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Summary: Joy isn’t ginned up with fun entertainment. Joy doesn’t pass with changing seasons or swinging moods. True, unquenchable joy comes only from God. That’s the kind of joy to be dedicated to.

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1. Intro (6:16)

2. The first way we can be dedicated to striving for joy is with joyful sacrifice. (6:17)

3. The second way we can be dedicated to striving for joy is with joyful service. (6:18-20)

4. The third way we can be dedicated to striving for joy is with joyful separation. (6:21-22a)

5. The fourth way we can be dedicated to striving for joy is with joyful strength. (6:22b)

EZRA 6:16

Several years ago, when we lived in Mississippi, we were members of a small church called Bel Aire Baptist Church. That little church was a blessing to our family. That’s where I was ordained as a deacon. And that’s where our oldest daughter was baptized. Well, several years after we’d moved away, we got word that they’d called a new pastor in 2003. God blessed his ministry tremendously. The church grew to the point where they had to go to two services and were starting a huge building program. Well, just about a month ago, toward the end of February, we got word that the pastor was diagnosed with cancer. Around three weeks later on March 14th, he was in the presence of Jesus. When I saw that, the first thing I thought was, why God? After all the years of struggling that church went through. After spending years without a pastor. After Katrina. After all the years of praying for growth. And then when it finally started to happen—You take their pastor? Why? Oh me of little faith. His wife writes a weekly column for the local newspaper. Listen to what she wrote when they found out about his cancer. She wrote about the big C. “The big C is not cancer, but rather: Christ, Calvary, the Cross, Crucified, Curses broken. Spirits of infirmity—Cast out, Captives freed, Covenant, Commandments. Commitment, Church, Confession, Clean. Communion, Conqueror, and Crown.” The big C isn’t cancer. The big C is Christ. Kandi Anderson is a person who is dedicated to joy. That’s real, true, unquenchable joy. That’s not a kind of joy that is ginned up with fun entertainment. That’s not the kind of joy that passes with the changing of seasons or the swinging of moods. That’s the kind of joy that only comes from Jesus. A supernatural, never ending, unquenchable, unspeakable joy that only comes as a gift from God. And our remnant found that joy. After all the time they spent in exile. After all the time they spent in preparation. After all the time they spend delaying. And after all the time they spent building. After all that time, they finally found joy. How is your joy tonight? Is your joy tied to your mood swings? Is your joy tied to your circumstances? Is your joy tied to the things and people around you? Or is your joy tied to the Spirit that lives within you? I want us to be dedicated to joy tonight. I want us to be dedicated to striving for the joy that only comes from God. And there are four ways we can do that. The first way we can be dedicated to striving for joy is with joyful sacrifice. Look with me at verse 17:

EZRA 6:17

Strive for joy with joyful sacrifice. The temple was finished. It had taken everybody they had and all the resources they had, but it was done. Each member of the remnant worked their tails off for four solid years. They had refused to give in to the opposition when it came. They refused to give in to fatigue when it came. They refused to give in to discouragement when it came. They pressed on. And now they were able to stand back and see their completed work. So what did they do? They recognized the fact that it wasn’t because of their strength and power that the temple got finished. They recognized that, by dedicating the house of God. And the first thing they did was to offer sacrifices. The first thing they did was to worship God by offering sacrifices. Do you remember back to when Solomon dedicated the original temple? Back in 1 Kings 8, the Bible tells of all the sacrifices Solomon offered up at that time. 22,000 cattle were sacrificed. 120,000 sheep and goats were sacrificed. Tremendous amounts of animals were offered and sacrificed. Now compare that to what was offered in verse 17. Instead of 22,000 cattle, now they offered only 100. Instead of 120,000 sheep and goats, now they only offered 612. But, do you know what? God was just as pleased with the remnant’s sacrifice as He was with Solomon’s. God was pleased because their sacrifice was certainly sacrificial. They were a small group of people and they certainly didn’t have much. As a matter of fact, for the past four years they had poured most of what they had into the building of the temple. Their sacrifice was sacrificial. But even more than that, their sacrifice was joyful. Paul passed on this kind of attitude to the church at Corinth in his last letter to them. In 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 he wrote, “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” The word that’s translated “cheerful” is the Greek word “hilaros”. What does that sound like in English? Hilarious. I’ve been in church all my life and have never heard anyone hilariously laughing as they place their offering in the plate. Of course, most of the time our giving is neither joyful, nor sacrificial. That’s probably because we don’t believe what Paul went on to say just a verse later in 2 Corinthians 9:8: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” The more we joyfully sacrifice, the more it shows the Lord that we trust Him. And the more we trust Him, the more He shows us that He is all-sufficient. And the more we see that He is all-sufficient, the more pressure and worry it takes off of us. And less pressure and worry means a whole lot more joy. It’s really simple. If you sow sparingly, you’ll reap sparingly. If you sow bountifully, you’ll reap bountifully. That doesn’t mean that God will give you and Creflo Dollar a Mercedes and a mansion. It does mean that the Lord will take away your material worries and frets and fill you with His joy. That’s what you’re striving for when you joyfully sacrifice. You’re striving for joy. Just like the remnant, you’re striving for joy with joyful sacrifice. Strive for joy with joyful sacrifice and with joyful service. Look in verse 18-20:


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