Summary: This is a 2nd sermon on the fruits of the Spirit, or Character of a Christian: Joy!
A. Who here this morning has had one tough week? Tired? Who got angry? Who felt they were lied about? Attacked? Discouraged? Who here was depressed this week? Sad? Lonely? Sick? Sick and tired? Sick and tired of being sick and tired?(Looks like we are in good company)
And yet the Chracter of a Christian is JOY! Last week I kicked this series off talking about the fruit of the spirit, our Chracter is to love. And now comes JOY! And so there are several things I want to say about a JOYFUL relationship with Christ!
1. THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO TRY TO STEAL OUR JOY! - work, husbands, wives, neighbors, kids, the dog, the dog catcher, not to mention satan. The Psalmist this morning, in Psalm 43, indicates that somebody was lieing against him. Somebody was discouraging him. What? Something like 3,000 years ago the Psalmist wrote this and it doesn’t seem that much has changed. Except back then you had to walk a long way to lie about somebody, now you can just call someone up on the telephone. Or send an e-mail.
And the point is, JOY-stealers are out there in the world! Listen close, JOY-stealers can even be right in the pew next to you. Don’t look around, I don’t want anyone pointing fingers this morning. But lets face it, sometimes you don’t even have to leave the back of the Church before someone is criticizing the music leader; or the choir; or chewing on the pastors for lunch! I can name several dozen times where people shaking my hand at the back door have said "unjoyful" - joy-stealing things, that are not of the Kingdom of God.
2. Secondly, I think JOY IS A STATE OF MIND, NOT THE PLACE YOU ARE IN: That way, no matter what is going on around you, you still have your JOY for Jesus! C. S. Lewis said, Do not let your happiness (Joy modify) depend on something you may lose... only [upon] the Beloved who will never pass away. (1) Joy is not dependant on circumstances! "The very word joy or (care-e-o) in its original language means to be "cheerful", happy, well off, glad, and joyfully rejoicing.Paul talks about what produces that kind of "Joy" 1 Thess 2:19-20 "After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what is your proud reward and crown? It is you! Yes you will bring us much joy as we stand together before our Lord Jesus Christ when he comes back again. For you are our pride and joy." Our "Joy" needs to be focused on the very fact that we will eventually in the presence of the Lord. It is not about what is presently happening or not happening around us!
3. Thirdly, we must CHOOSE TO CULTIVATE JOY: When we choose to cultivate "Joy" we reap incredible benefits.
Jesus tells us in John 15 that He wants us to be full of "Joy" However, if you fill your life with strife, hatred, jealousy and envy you will reap the byproducts of your actions. Every Christian has the capacity to have "Joy" within his or her lives, Gal 5 tells me that. It tells me that "Joy" is a vital part of my make-up when I become a Christian and cannot be separated from my "Christian Character." (1) Cultivating JOY in your life and the lives of others is who we are! Having JOY and spreading JOY is evidence of the fruit of God at work in your life. I can tell you, I know a few people, just a few, who call themselves Christians and yet I have never heard them say one joyful thing about their life!
This wekk in the Kerrville paper was an advertisement entitled "Curing the Disease of Judgmentalism" offering a series of messages "to help anyone overcome their tendancy to be critical, condemning or judgmental" and it was from the "1st Condeming Church of Kerrville". And I thought the name of the Church sounded like the place for people who want to be condemning to go, but the point of the ad does seem to be helpful in overcoming judgementalism. In other words cultivate some JOY in your life.
4. Fourth, I want to say PRAY FOR JOY: When the Psalmist was being overwhelmed with attack and lies, He prayed "God take up my cause...defend me...send out your light and your truth...lead me to youy holy mountain to the place where you live." Pray to be lead to a place of Joy. If you don’t have joy, pray to be lead to a place of Joy. Never been there, pray to get out of the rut of anger and saddness and be filled with the Holy Power of Joy. In John Wesley’s day, in the early camp meetings, and even at more modern day places like the Brownsville Revival, reports were given where the Holy Spirit of God descended and the people broke out in laughter. Some call it Holy Laughter.