Summary: Let's talk about the pleasures of joy and then the stewardship of joy (Material adapted from Robert C. Roberts' book, Spiritual Emotions, chapter 8 Joy, pgs. 114-129)
From Max Lucado- “I have everything I need for joy!” Robert Reed said. His hands are twisted and his feet are useless. He can’t bathe himself. He can’t feed himself. He can’t brush his teeth, comb his hair, or put on his underwear. Strips of Velcro hold his shirts together. His speech drags like a worn out audiocassette. Robert has cerebral palsy. The disease keeps him from driving a car, riding a bike, and going for a walk. But it didn’t keep him from graduating from high school or attending a Christian University, from which he graduate with a degree in Latin. Having cerebral palsy didn’t keep him from teaching at St. Louis Junior College or from venturing overseas on five mission trips. And Robert’s disease didn’t prevent him from becoming a missionary in Portugal. He moved to Lisbon, alone, in 1972. There he rented a hotel room and began studying Portuguese. He found a restaurant owner who would feed him after the rush hour and a tutor who would instruct him in the language. Then he stationed himself daily in a park, where he distributed brochures about Christ. Within six years he led seventy people to the Lord, one of whom became his wife, Rosa. I heard Robert speak recently. I watched other men carry him in his wheelchair onto the platform. I watched them lay a Bible in his lap. I watched his stiff fingers force open the pages. And I watched people in the audience wipe away tears of admiration from their faces. Robert could have asked for sympathy or pity, but he did just the opposite. He held his bent hand up in the air and boasted, “I have everything I need for joy.” His shirts are held together by Velcro, but his life is held together by joy.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” Galatians 5:22, NIV.
Like last week with love, we are commanded to love, we are also commanded to be joyful. “Be joyful always;” 1 Thessalonians 5:16, NIV. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4, NIV.
What is joy? According to the Handy Bible Dictionary it is: “An emotion excited by expectation or acquisition of something good.” Excited by expectation is closely linked with hope. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12, NIV.
Acquisition of something good is akin to obtaining salvation. “joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” Colossians 1:11, 12, NIV.
Joy is similar but different from happiness. Happiness comes and goes based on circumstances but joy is to abide even in the midst of troubles. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,” James 1:2, NIV.
The emotions associated with happiness and joy are similar, talk about bliss, delight, pleasure.
Thesis: Let’s talk about the pleasures of joy and then the stewardship of joy
The Pleasures of joy
A. The good pleasures of joy
Physical pleasures are sensations. The pleasure of having the back rubbed is a sensation in the back, the pleasure of eating and drinking is in the tongue and throat and nose.
Spiritual pleasures are based on meaning. When the doctor tells us that our newborn baby is healthy, we take pleasure in the news, in the fact that the baby is healthy. We don’t feel this pleasure in any part of our body per se. True that we may feel a leaping in our midsection, an impulse to dance, and big smile on our face. We have these sensations but we are delighting in the way the world is: our baby is in good shape and we are pleased. We might call this emotion joy. Joy is a kind of satisfaction in this sense.
We can have joy in doing an activity. If we enjoy an activity, when it is free from frustration and we do it well, this gives us joy. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1, NIV. This is suggesting that the Christians activity, which is best done with some joy, consists of bodily activities like waiting tables, standing up in front of crowds, tending the sick, writing letters, visiting prisons. When these things are done with joy, this activity intermingles so that the body and spirit become one in the enjoyment.
B. The bad pleasures of joy
This might sound strange to us. It is wrong to think that joy is always good as it is to think that sorrow is always bad. We have seen that to feel joy is to see a situation as good, but sometimes people see bad situations as good. Like when someone delights in the public humiliation of a brain damaged person, his pleasure is evil. Scripture tells us that Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests to betray the Lord to them, and that when they saw what he was offering to do, “They were delighted (same root word of rejoice) to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.” Mark 14:11, NIV. The idea of crucifying an innocent man was for them an intense pleasure. This evil joy shows the corruption of their hearts. We would never be that way, oh really? Have we ever rejoiced over hearing the latest dirt on our neighbor? Ever taken joy (pleasure) in someone else’s misfortune. We experience this kind of joy when someone we envy suffers a setback.