Summary: Increasing joy comes through a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

Increasing Joy

Isaiah 9:2-3 (New International Version)

2The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. 3You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.

INTRODUCTION: Bittersweet.

Bittersweet. On the one hand, bitter. On the other hand, sweet. There is a kind of chocolate that is bittersweet. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like that kind of chocolate. Not only that I have had about 3 bittersweet experiences the past couple weeks, and I have had enough of bittersweet living.

The Chargers lose in the playoffs – bittersweet. Sweet season, sour ending. Bittersweet.

Last Monday we moved Laura in at Concordia – Irvine to go to college. Bittersweet. Happy for her, sad for us. It’s funny what you remember when the time comes to move your daughter out of your home and into a dorm. When Laura was a little girl, she saved her allowance for 8 weeks to buy The Little Mermaid videotape. Great Disney movie, that is until the last scene. Most people love the ending, but not me. Ariel, the little mermaid, is going to get to marry Eric the prince and live like a human on land what she has always wanted. Everyone is celebrating, and her father, King Triton says to Sebastian, his court musician, “Sebastian, there’s only one problem.”

“What’s that, your majesty?” Sebastian asks.

“How much I am going to miss my little girl.” Triton replies.

Bittersweet moving your daughter into her dorm.

Bittersweet, I found out this past week one of my cousins has stage 4 gastric cancer, 6-12 months to live. Life is so precious, eternal life such a gift. But life on earth? Often so bittersweet.

I don’t know about you, but when I look at these verses from Isaiah 9, 3 words leap off the page from verse 3, increased their joy. In a bittersweet life and in everyday life, I could use some increasing joy. How about you would you like to increase your joy? Today let’s look at 3 Expressions of Increasing Joy

EXPRESSION 1: Change your focus from your circumstances to Christ. Isaiah prophesies in Isaiah 9:2, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.” -- (New American Standard Bible)

Notice the contrast darkness to light and living in a dark land to light shining on them. One of the contrasts with joy and circumstance is found in a phrase called, “the joy-to-stuff ratio” defined by the Cincinnati Business Courier as “The time a person has to enjoy life versus the time a person spends accumulating material goods. As families become more affluent, sometimes they begin to suffer from what has come to be called ‘affluenza’: They focus their lives around accumulating more and more stuff that they have less and less time to enjoy;

their ‘joy-to-stuff’ ratio gets out of balance.”

As Vicki Robyn points out, “When we were babies, more stuff did indeed mean more fulfillment. We were fed, warmed, and sheltered. When we were uncomfortable, when we cried, something came from the outside to take care of us. Our needs were filled. At the same time, we learned a powerful lesson: Look outside yourself and you will be fulfilled.

We then went from bare necessities (food, clothing, shelter) to some amenities (toys, a wardrobe, a bicycle) and the positive relationship between money and fulfillment got even more embedded. Remember your excitement when you got your baseball mitt or Barbie doll? We got an allowance to learn the value of money. We could select and purchase happiness ourselves! And so it went, year after year.

Eventually, we slipped beyond amenities to outright luxuries-and hardly registered the change. Our first car may have been a Wow! for months, but the fourth (probably newer and more expensive) quickly became transportation and another bill to pay. And so it went, with each new acquisition being a thrill, but a more expensive thrill-and the "high" wore off quicker.

One day we find ourselves with the best that money can buy, but with less happiness than when we got our first bicycle at age seven. A process-buying stuff-that worked for survival, comforts, and some luxuries, now seems to lead directly to more responsibilities, more worries, more commitments, more to lose if robbed, more taxes and more need for accountants and financial managers.

Whether our money comes from employment or inheritance, we all hit fulfillment ceilings in terms of cars, houses, vacations, clothes, conferences, workshops, et cetera, and never recognize when the formula of money = fulfillment not only stopped working, but started to work against us.

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