We continue in our series on discovering our destiny and for the last few weeks across our group of churches we have been thinking about knowing what season we are in.
Each of us experience the natural seasons of winter, spring, summer and autumn; and we also experience spiritual seasons in our lives. We will encounter many seasons on our journey through life and the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that every season of life has a purpose.
This morning on this healing and wholeness Sunday I want us to consider together the Season of Joy. Joy is something we all long for. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, produced by God’s work in us, and it is part of God’s will for us. Experiencing joy should be a part of every season in a Christian’s life.
Joy is a gift from God. The root word for joy in the Greek is “chara”, which is closely related to the Greek word for grace “charis”. Joy comes when we are aware of God’s grace. Joy is a gift of God and also a response to the gifts of God.
The Prophet Nehemiah said in Nehemiah 8:10, “the joy of the Lord is your strength!”
Sounds good... But what does it mean? What is the joy of the Lord? One commentator on this verse wrote “The joy of the Lord is the gladness of heart that comes from knowing God, abiding in Christ, and being filled with the Holy Spirit.”
When Jesus was born, the angels announced “good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10).
If you are a Christian, a follower, a disciple of Jesus, then you have already experienced the good tidings of joy He has brought into your life.
The joy of knowing that Jesus died for you.
The joy of knowing your place in Heaven is assured because of what Jesus has done for you.
The joy of knowing your sins, past, present and future have already been forgiven.
The joy of knowing that you are in a relationship with a God who loves you and cares for you and has a plan for you.
The joy of knowing that the Holy Spirit resides in you, leading and guiding you to bring honour and glory to God.
Knowing Jesus brings joy into our daily lives.
Jesus demonstrated joy in His ministry. In Luke 7:34 the Pharisees even accused Jesus of being too joyful. Luke 10:21 tells us “Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit”.
Listen to the words of Jesus recorded in John 15:9-11, “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”
In John 16:24 Jesus told His disciples, “Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.”
In many of Jesus’ parables, there is joy, for example in Luke 15 there is the Parable of the Lost Sheep, Parable of the Lost Coin and Parable of the Lost Son; these Parables end with a joyful shepherd, a joyful woman and a joyful father.
In Luke 15:10 Jesus said, “there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”
One of the characteristics of the early church was joy. Acts 2:46-47 says, “They worshipped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” Acts 13:52 tells us, “the believers were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”
The Apostle Paul often wrote about joy, in Romans 14:17 Paul wrote, “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
If you are a follower of Jesus this morning then you are part of the kingdom of God, you share in the life, peace and joy of God’s kingdom.
Again Paul writing to the church at Philippi, said in Philippians 4:4, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” In 1 Thessalonians 5:16, Paul wrote, “Always be joyful.”
It’s not just Paul that wrote about joy, listen to the words of Peter from 1 Peter 1:6-9, “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.
So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honour on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love Him even though you have never seen Him. Though you do not see Him now, you trust Him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting Him will be the salvation of your souls.”
Is the joy of the Lord your strength in the season you are in?
If you know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour then whatever season you are in right now, the joy of the Lord should be in your heart.
You are a child of God, no one can snatch you away from Him. You are an heir to a priceless inheritance, an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. You can experience the joy of the Lord in every season by keeping your eyes on Jesus, the champion, the author, the initiator, the perfecter, the finisher of your faith. Faith is the victory, faith overcomes, faith helps us to know that the joy of the Lord is our strength.
Maybe you are in a difficult season of life, maybe your situation or circumstance is difficult, maybe you are so focused on the problem you feel unable to experience the joy of the Lord.
Think about Paul and Silas for a moment, the situation they were in when they were locked up in a Philippian prison. Paul and Silas had been arrested without cause, then beaten without a trial, then they were put into a jail cell with their feet in the stocks.
Humanly speaking they were in a joyless situation, yet at midnight, they sang songs of praises to God.
Then the miracle happened, the prison shook, all the doors opened up and their chains fell off.
Or think about Peter and the other Apostles, the High Priest and the Sadducees captured them and then had them flogged. The Apostles were ordered to never speak in the name of Jesus again and then they were released.Seems like another joyless situation yet Acts 5:41-42 says, “The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: Jesus is the Messiah.”
How could the Apostles rejoice, have joy, in situations like these?
The apostles were following the example of Jesus who as Hebrews 12:2 says, “Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame.”
Time for a quick reality check.
The truth is even the most spiritually mature of God’s people can experience periods of joylessness. In Job 3:11, Job wished he had never been born. In Psalm 55:6–8, David prayed to be taken to a place where he would not have to deal with reality. Elijah, fresh from seeing the 450 prophets of Baal defeated with fire that came down from heaven, fled into the desert and asked God to take his life.
If these great men of God struggled to find joy, how can we find joy in every season of life? For us to experience the joy of the Lord, our focus needs to be on God. Instead of dwelling in our difficulties, or allowing circumstances and situations to rob us of our joy, we must focus on God.
Now, let me be clear on this, I am not saying that we are to deny our feelings or try to suppress our emotions, but we are to submit our circumstances, our situations, our problems to the God who cares for us.
1 Peter 5:7 says, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you”. We can pour out our hearts to God.
We can tell Him how we feel. God cares for you.
How can we find joy in every season of life? In Philippians 4:4–9, the Apostle Paul gives us some practical guidelines for experiencing joy in our lives: "Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you."
Paul emphasises the importance of praising God and remembering that God is always near, in every season of life. We are to pray and focus on the things of God. We will experience joy when we intentionally bring our praise and worship to God. We will experience joy when we communicate with God through prayer.
In Jeremiah 31:13, God says, “I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing.”
We will experience joy when we walk by faith and keep our focus on the things of God.
The five chapters of the book of James deal with the practical aspects of the walk of faith.
The book of James was written to Christians who had been scattered to different places, they were people who experienced a season of pain and persecution in their lives. If we have faith that works, it will be seen in how we face trials, how we treat people, how we talk, how we deal with sin in our lives and how we pray.
I think we could nominate James 1:2 as one of the most amazing statements in the entire Bible, the NIV translates it this way: “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds.”
As we persevere through trials, with God’s help, our faith strengthens and matures. By God’s grace we can experience joy despite our circumstances. Listen to James 1:2-4 from the New Living Translation, says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
In the 108 verses of the book of James, James gives us 54 different commands – and this is the first one. “Consider it pure joy, or an opportunity for great joy, when troubles come.”
This word “consider” carries with it the idea of counting. It’s literally the idea of “pressing your mind down on something.” Leading your mind through a reasoning process to arrive at a conclusion. There is also a sense of urgency. We’re to weigh our worries, calculate our trials and put them in perspective.
We need to understand that the main priority in our lives is not our pleasure, the main priority in our lives should be the purposes of God. The life of a Christian should display the marks, the indications, the reality, of a life lived with a focus on God with Christ at the centre, surrounded by the love of the Father, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. The only way we can do this is to understand that there is a purpose in all of our problems. Trials lead to life transformation. When we persevere, our trials lead to transformation.
I will close with the words of Romans 15:13 “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Friends, as we come to our time of prayer for Healing and Wholeness, remember whatever season you are in, whatever circumstance or situation you’re facing today, consider it pure joy because the joy of the Lord is your strength.