FRUIT THAT IS NEVER OUT OF SEASON
I want to talk to you today about joy in spite of any circumstances. You know it’s going to be a bad day when you call your answering service and they tell you it’s none of your business. When you put your pants on backwards and they fit better. Been there, done that. You know it’s going to be a bad day when your horn goes off accidentally behind a group of Hell’s Angels on the freeway. When you sink your teeth into a beautiful steak and they stick. You see, I’ve learned,
Every relationship needs joy ... not happiness.
Happiness is external. Joy is internal.
Happiness is based on chance. Joy is based on choice.
Happiness is based on circumstances. Joy is based on Christ.
In God’s word, one of the first things apparent to me is that God wants his people to be joyful. In fact, I think one of the great paradoxes of life is that as I look at the Christian community, I see a lack of joy. I just scratch my head. We ought to be the most joyful people in the world. We have hope. Amen?
Biblical words to express joy:
1. Bright and shining.
It’s an Old Testament expression, from when David came home after slaying Goliath. It talks about the women who were singing and dancing with joyful song as they played their instruments. That word for joy in the Hebrew, literally, means that they were bright and shining. When you are joyful there’s a brightness, a shining just like a 6-year-old at Christmas time with anticipation getting ready to open gifts. Like a bride walking down the aisle on the day of her wedding, there’s a bright and shiningness about joy.
2. Leaping and jumping.
It’s in the New Testament -- a Greek word from the story about the two apostles Peter and John going to the gate to pray. Do you remember the lame man who was begging? They said, "Silver and gold have we none, but what we have we give to you in the name of Jesus Christ. Rise up and walk." The lame man was healed, and he began to leap with joy. This word for joy expresses leaping. It’s an expression of joy that knows no bounds or no limitations.
It means to be so full of joy that it becomes a verbal expression, a shout. Pastor Butcher’s father, Pop Butcher, who died at, I think, 92 or 93, used to sit right over there. Something good would happen in the service and old Pop Butcher in his early 90s would say, "Well, glory!" That’s a shout of joy. The dear old man was full of joy, and it came out in a shout.
4. Running around in circles.
It literally means to be so full of ecstasy that your behavior is a little abnormal and you run around in circles.
When missionaries in the northern part of Alaska, where the Eskimos are, were trying to get the Bible translated, they had some difficulty. When you go to translate the Bible in any culture, there’s a difficulty in translating some words because cultures and languages don’t always have the same words. There was no word in the Eskimo language for joy. And as they were trying to translate joy, biblically, they drew from experience. And as they watched, they saw that the happiest, the most joyful moments in those Eskimo villages were in the evening when they fed their sled dogs. They’d go out, and the dogs would yelp and wag their tails and get all excited. And so, out of that experience, they pulled the word for joy: "wagging their tails." When you translate the passage where it says, "The disciples, after the resurrection, saw Jesus and they were full of joy," for the Eskimos, it would read, "When the disciples saw Jesus, they wagged their tails." Full of joy.
There’s a great passage of Scripture in Zephaniah. It talks about the joy of the Lord. This is a great comfort. One of the saints in the last service told me they’ve hung that on the wall in their home:
"The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with his love. He will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah3:17
"Charis" is the word used for grace.
"Chara" is the word for joy.
They come from the very same root, and that’s because there’s a relationship between grace and joy. In other words, when you begin to think of the grace of God, it ought to bring joy to you. And there’s just a joy in knowing that we are God’s children and our sins have been forgiven. That’s why the angels, when they announced the coming of Jesus the Messiah, sang with great joy. Why? Because they knew the coming of the Messiah ushered into the world the grace of Jesus Christ.
It is the word that probably most commonly described a New Testament Christian. In the book of Acts and you often read that they were full of joy. They had all kinds of problems, but they were full of joy.
The secret of joy is perspective.
