common types of joy busters; we need to cultivate some joy builders in our life. And we'll look at some of them in just a minute here. James 1:2-4 with an excellent scripture to look at in this regard for point two. James 1:2-4 as a reminder that circumstances don't have to rob us of our joy.
James 1:2-4. "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials..."
How can you do that? How could Paul do that when he was in prison shackled in chains? His life in doubt.
Verse 3-4. "Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."
So you see these trials, these things that we're up against actually perfect us, make us a better person, and so we count it joy when we get ratched up a notch in our character because of certain trials.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary once again adds...
"To persecuted Jewish believers scattered among pagan peoples James gave the surprising advice: Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds. Trials should be faced with an attitude of joy. Trials should not be seen as a punishment, a curse, or a calamity, but something that must prompt rejoicing, furthermore, they should produce pure joy. Literally all joy. Joy that is full or unmixed not just some joy coupled with much grief."
So it's supposed to be a full joy. Count it all joy, not just a little bit of joy with a whole bunch of sadness and grief. No, count it all joy, full joy. And so remember that circumstances don't have to destroy our joy. This leads us to number three which is joy involves a choice. It's how you approach life, what you have faith in, what you're expecting. To experience God's abundant, overflowing joy involves a choice. It's a habit of mind which finds it source in the spirit of God. Joy is a positive approach we choose to express. It's a matter of attitude that stems from our confidence in God. The belief that he is at work, that he is in full control, that he is in the midst of whatever has happened, is happening or will happen. He is the creator of the universe.
We must be on our guard and don't get robbed of joy because of any of life's happenings whether it be circumstances, people, the future, the past, the answer is to abide in God and to be obedient to his word and receive that joy from him, as we already read from John 15. I'll read it to you one more time. We read it a moment ago. John 15:10.
John 15:10-11. "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. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.
A so therefore we choose to keep God's commandments and abide in his love—it's a choice we make whether or not to obey him; and therefore, we have chosen a special joy that can only come from him. This is something only given to those that obey him, a special joy, the kind of joy that Jesus Christ had and it can be a full joy.
Fourthly, God's people are commanded to rejoice. Of course, the word rejoice coming from the word joy. God's people are commanded to rejoice, so it's not an option when you have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you. And a missing quality in the lives of many people today is joy. It seems so hard to maintain joy when all around us there is doom and gloom. When we open our newspapers, what do we read about? It's more than just a bad weather report. You know a sixth month old baby being raped, an armored truck robbery outside a bank, gang warfare in the inner city, teachers arrested on child abuse chargers. Drug abuse in schools on the increase. Prisoners escape from police cells. Iraqi prisoner abuse. Subways bombed and ceran nerve gas released. And on and on the list goes.
And as you look at the world around you, you can say that there's not a whole lot to have joy about. And you would think this would effect the joy of God's people as well, but Paul affirmed the source of a Christian's joy once again. Philippians 4:4. You see there is so much going on in the world around us that we don't have control over, that can get us upset, that can get us down, Philippians 4:4, Paul says...
Philippians 4:4."Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!"
Remember this is a prison epistle not too long before he was beheaded. Note that Paul says this very emphatically. It's a command like we mentioned a moment ago. Our rejoicing is in our Lord and in him lies our joy.
Verse 4. "...Rejoice in the Lord..."
You're all familiar with the Old Testament holy day verses, for example, that command us to rejoice. We're told that on the Feast days to rejoice, at the Feast of Tabernacles to rejoice. And so God's people are commanded to rejoice as Paul says right here rejoice, I say rejoice. Now once again from The Bible Knowledge Commentary they write...
"The word rejoice appears several times in the epistle..." This epistle of Philippians, to the Philippians. "Philippians 1:18, twice. Philippians 2:17-18, twice. Philippians 3:1, Philippians 4:4, twice and Philippians 4:10. It seems..." they write "...from this repeated emphasis that the Philippian Christians needed this word. Most of God's people need this challenge often. It is easy for believers to let circumstances discourage them. The cure for discourage is to rivet one's attention on God and rejoice in him. It is significant, too, that a Roman prisoner, Paul, would beseech people who were free to be joyful in their Saviour. It seems that it should be the other way around. Paul learned what every child of God needs to learn, there can be rejoicing in God even when outward circumstances are contrary to a spirit of rejoicing. And so don't forget to obey God in this commandment to rejoice."
