Summary: There is something about doing the right thing that brings a “joy” … a sense of peace, assurance, righteousness … that comes from doing the right thing for the right reason … whatever may befall us as we do the right thing for right reason.
THE CHARACTER OF A DISCIPLE: JOY
Scripture: 1st Peter 1:3-9
We are all familiar with the horrors that Jesus went through during His arrest and crucifixion:
Being abandoned by His Disciples and followers.
Dragged before angry and determined religious authorities.
The agony of the cross itself.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that Jesus wasn’t too “happy” when all this was going on. Yet … in all His pain … all His suffering … is it possible that He had joy? The kind of joy that Peter is trying to describe in his letter to encourage the pilgrims and churches in Asia Minor who were experiencing increasing persecution at home, in their communities, and from the government.
Jesus’ joy was unspeakable and inexpressible given what He was going through. But His joy wasn’t based upon what He was going through but on WHY He was going through it and what would result from it. His joy was not for Himself but for you and me.
I’ve been watching Ken Burn’s documentary on World War II entitled “The War.” Burns does a really great job of showing us what the men and women in the armed forces and their families went through. These men and women went through unimaginable hardships. Many of them didn’t survive. Many of those who survived were either physically or emotionally scarred … or both. Why would they do through that? Where did they find the strength and determination?
They did it for their families. They did it for their buddies in the foxholes and trenches beside them. They did it for their country. They did it to protect a way of life that they loved. They did it to stop the spread of evil.
Was there joy in it? Well, they certainly weren’t “happy” about it, I’m sure. They weren’t whistling a happy tune. You see, “happy,” “happiness,” and “happen” are all very similar sounding words for a reason. “Happiness” depends upon what’s “happening.” Author and pastor Adrian Rogers explained the difference between “happiness” and “joy” in this way: “Happiness is like a thermometer … it only registers your conditions. Joy is a thermostat that controls your conditions.”
Was there joy in fighting a war? In their hearts … beyond the terror … was a peace, a surety that they were doing the right thing … that what they were fighting to protect was worth dying for. And when it was all over … be it on the battlefield or from old age … to stand before a righteous God and hear Him say in the presence of all Heaven, “Well done, good and faithful servant” … to hear that ... to receive such praise from our heavenly Father … is worth more than all the gold and commendation medals they could earn. And their joy at that moment would eclipse and erases all the pain and suffering that went on before.
It is a joy, as Peter says, that is beyond words. There is a kind of joy that Peter is trying to describe that be present in the hearts of Christians even in the midst of hardship and suffering. It is not fun to be persecuted. Nobody wants to go to jail … to have deadly threats hanging over your heard day and night. But … there is something about doing the right thing that brings a “joy” … a sense of peace, assurance, righteousness … that comes from doing the right thing for the right reason … whatever may befall us as we do the right thing for right reason. As hard and as difficult as it may be, we would not, could not have it any other way. “My Father, Jesus prayed in the garden, “if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42)
And because He drank the cup of God’s wrath, because He hung on the cross for our sins, look at the benefits that we … you and I sitting here today … receive. In verse 1, Peter says that we are God’s elect, chosen out of all the world to be His people. That alone should be a source of great joy, amen? In verse 2, Peter says we have been “sanctified by the Spirit” … set apart from the world. We have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. We have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Christ (v. 3). We have an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in Heaven for us (v. 4).
In their song “Shake,” the Christian band MercyMe says that we’ve got so much going for us that it should make us want to stand up and “shake like we’re changed.” “Maybe He came for you when everything seemed fine,” they sing, “or maybe your world was upside down and hit you right between the eyes. No matter what happened at 7 or 95, move your feet ‘cause you are free and you’ve never been more alive.” And the chorus says: “You gotta shake, shake, shake like you’ve changed, changed, changed/brand new looks so good on you/so shake like you’ve ben changed.”