Summary: This sermon is intended to question why there often seems to be a shortage of joy in the lives of God’s people, and to call God’s people to "rejoice" and give thanks!
I. When my father, Rev. Charles Wesley Bradford died, my mother gave me all my father’s old sermon notes and some manuscripts. Among these files were, I believe, also some things that either belonged to my grandfather Rev. Ernest Bradford or to my mother’s father Dr. Rev. Dewey Whitwell. AMong these notes one illustarition began "A college chaplin was crossing the campus of his college, when he was joined by a young woman, who was a member of the college faculty. As they walked together their conversation turned to the appraisal of the college which they served.
They agreed it was a wonderful place: the location; the equipment; the high standards; the select student body; the fine faculty - all these were mentioned. Just before they parted the young woman said, "Yes we have everything to be thankful for, everything but joy."
Whoever authored that original sermon, goes on to state "A commentator traveled widely throughout America and returned with the observation, "America is lacking in joy". This sermon, judging by the manuscript was written in the late 50’s or early 60’s comments seriously about the "lack of joy" in America. And yet some 40 years later, perhaps we might find the same "national shortage". "My own observations is not that there is an absence of joy in American life, but a serious shortage". With Thanksgiving approaching in about two weeks, perhaps we should examine our own "joyful" response to life, and to God! For even in difficult times we have much to be thankful for in this world of ours.
Putting this in our day, at a more recent conference, (1) "...at a Presbyterian church in Omaha. People were given helium filled balloons and told to release them at some point in the service when they felt like expressing the joy in their hearts. Since they were Presbyterians, they weren’t free to say "Hallelujah, Praise the Lord." All through the service balloons ascended, but when it was over 1/3 of the balloons were unreleased..." What a sad day, when 1/3 of the people at Church are not free enough to express joy; to express delight; or happiness caused by something good or satisfying.
Sometimes we don’t express joy, because rather than seeking spiritual fulfillment, we have tried in its place other things: Consider the reflective comments of these men: (2) "Men have pursued joy in every avenue imaginable. Some have successfully found it while others have not. Perhaps it would be easier to describe where joy cannot be found:
- Not in Unbelief -- Voltaire was an infidel of the most pronounced type. He wrote: "I wish I had never been born."
- Not in Pleasure -- Lord Byron lived a life of pleasure if anyone did. He wrote: "The worm, the canker, and grief are mine alone."
- Not in Money -- Jay Gould, the American millionaire, had plenty of that. When dying, he said: "I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth."
- Not in Position and Fame -- Lord Beaconsfield enjoyed more than his share of both. He wrote: "Youth is a mistake; manhood a struggle; old age a regret."