Verse 4."Again I say rejoice."
How about chapter five, some joy busters. What are some of the things that can bust your joy? Before Paul wrote to the church at Galatia about the fruit of the spirit that I mentioned in chapter five, of course, Galatians 5 mentions the fruit of the spirit, but in chapter four he asks a very penetrating question. I'll read it to you from Galatians 4:15. This is from the New International Version. Paul said...
Galatians 4:15. "What has happened to all your joy?"
Here's the Bible in Basic English.
Galatians 4:15. "Where then is that happy condition of yours?"
Maybe we could ask the same question. What has happened to all my joy? William Barclay has said, here's where Barclay writes 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."
And so Christians should have a certain joy in their life even when things aren't going so well. So let's look at three common joy busters that often give us long faces.
A. Unsatisfied expectations.
Do you ever feel like you're just going through some joyless routines in life? Just living one day after the other. If the truth were known some of us are discontent with the ways our lives are progressing. Maybe our kids aren't living the way they should. Perhaps we don't have everything we want. A bigger house, a nicer car, a better job. A spirit of discontentment can rob us. Remember how Paul discovered the secret of being content with what God had given him? Philippians 4:12. Let me read it to you. This is from the New Revised Standard version. Paul says...
Philippians 4:12-13. "I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me."
It's interesting to note that in the New Revised Standard version Paul calls contentment a secret. Something that he found. There's a mystery about it. He also had to learn how to live with unsatisfied expectations. Things that didn't go as well as he had hoped and likewise we must learn to live with plenty or live with a little just like Paul did and yet be content in that. And contentment doesn't come when we have everything we want, but we want everything we have. There's a certain contentment, there's a secret to that and it's having a faith and confidence in God and the joy that comes from him no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.
How about a second joy buster, number B.
B. Unresolved conflict.
Our joy can evaporate when we allow conflict between ourselves and another person to go on. When someone's offense against us occupies our mental and emotional attention until we have little time left over for God. Anger clouds the eyes of our heart and obscures our view of God draining away our joy. Hebrews 12:14-15 challenges us. We'll turn over there. Hebrews 12 challenges us to not allow relational ruptures to fester because bitterness can set in. Hebrews 12:14.
Hebrews 12:14-15. "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble..."
So you see you can get a root of bitterness if you're not pursuing peace and holiness with all people, if you're itemizing other people's mess-up's, the fruit of joy will get squashed in your life. And Paul recognizes the link between joy and unity in Philippians 2:2. Let's read that one. Philippians 2:2.
Philippians 2:2. "Then make my joy complete..."
Another one of the references to the word joy.
Verse 2. "...make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose."
And so there is a certain joy that comes from having likeminded spirit and purpose with other people that you run into contact with, of course, especially at church. So you pursue peace with all people and you seek joy and unity in the fellowship.
A third joy buster, number C.
C. Unrepented Sin.
Because guilt can cut your joy real fast. Sin can send joy far away, and we have to ensure on a daily basis that we are right with God. David, King David, understood this very well when he attempted to ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit when he refused to repent. Take a look at Psalm 32. See how King David finally analyzed this situation, in fact this point for us of unrepented sin, Psalm 32:1-5.
Psalm 32:1-5. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered."
It's kind of the conclusion that he came up with. You're blessed if your sin is forgiven.
Verse 2. "Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit."
Once again you're blessed if God does not impute anything against you. Look at verse 3.
Verse 3. "When I kept silent, my bones grew old Through my groaning all the day long."
He was tormented within.
Verse 4. "For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me..."
Like a big weight. Like a brick on your chest.
Verse 4. "...My vitality was turned into the drought of summer."
It was like a drought in his life.
Verse 5. "I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," And You forgave the iniquity of my sin."
