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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 children huddled together, concentrating on something. She slipped behind them to discover the center of attraction, and she couldn’t believe her eyes. Smack in the middle were five baby skunks. Edith screamed, “children run!” So each kid grabbed a skunk and ran.
Life’s like that sometimes. We all like being happy. You’re enjoying life, then something or somebody takes all of the fun out of what you’re doing. It’s like having a room full of skunks. You just want to escape. You think life is good, then the skunks appear, stink up your world, and suddenly your JOY is gone!
John Newton wrote “Joy is a fruit that will not grow in nature's barren soil; All we can boast till Christ we know, is vanity and toil. But where the Lord has planted grace, and made His glories known; There fruits of heavenly joy and peace are found, and there alone.”
Many things in life can rob you of joy. Circumstances or event, People, Bad things. God wants you to experience abundant, overflowing joy. Joy is a choice. One of the missing commodities in life today is joy. TV is centered around crudeness or making fun of somebody’s misfortune. The leading news stories are all bad. The media reports very little good. Even the weather is negative! Tomorrow will be sunny with a 20% chance of rain! Why don’t they just say it will be mostly clear with an 80% chance of sunshine?
There is confusion about what joy really is. Joy is fruit from God’s Holy Spirit in your life. Joy is fruit you choose to harvest. It’s an attitude that results from God’s Holy Spirit dwelling in you.
The foundation and source of joy is God himself. Philippians 3:1 “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.” Do you want to hear something ironic? Your capacity for joy is often related to the depth of sorrow and grief you have experienced. In John 16:22-24, Christ said “So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. At that time you won’t need to ask Me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and He will grant your request because you use my name. You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.” So let me ask you,
Even through sorrow, grief, hard times and pain, you can have joy that no one can steal, no matter what your circumstances. Grief is hard. Grief from the loss of a loved one or a job, a disease or sickness. When life happens, don’t descend into the pit of despair. God’s word promises you a fruitful future. A joy that can’t be taken away by anybody. The Bible is full of men and women who faced insurmountable odds with joy. They experienced pain, grief, and loss, even of their very lives, but they never let go of their contagious joy.
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 writer and religious theologian. His name was Paul. If anyone ever had a reason to give into despair and claim “victimhood” it was Paul. From prison in Rome, Paul wrote one of the most joy-filled letters in the world. Philippians was a prison epistle written by Paul shortly before he was beheaded. The word joy or rejoice is used nineteen times in the epistle. How could Paul maintain such a joyful spirit? He’s in prison and his life is on the rocks. The secret is in Philippians 3:20-21. “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’s what Paul focused on. Living like Jesus. All your suffering is nothing compared to knowing Jesus and eternal life. Chains that were binding Paul could not shackle his joy. Philippians 3:12-14 “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 hear someone wallowing in despair in prison? Not hardly! Paul saw setbacks as blessings. He remained hopeful regardless of the uncertainties of life. Paul was confident of his eternity. He was encouraged because of the power of the Holy Spirit in his life. He had every reason to expect victory and deliverance. So can YOU! Paul’s mind was firmly fixed on Jesus. Paul’s circumstances were not the end of the story. Everything would turn out exactly as God had promised and planned. Paul knew joy! Fix your mind and HEART on Jesus and you can know JOY!
“Joy or ‘chara’ is a deep and abiding inner rejoicing promised to those who abide in Christ and obey his commandments. Joy does not depend on circumstances; it rests in God’s sovereign control of life. John 15:10-11 says “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.”
When composer Joseph Haydn was asked why his church music was always so cheerful, the great composer said appropriately, "I cannot make it otherwise; I write according to the thoughts I feel. When I think about God my heart is so full of joy the notes dance and leap, as it were, from my pen; and since God has given me a cheerful heart, it will be pardoned me that I serve Him with a cheerful spirit."
Joy is a by-product of obedience, living the Jesus Way. But joy is often misunderstood. People equate happiness with joy, but they are totally different. Happiness comes from the world around us; Joy comes from the Spirit of God. Happiness is conditional based on circumstances. If life is good, you’re happy. If your circumstances aren’t favorable, you’re unhappy. Joy, on the other hand, is a profound quality of life that transcends the events, disasters, and circumstances of life. Joy has a divine dimension. It’s not shackled by circumstances. Joy is fruit of the Spirit. To let the fruit of joy ripen in your life you desperately need the Holy Spirit to prune your life of sin and empower you to make joyful lifestyle choices. It’s a GOD thing.
