Friday we talked about prayer, and the way Jesus taught us to pray in scripture. Today I want us to talk about joy. What is joy?
Joy isn’t happiness. It isn’t what you feel when all is right with your world. When your spouse is great, your kids behave, you get to take vacations and buy a Mac and all your socks match up out of the dryer. Joy is a deep seed that grows in your soul when you know that Christ is your Savior. Sometimes it’s small and quiet and kind of in the background. Sometimes it wells up uncontrollably and bursts forth over all parts of your life. You can have joy when everything is going right. You can have joy when everything seems to go wrong.
That’s kind of what many of us are going through now. Feeling like everything is going wrong. We’re stuck at home with those kids that are no longer behaving and the Mac is on the fritz (that will actually never happen…Macs are awesome) and the cable is down because of all the e-learning so you can’t even binge-watch NCIS to take your mind off things. Oh and you’re running low on toilet paper and there’s nothing but empty shelves when you do get to go out to the store. And don’t forget that with beauty shops closed down you’re gonna have dark roots in that fake blond hair and you’ll look like you should be on the street…oh wait, that’s me with the dark roots and fake blond hair. Sorry.
How in the world can you be joyful in those circumstances? Well you might be unhappy but happiness is externally stimulated. Joy is internal. True joy comes from knowing that no matter what we go through here on earth Christ owns us and we will spend our eternity with Him. No pain. No sorrow. No tears, no stress. No worries about toilet paper and dark roots. How can you not be joyful at that?
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” This is our Creator’s will for us, that we be joyful in all things, that we always turn to Him, that we thank Him for our blessings. What is there to be thankful for stuck in the house with those mischievous kidlets, cranky spouse and no NCIS? Well those mischievous kidlets and said cranky spouse to name two. That you have a house to be stuck in.
My own pastor sent an email Friday and reminded us of the many times in Isreal’s history when their world turned surreal, like when Assyria carried them off into exile and the temple was destroyed. That had to feel like their world was ending. After all, to them, God’s home was the temple. But it didn’t stop them from worshipping Him wherever they were and continuing to look forward to the day they could be together again. They kept their joy even in their unhappy circumstances.
We’re kind of exiled right now, but we must and will continue to worship with joy in our hearts, knowing that not only will we be reunited in Cadiz Christian Church, Westminster Presbyterian, Fill-In-The-Blank Church…but we will be reunited with the ultimate joy of worshipping our God, our Christ in His home, our new home. Heaven.
James 1:2-4 says “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
So we’re supposed to actually be joyful for trials because they help our faith grow. That’s hard. Sometimes really hard. But that’s the thing isn’t it. We can’t grow without pain. The vine doesn’t produce good fruit without the old branches being clipped off.
In John 15:2 Jesus compares Himself to the vine and God to the vine master. He says, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit”. We’re the branches, so, ouch.
We’re going to hurt, and be scared, freaked out. We’re going to be rocked by tragedy at some point. So many things are world-changing for us. Mine changed the first time someone I loved passed away. When I was yanked away from Hawaii, the place I loved best. When I had that knife to my throat, when my beloved Dad died of cancer. But my world changes every single day. Embrace the changes. They make us who we’re becoming.
Sometimes they’re good changes. I don’t want this to be a morbid text. A daily Word of Discouragement wouldn’t be lovely. A new job, new friend, new home, new stock of toilet paper…(I can’t get away from that, can I.)
The point I am rambling toward is that every single thing, large and small, that we go through in this life changes us into the creatures God intends for us to be, with the ultimate goal of reaching our perfect creation in Heaven.
Matthew 28:20b “And behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Now there is the source of our joy! Amen and come Lord Jesus!