Summary: Third and last in series Emotions, this message deals with Joy, with a tie-in to the Thanksgiving holiday. It examines joy as the by-product of a life with certain characteristics.
Joy: More than Enough
Emotions, part 3
Wildwind Community Church
In 1996 there was a news report about an Army veteran named John Crabtree who had been receiving benefits from the government. Evidently he had been wounded in Vietnam and was now on permanent disability. One day, out of the blue, he received an official notification from the government of his own death. Needless to say, this was quite a shock!
Mr. Crabtree wrote the government a letter stating that he was indeed very much alive and would like to continue receiving his benefits. The letter did no good. He then tried calling the government. The phone calls didn’t change the situation either (Have you ever tried to call the government? Not the most efficient process you’ll ever be involved in.) Finally, as a last resort, the veteran contacted a local television station, which ran a human-interest story about his situation.
During the interview, the reporter asked him, "How do you feel about this whole ordeal?" The veteran chuckled and said, "Well, I feel a little frustrated by it. After all, have you ever tried to prove that you’re alive?"
That’s a pretty good question. Could you prove that you are alive? Really, genuinely, deep-down alive? When was the last time you had an alive moment? Not the last time you took a breath or had your heart beat inside your chest, but the last time you felt yourself alive to your living, alive to your loving, deeply present with the gift of life itself?"
I want to conclude our series on Emotions by talking to you today about Joy. Joy is about being alive, about being alive to living. We’re coming off Thanksgiving here today. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, know why? Because it’s a day of joy. I realize Christmas is a day of joy as well, but what I love about Thanksgiving is that it’s not about anything other than joy. No presents. No shopping. No hanging of lights in sub-zero temperatures. Just being with people we love, counting our blessings, and thanking God for every one. A whole day set aside where we can cultivate the spirit we should have on all the other days. Thanksgiving is about celebration. We celebrate all the things we are thankful for. Celebration is a counterpart to joy. We can’t celebrate without joy. If you are not joyful and go to a place where people are celebrating, one of two things is likely to happen. You will either find yourself becoming joyful, or you will find yourself wanting to get out of that place as soon as possible.
Do you know why this is? It is because an unthankful spirit is incompatible with a thankful spirit. Misery and joy do not mix. They are opposites.
1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
When you move into light, you move out of darkness. Darkness cannot exist in the presence of light, because darkness is nothing more than the absence of light. Light, by its very nature, banishes darkness. In the same way, my friends, I want to suggest this morning that thankfulness, by its very nature, banishes misery. Thankfulness banishes grumbling and complaining. Thankfulness banishes a sense of being ripped off by life. You cannot practice thanks-giving and remain miserable. If your wish is to remain miserable (and as hard as it is to understand, this is the deepest wish of some people), it is essential that you not give much thought to your blessings, to the beauty that surrounds you, to the relative ease of your life compared to that of most others in the world, or to the promised presence of God with you through even the most difficult circumstances. If you spend more than a moment thinking on these things, they will dispel your misery.
So Thanksgiving is about being alive to life. Most of the time we run through life on auto-pilot. In the same way that we’ll sometimes drive for miles and miles and suddenly realize we don’t remember having covered those miles, we often get up and go to work and come home and eat dinner and watch TV and collapse into bed without having really been aware of what we were doing. We have been living, but we have not been alive to life. We have operated like squirrels – just going by instinct without much conscious thought. That is why Thanksgiving is essential – because Thanksgiving brings us alive to life. Why is this important? Because if you believe God created you for a purpose (which we do), and that God loves you (which we do), and that God wants to know you and see you fulfill an incredible plan that He has for your life (which we do), then one of the worst things you can do is to live like a squirrel.