You can be happy or unhappy based on your circumstances, but circumstances don’t dictate whether or not you have joy. Romans 8:28 “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Circumstances can’t destroy your joy. Do you see it?
If you are called, converted, loving God, walking in the Spirit, and obeying His Word, life will work out for God’s best for you. He promises you that!
Look, life is full of ups and downs. Maturity in Christ is just developing godly character. Maybe you get confused, you’re angry, maybe discouraged, but all you know is that suddenly your joy is gone. There are many ways Satan can rob you of joy. It may be a loss - a loved one, a job, or a relationship. Pressures at work? Problems with colleagues or bosses? A problem in your family. Maybe you totaled your car and now you don’t have any wheels. Lots of situations can get you down. Concerns about the future, like a marriage partner, or your children’s education. Will I get a job when I finish college? Satan uses the cares of life to rob you of Joy.
James 1:2 says “When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” How can you do that? Well, how could Paul do it from prison shackled in chains? “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.”
The trials of life actually grow you, they make you a better person, so count it joy when you get wrenched up because of problems. Bible Knowledge Commentary says “To persecuted Jewish believers scattered among pagan peoples James gave this 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.”
Our joy is intended to be a full joy. Count it all joy. Joy is a choice. We choose to harvest the fruit of God’s Spirit within us called JOY! That’s DEEP!
Think of your life as a tree. The Holy Spirit is believer’s life’s blood. To produce fruit, the tree must allow the spirit to take nourishment from the soil. It must allow the spirit to suck water from the earth. It must allow the buds to form, the blooms to be pollenated and blossom, the fruit to ripen. The Holy spirit brings His fruit when He enters your life, but you have to allow it to form, bloom, blossom, and ripen in your life. It’s choosing to allow the Spirit to control your life, your thoughts, your attitudes, your words, and your actions. It’s how you approach life, what you have faith in, what you expect. Joy is an attitude. The belief that God is at work, that he is in control, that he is sovereign no matter what has happened, is happening or will happen. He is the JOY giver. The Key is to abide in Christ and obey his word. We choose to keep God’s commandments and abide in his love. We can choose to obey him; we have chosen a full and fruitful joy in the Holy Spirit.
Rejoice and joy come from the same root word in Greek. God’s people are commanded to rejoice, so it’s not an option when you have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you. Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Our rejoicing is in our Lord and in him lies our joy. Rejoice in the Lord.” One commentator wrote “The word form of rejoice appears (19) times in Philippians. It seems 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 discouragement is to rivet one’s attention on God and rejoice in him. It is significant, that a Roman prisoner, Paul, would beseech people who were free to be joyful in their Savior. It seems that it should be the other way around. Paul learned what every child of God needs to learn, there can be JOY in God even when outward circumstances are contrary to a spirit of rejoicing.”
What are some of the things that can bust your joy? In Galatians 4:15 Paul asks a very penetrating question. “Where is that joyful and grateful spirit?” Maybe I should ask you the same question. What has happened to all your joy? William Barclay said, “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.” Christians should have joy in their lives even when life isn’t going well. The first JOY BUSTER is
Unrealized expectations steal our joy. Do you ever feel like you’re just going through some joyless routines in life? You expect certain things to happen but they never do. Some folks are just unhappy with life. Maybe your kids aren’t living the way they should. Perhaps you don’t have everything you want. A spirit of discontentment can rob you of joy. Paul discovered the secret of being content with what God had given him. Philippians 4:11-12 “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
Paul calls contentment a secret. A secret that he found. There’s a mystery about it. He learned how to live joyfully with unrealized expectations. Life didn’t go like he hoped. Like many of you, we’ve lived with plenty and with little. Same as Paul. The SECRET is to be content. The discipline of contentment doesn’t come when we have everything we want. It comes when we’re content with what we have. The secret is having faith and confidence in God and the joy that comes from knowing he controls all our circumstances.
In 1973, a horse named Secretariat won the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing and did it with STYLE. At the Belmont Stakes, he won by 31 lengths. For one-and-one-half miles, the famous thoroughbred ran faster every length and every furlong. Secretariat was accelerating at such an incredible pace that his trainer and physician said if the race had been one lap longer Secretariat’s heart would have literally exploded. Like Secretariat, our greatest joy is found in straining ahead, not just to finish, but to finish well.