And then you look at how the Psalm ends in verse 11. After David is forgiven of his sin his joy returns. Verse 11.
Verse 11. "Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!"
So you see there's a certain joy in life when you are right with God, when you're no avoiding repenting of sin. And so you catch that there, he was not able to rejoice and experience the joy of God until he confessed his sins, until he was repentant.
And so to summarize these three main joy busters that I've listed here today. Do you have some unsatisfied expectations that have lead to a spirit of discontentment? If so, determine to do whatever it takes to learn the secret, as Paul said, of wanting everything you have an not necessarily having everything you want. Secondly, are you involved in a conflict with someone? If so, make plans to meet with that person face-to-face so that you can be reconciled. And thirdly, is God's hand heavy upon you right now because of some sin that you've not repented of? Don't keep silent any longer. It will only chew up your joy.
Lost joy can be restored. We can take encouragement from King David's bold prayer in Psalm 51:12. I'll read it to you. David's bold prayer...
Psalm 51:12. "Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit."
So once again we see that a generous outpouring of God's spirit restores joy in our life. It gives us hope of salvation, eternal life as both David saw, and of course, the Apostle Paul mentioned in Philippians. Well God honored King David's prayer, forgave him of his sin and joy returned to his life and God will also honor our prayer in that regard, too.
Chapter six, some joy builders. Point six, some joy builders. See God wants us to cultivate those things that will build lasting joy into our lives. The Bible gives us several ways to experience this joy from God. I've got five of them here that we'll go through in the next few minutes.
A. Recognize God as joyful. You see not only do we get joy from his Holy Spirit, God himself has joy. He's a joyful being. We can be helped greatly if we learn to see the almighty God not as a taskmaster, but as the God of the universe with a smile on his face. Really. Listen to Zephaniah 3:16-17.
Zephaniah 3:16-17. "In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: "Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak. The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing."
So this is the God we worship.
Verse 17. "...He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing."
God delights in us and breaks out into song when we live his way. He delights in that; he loves it. Listen to Isaiah 65:18 now. Once again a prophesy of Jerusalem.
Isaiah 65:18. "But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, And her people a joy."
See God creates people that have a joy.
Verse 19. "I will rejoice in Jerusalem, And joy in My people..."
And so we have to know God well enough to realize that joy is one of his character qualities. It's a part of him. He is not an aloof judge, just waiting for us to mess up, so that he can unleash his fury. He has created us to be his delight, like children are a delight in our families. He finds great joy in us. He rejoices in happy song when we are true children of his living his way of life in his family.
Secondly, reaffirm your commitment to others. Point B. Reaffirm your commitment to others. The first joy builder has to do with how we view God and how he views us. It's a relationship between us and God, but there's also a relationship that we have to have with each other as well. Romans 12:15 challenges us to...
Romans 12:15. "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep."
You see there's a certain camaraderie and fellowship and brotherhood that we have with those who believe like we do. We're not able to do this unless we're connected with others. If you're living a solitary life, you cannot rejoice with others who rejoice. If we're not in fellowship with fellow members our joy will leak out and not be full. When contemplating whether or not it would be better to die, the apostle Paul, and wait for the resurrection, the apostle Paul concludes that it would benefit the church more if he hung around for a little while longer. So let's look at Philippians 1 for a moment. Once again we're back in Philippians where we've already read so much about the spirit of joy. Paul was contemplating whether or not he'd rather just die and have this whole ordeal be overwith because he knew that God's kingdom was on the other side.
Philippians 1:21. "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better."
Of course, it's a whole lot better to be in God's kingdom then to be in chains in a prison.
Verse 25."Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again."
You see we need each other. Paul recognized that the brethren needed him at that time. If we're not attending church on a regular basis or coming and not interacting with others, we could be jeopardizing the joy in 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 to ramp up their joy, and so we rejoice with those who rejoice, those who know what true rejoicing is. Those who are called and chosen, called according to God's purpose.
