Summary: Today as we talk about joy, I’d like to discuss with you the problem of joy, take a journey through the Scriptures, and then talk about the solution of joy. Problem. Journey. Solution.
THE PROBLEM OF JOY
INTRODUCTION... Three words can be powerful (p)
What are the three most powerful words you can ever say to someone? Right away you are probably thinking of some powerful phrases than only contain three words… maybe you have said them to someone… maybe someone has said them to you.
I love you. I miss you. Seize the day. This will pass.
I am sorry. . Get lost loser. Don’t be afraid. Just do it.
Please forgive me. Let’s be friends. Never look back. Now or never.
Each one of these phrases is small, but packed with meaning and depending on the situation, can bring life and goodness or could just crush someone. Words are powerful!
Today we are going to look at one verse from the Bible that only contains three words. Yes I said three words. This verse is only slightly longer than John 11:35 (NIV 1984) which is the shortest verse in the Bible which is “Jesus wept.” Depending on the translation you use, the verse may only have two words! Even though this verse has only three words, each one seems to be quite powerful. What verse are we looking at?
READ 1 THESSALONIANS 5:16
“Be joyful always” (NIV 1984)
As I said, depending on the particular Bible you have in your hands, the verse might also say:
“Rejoice evermore” (KJV, KJ21)
“Rejoice always” (ASV, CEB, NASB, ESV, HCSB)
“Always be joyful” (NLT, CEV, TLB)
“Always rejoice” (NET)
However you slice it and however you read it, we are talking about “joy” today. Today as we talk about joy, I’d like to discuss with you the problem of joy, take a journey through the Scriptures, and then talk about the solution of joy. Problem. Journey. Solution.
I. THE PROBLEM OF JOY
As I began to dig into these three words in 1 Thessalonians 5:16, I realized that some of us might have an issue with the word “joy.” I suppose I should be totally honest and let you know that I personally struggle with joy at times. I am hoping this morning that by being honest about ourselves with ourselves, we will find the Truth God has for us in His Word. I think we struggle with joy for two reasons.
First, we are ruled by our definition of joy. Last week John mentioned that the Greek language, from which the New Testament is translated, has several specific words for “love.” He listed four for us and went through them. “Joy” is much more complicated. By my calculations, in the Greek language in the New Testament there are eleven (11) different words for joy/rejoice which covers the words joy, happiness, rejoice, joyful, gladness, to thrive, to be well, to be conscious of grace, for other people, for oneself, and all of them are often translated and smushed together as just “happy” or “joy” in English. When I say the word “joy” can you define it without stuttering or offering a story about it? When I say the word “joy” can you define it without using synonyms? We at times find defining “joy” quite complicated and difficult.
What does this mean? It means we may not be so sure what “joy” actually is. Is joy a feeling? If joy is a feeling is it dependent on circumstances? Is joy an attitude? Is joy a choice? Is joy inside of me or is it something divinely given? Is joy dependent on another person? Is joy given by things or possessions? Is joy psychological? I guess I myself have a lot of questions when it comes to “joy” because it seems to be a complicated concept and it seems more than mere happiness, more than dependent on circumstances, less of an attitude… I’m just not sure.
So our problem with joy is rooted in our definition of it… or the lack of definition.
Second, we are sometimes ruled by our negative emotions. I hate to say it but I can be ruled by my negative emotions. I hope you are honest enough to realize that can be as well. The Bible is replete with listings of our sinful nature and the negative emotions that plague us. Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 4:31, Colossians 3:8, Titus 3:3, and 1 Peter 2:1 lists for us hatred, bitterness, rage, anger, malice, and envy. I would add to these lists sadness, frustration, and depression. These negative emotions are part of our lives. We all deal with them because we are human beings and we are people with emotions.
What does this mean? I’m not sure yet, but it seems like negative emotions… specifically anger, sadness, depression, jealousy, and frustration seem to be in direct conflict with joy. Does that mean if I am angry I cannot have joy? Does that mean if I am frustrated I cannot have joy? Does that mean if I am depressed I cannot have joy? If I am dealing with negative emotions, is my joy gone? We haven’t even talked about pride, greed, and other aspects of our sinful nature which might also battle against joy.