Your joy can evaporate when you allow conflict to go on unresolved. Allowing offenses to occupy your mind and emotions leaves little time for God. Anger clouds your heart, obscures your view of God, and drains your joy. Hebrews 12:14-15 challenges us to “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.” A root of bitterness grows if you’re not pursuing peace and holiness. If you’re itemizing other people’s mess-up’s the fruit of joy will get squashed in you like a rotten mango. Paul recognized the link between joy and unity in Philippians 2:2 “make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” You experience joy when you pursue peace with all people, holiness within your own life, and joy and unity in the fellowship.
Guilt can destroy your joy. Sin will send your joy packing, so get right with God daily. King David tried to ignore the Holy Spirit and refused to repent. Finally recognizing his folly, he wrote Psalms 32:1-5 “Oh, what JOY for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt.” After David is forgiven of his sin his joy returns. Psalm 32:11 says “So rejoice in the Lord and b, all you who obey him! Shout for joy all you whose hearts are pure!”
There’s joy in life when you are right with God, when you’re regularly repenting of sin. David wasn’t able to rejoice and experience the joy of God until he confessed his sins, and repented. Neither will you!
NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS! Lost joy can be restored. We can take encouragement from King David’s bold prayer in Psalms 51:12 “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.” A generous harvest of God’s spirit restores the fruit of joy in your life. It gives you hope like that of David and Paul. Here are some JOY BUILDERS you can enjoy in your relationship with Jesus.
God wants you to cultivate these things that will build lasting joy into your life. The Bible gives us several ways to experience joy from God.
A Sea voyager once asked an old Sea Captain "Is it always foggy here on the banks of Newfoundland?" He said "How should I know, madam? I don't live here." God lives in JOY!
God IS a joyful God. Because God is joyful, we can be joyful. When God thinks about you, He does it with a smile on his face. Really. 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.” That is the God we worship. He delights in us and breaks into song when we live his way. He delights in that; he loves it. Listen to Isaiah 65:18-19. “But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, And her people a joy.” Joy is one of God’s character traits. He is not vindictive, waiting for you to mess up, so he can unleash his fury. He has created you to be his delight like children are a delight to their parents. He finds great joy in you and sings when he thinks about you. WOW!
George Bernard Shaw wrote “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one: the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap, and being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”
Romans 12:15 challenges us to “Be happy with those who are happy and weep with those who weep.” The same word is used in vs. 12 for “rejoice.” We have a fellowship that connects with those who believe like we do. If you’re living a solitary life, you can’t rejoice with those who rejoice. If you’re not in fellowship with believers your joy will leak out. We need each other. If you’re not attending church regularly, you are jeopardizing your joy. Loving your brothers and sisters will increase your joy help you to ramp up their joy.
The best way to love your life is to focus it on others and be Jesus in their lives. We’re here today not just to save our own skin, but to do a job. We have work to do. We’re here for a reason. We’re here to share the gospel in these last days. 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.” There’s joy in heaven over every sinner who repents. Sharing the good news increases you joy. John 4:34-36 “Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 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 he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.” Share the Gospel. Help gather fruit for eternal life. Assist other people in being redeemed by Jesus.
One of the hallmarks of joy is seen during intense sorrow and loss. We define happiness as the absence of something undesirable, such as pain, suffering or disappointment. Joy is the result of something desirable. That something is a relationship with Jesus Christ and his Spirit living in us.
In Acts 16, the authorities beat Paul and Silas. Beat them. After being severely flogged they were thrown into prison, with their feet fastened in stocks. If that were me, I’d be pretty unhappy and I doubt I’d have a whole lot of joy. Prison, Beaten, Chained, doesn’t equal JOY for me! Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns from their prison cell, and the guards could hear them. The only way to have an attitude like that is to release your problems to God, and place your heavy yoke on Jesus. You can have joy no matter what happens. In 2 Corinthians 7:4 Paul said “…I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.”
That takes a conscious decision. You can’t manufacture joy, so give your problems to Jesus, lean on him and draw on the power of His Holy Spirit.
Principal Rainy used a fine metaphor for joy. He said “Joy is the flag which is flown from the castle of your heart when the King is in residence there.” Here’s the B.L.U.F. Remain close to God. The only way to experience the fruit of the spirit is to be obedient to Christ. Obedience to Christ HARVESTS the joy of the spirit. If you want joy that is complete, lacking nothing, CHASE HARD AFTER Jesus. Apart from that, you can bear no fruit. “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” John 15:4. The fruit of joy comes from choosing to live for God. Joy is a choice. Have you made your choice?
The only way to have real joy is to love God and live for Jesus every day. Guard against those joy busters that crush your life. Identify the joy builders that bless your life and others, and harvest them. Be a Joy Builder for Jesus!