Number C. Re-ignite your passion for the gospel of the kingdom. One of the best ways to build joy into your life is to focus on something else, something other than your own circumstances and to focus on the need for preaching the gospel. We're here today as first fruits, as pictured by the feast of Pentecost of course, not just to save our own skin, but to do a job. We have a work to do. We're here for a reason. We're here to preach the gospel in these last days. Luke 15 records for us how much rejoicing takes place when the lost are found.
Luke 15:7. "I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance."
So there's joy in heaven over a sinner who repents. Jesus reminds us in John 4 that we can be filled with joy when we participate in the process of preaching the good news of his kingdom in John 4:34.
John 4:34. "Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work."
Christ came to finish the work of God.
Verse 35. "Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!"
And then verse 36.
Verse 36. "And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together."
There's a certain rejoicing and joy in being a part of that work, the work of the father, helping gather fruit for eternal life in other people. There's a certain joy in seeing other people come along to understand. Even in this time and age when God is not calling everybody just yet.
And then D. Release your problems to God. 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 disappoint, but Christian joy is the proper response for the presence of something desirable. God himself and his spirit living in us.
Remember in Acts 16, I won't turn there right now, but the authorities beat Paul and Cilas. Beat them. And after they were severely flogged they were thrown into prison. In order to make sure they didn't escape, they were put in an inner cell, they had their feet fastened in stocks. If that were me, I'd be pretty unhappy and it may not seem like I'd have a whole lot of joy. In prison, beaten, flogged, locked up.
Verse 25 in Acts 16 says that Paul and Cilas prayed and sang hymns to God from the prison cell, so that even the guards could hear them outside. The only way to have an attitude like this is to release our problems to God, to place our heavy yoke upon Jesus Christ as he tells us to 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. "...I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation."
Because he remember that he could lay the heavy burden, that heavy yoke upon Jesus Christ, help him bear that burden. This takes a conscious decision. We're commanded to work at it. Where we can't manufacture joy we can give our problems to our father, leaning on him and drawing upon the power of the Holy Spirit and understanding that there's more to the story. The story has a good ending.
And then, finally, point E, on building joy, remain close to God. Of course, this is pivotal. Remaining close to God. And as we established earlier the only way to experience this fruit of the spirit is to be obedient to Christ and submit to the holy spirit on a regular basis. You have to keep the commandments and then you receive the joy of the spirit. If we want to kind of joy that is complete, lacking nothing, then we must remain close to our father in heaven, and of course, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
Apart from that we can bear no fruit. And Jesus said it clearly a few verses earlier from what we read in John 15:4. I'm going to turn to this one. John 15:4. This is a few verses earlier from what we read earlier on in the split sermon. You see we have to remain close to God to experience that joy and to build joy in our life.
John 15:4. "Abide in Me, and I in you."
See Christ, God, the holy spirit, has to be living in us.
Verse 4. "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me."
And so we have to remain close to God if we're going to partake of the kind of joy that comes from our father in heaven. And the practical application of joy is made real through choosing to live in God's joy. There are so many things that seek to rob us of joy. Circumstances shake our faith. People will discourage us and things will distract us from what God truly wants us to enjoy.
Overflowing joy involves a choice. And have you made your choice? The movie industry lost some credibility a while ago when it was discovered that Sony Pictures Entertainment in the United Kingdom created a fictitious film critic named David Manning. He would say some nice things in ads about two of Sony's new movies. This pretend person called one movie, "Another winner." And referred to the male lead in the second film as, "This year's hottest new star." It was all made up, it was a fake report.
Now people made fun of Sony for doing this, while others were very angry that they'd stoop so low, but people can see fake fruit. Are we a fraud? Or are we a fruit bearer? The only way to have real joy is to nurture our relationship with God and keep in step with the Holy Spirit on a daily basis. Guard yourself against those joy busters that crash into your life. Be vigilant, be accountable. Even identify one joy builder that we've mentioned today that you might need to work on. Pick one and work on it. Read through the book of Philippians. We just touched on a few verses in there today. The word joy or rejoice is used nineteen different times in this short book. And as you read it, ask God to increase his joy in your life. And in closing, let's allow Romans 14:17 to penetrate our lives. I'll read it to you in closing.
Romans 14:17. "For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."