When we have the right God perspective, we have joy in spite of our circumstances. When we have the wrong perspective, we are robbed of joy. Turn to Romans 5; it’s a great lesson. I’m going to pull 5 thoughts about joy out of Romans 5:1-11. Paul says, "Through faith we have been made acceptable to God. And now because of our Lord Jesus Christ, we live at peace with God. Christ has also introduced us to God’s undeserved kindness on which we take our stand. So we are happy. We are joyful as we look forward to sharing in the glory of God..." Underline the next phrase, "But that’s not all." I want you to watch how Paul builds this chapter. He says it’s incredible what God has done for us. He says, "I get great joy and happiness when I know my standing in God." But that’s not all. He begins to build. "We gladly suffer because we know that suffering helps us to endure." Take your pen and circle the word "know." Remember, our joy comes from our perspective. "And endurance builds character, which gives us hope that will never disappoint us. All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit who fills our hearts with his love. Christ died for us when we were helpless and sinful. No one is really willing to die for an honest person, but someone might be willing to die for a truly good person, but God showed how much he loved us by having Christ die for us, even though we were sinful."
Now, look at verse 9. Get ready to underline the phrase, "But there is more." Interesting, isn’t it? In verse 3 he said, "But that’s not all." In verse 9, he said, "But there is more." You see how he builds it? "Now that God has accepted us because Christ sacrificed his life’s blood, we will always be kept safe from God’s anger. Even when we were God’s enemies, he made peace with us because his Son died for us. Yet something even greater than our friendship is ours. Now that we are at peace with God, we will be saved by his Son’s life." Are you ready? Underline the next phrase. "In addition to everything else, we are happy because God sent our Lord Jesus Christ to make peace with us."
1. Joy comes from us understanding truth (v. 2).
Paul says, "Let me tell you something about people that have joy. The people that really have joy also have problems, but they understand truth and their perspective allows them to have joy in spite of their problems." We know that because in verse 2, he talks about gladly suffering. Why? Because we know, he says. You see, it’s that understanding.
When we’re going through a difficult time, a dark period of our life when people are asking questions and we’re confused, Paul says, "Let me tell you something. You can have joy in the midst of financial difficulty, physical difficulty, job difficulty, relational difficulty. You can have joy going through very deep, dark times in your life if you understand the purpose of God for you." Paul said it well, didn’t he, in Romans 8, three chapters later when he talked about all things working together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. All Paul is saying is this: People who have joy have the knowledge and the perspective that God is in control.
Let me ask you : If we knew that in our life God was in total control, that everything that happened to us had a purpose, and that because we are God’s children, he is going to use what is happening to us (positive, negative, good, bad, light, dark,) for our spiritual development and growth, and for the betterment of our life and the advancement of his kingdom, can you imagine the amount of joy we would have?
That would confound the world, which only knows happiness at a party. Can you imagine how the world would be watching us if they saw that deep joy within us in spite of the problems that they know we have? You see, Christianity isn’t some walk without problems. In fact, I think Christians have as many problems as non Christians. I don’t believe coming to God is going to solve your problems. I think the difference is not in the amount of problems; but in our perspective on those problems.
What would happen to you and me, if we truly believed that God was in control of every area of our life? The steps of a good man -- not an evil man, not an ungodly man -- are ordered by the Lord. That means that where I am right now is exactly where God wants me to be. Even when the three Hebrew children were in the fire, guess where God is? Right there in the fire with them. No wonder my Grandpa Rose’s favorite song was an old gospel song that you don’t know in Southern California. One of many. "No, never alone. No, never alone. He promised never to leave me. Never to leave me alone."
The Hebrews writer said, "He’ll never leave us. He will never forsake us." And in the Greek it is in the emphatic negative -- literally, "he will never, never, never,..." for you doubters. For you that aren’t sure in the difficult times of your life if God can hang around and handle it.
2. Joy comes from having peace with God.
For me, this came as a 17-year-old high school junior, three days after I really committed my life to Jesus. As a kid I was in the Christian home and in the church, but at 17, without Dad and Mom, I settled it. "I’m going to live for God." Did it on a Tuesday. On a Friday morning before going to school, I’m on my bed with my Bible, in I John, reading the passage that says, "If our hearts condemn us not, then we have confidence in God." And I can remember as a 17-year-old kid, the old tears dropping on that page in the I John, because I knew my heart was not condemned. I knew that God’s grace had covered every sin, and I can still remember the joy that came into my spirit when I realized that I had peace with God.
