Summary: Where does one find real and lasting joy? What about when bad things happen?
Joy in the Darkness: 1 Peter 1:6-9
1 Peter 1:6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith-- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Did you sing "Joy to the World" sometime in the last month? For me, it's one of my favorite hymns to sing - I would put it in my top 10. Do you have a top 10? "Joy to the world, the Lord has come, let earth receive her king. Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing…"
Whoever wrote that hymn must have been one happy guy with one happy life! Do you know who wrote that hymn? A man named Isaac Watts. His life was not actually very happy. He was not born into this world as a healthy baby boy - he was actually quite sick all the time and had all kinds of physical problems as a child. Eventually he became a Christian pastor, but that didn't work out for him because of his health. He just couldn't do the normal things that were expected of him to do - he was too weak, too sick all the time. But the strange thing about Isaac Watts was that there was something inside of him, something underneath the pain and the weakness - there a joy there that could not be touched by all the difficulties he had, a joy in the midst of darkness.
One day he was complaining about some of the hymns they sung back in those days. Have you ever done that before, complain about a hymn? So he was complaining, and then someone challenged him - you think you could do better? Go for it. And so he did. He wrote over 600 hymns, mostly hymns of praise. In the red hymnal in front of you, Isaac Watts wrote 21 of those hymns…"When I survey the wondrous cross…" "O bless the Lord my soul"… and "O God our help in ages past…" to name a few. It seemed that when his health was at its worst, his writing was at his best.
What did he have inside of him? He had a divine gift called "joy." How do you get that? Wouldn't you like to have that inside of you? Especially when your health is bad, or when something else in your life is bad - how do you get that special kind of joy that sits inside your soul, a joy in the darkness. You're having a bad time and people come to comfort you in your distress, and they walk away from you and say, "Wow, I went there to give that person a boost. But instead, he or she gave me a boost." How do you get that?
This morning, we're going to learn where we can find joy in the darkness. We look at the book of 1 Peter. Here the Holy Spirit speaks through the Apostle Peter, and look at what he says here, "In this, you greatly rejoice." In this? In what? The verses before this section are all about Jesus Christ, and what a blessing it is to come to faith in him. What a blessing it is to believe that he rose from the dead, and that heaven is our future home, and that God would take care of us all the way to Judgment Day. In those things, you greatly rejoice, the Bible says. Not just sort of rejoice, or rejoice a little, but greatly, immensely, rejoice. Here's where you find joy in the darkness - you find it in Jesus, and in all the blessings he brings into your life.
Did you get any new electronic devices for Christmas? Sometimes we rejoice in those things. But the novelty wears off. Some people say there's such a thing as the after-Christmas-blues - the high of Christmas is quickly followed by the low of credit card bills, and extra pounds that appear on the scale, and the fatigue from all the work of the holidays.
I hope you weren't trying to find lasting joy in all the outward trappings of Christmas. It doesn't last. As soon as something bad happens in your life, the joy disappears, and there's sorrow and sadness and feelings of lowliness. "Why am I so sad?" Could it be that the world can't fill your heart with the kind of joy it really needs?