3. Joy comes from being accepted.
When we realize we’re accepted, there’s a self worth, a self esteem.
4. Joy comes from seeing the "big picture."
He tells us about that in verses 3 through 5; in fact, he says that suffering is going to help us endure, which will build character, which will give us hope.
5. Joy comes from having hope in the future.
And without hope in the future there is no joy in the present.
I have noticed in my working with people that there are three joy killers in relationships. Let me give them to you. I promise you if you have any of these problems you are a killjoy. Most people don’t really like to be around you much. They’ll be nice to you to your face, but they’ll leave as quick as they can because you not only kill your joy, you kill their joy.
Three joy killers in relationships:
Where do all the fights and quarrels among you come from? They come from your desires... which are constantly fighting within your bodies...you strongly desire things, but you cannot get them, so you quarrel and fight." James 4:1,2 (GN)
Wherever there is jealousy or selfish ambition, there will be disorder and every other kind of evil."
James 3:16 (LB)
"Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their Spiritual lives." Hebrews 12:15
The fool who provokes his family to anger and resentment will finally have nothing worthwhile left."
Proverbs 11:29 (LB)
"The anxious heart weighs a man down." Proverbs 12:25
Fear does three things to a relationship:
A. Fear makes us defensive.
B. Fear makes us distant.
Because of our inward fear of vulnerability we put up walls and shells around us.
C. Fear makes us demanding.
Because we’re afraid we must always be in control.
Now, the secret to relationships is perspective, so, in closing today, let me give you three things to focus on so that joy may abound in your life.
The right perspective means I...
1. Focus on giving rather than receiving.
"There is more happiness in giving than receiving."
"Learn to put aside your own desires so that you will become patient and godly. This will make possible the next step, which is for you to enjoy other people and to like them, and finally you will grow to love them deeply." 2 Peter 1:7 (LB)
2. Focus on healing rather than hurting.
"Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you so you must forgive others."
Colossians 3:13 (LB)
"We can be full of joy here and now, even in our trials and troubles. These very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character..."
Romans 5:3-4 (Ph)
Paul said to the church of Colosse, "Be gentle and ready to forgive." I love that phrase. I feel sorry for a someone who is not quick to forgive. In case you’re having a hard time with this forgiveness stuff, look at yourself, and look what God did for you. Now, grow up. Just as God forgave you and me when we were sinners, be very quick to forgive your spouse, your children, your parents, your boss.
3. Focus on God’s power rather than your problems.
"Trust in God at all times; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge." Psalm 62:8
"Always be full of joy in the Lord; I say it again, rejoice!"
Philippians 4:4 (LB)
I love the psalmist’s words when he said, "Trust in God at all times. Pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge." You say, "Pastor, how can I be joyful in spite of all my circumstances? How can I have joy? You don’t know where I am. You don’t know what’s happening." Well, I understand that. You don’t know where I am either. Now, what do you want to do? Sit down and have a pity-poor-me party or do you want answers to life?
Why I can be joyful in spite of circumstances...
1. Because God is with me.
"When you pass through the deep waters, ’I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you. For I am the Lord your God!" Isaiah 43:2 (GN)
"How Firm A Foundation," is a great hymn. "When through the deep waters I call thee to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow. For I will be with thee; I only design, thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine." No matter what you’re going through this morning, wherever you are, God’s with you.
2. Because God has a plan for me.
"(God says) I want you to trust me in your times of trouble, so I can rescue you and you can give me glory." Psalm 50:15 (LB)
3. Because God will help me.
"Why be so gloomy and discouraged? Trust in God. Then I shall praise him for his wondrous help; he will make me smile again."
Psalm 43:5 (LB)
Isn’t that neat? The chorus we sometimes sing, "The Joy of the Lord is my Strength," really is true. One of the great reasons that we worship is for the joy in the worship to renew us Spiritually and give us strength.