Summary: This is an Advent sermon.
Joy is a big word this time of year. In the song “How Great Our Joy,” we sing “Joy, joy, joy! Joy, joy, joy!” seemingly over and over. We have “Joy to the World,” “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You,” “Good Christian Men, Rejoice.” We talk of spreading “Christmas joy.” Where does Christmas joy come from?
Read Isaiah 35:1-10.
We have here a contrast that shows us where real joy comes, Christmas joy or regular joy. There are two types of lives we can live: a life without God or a life with God.
* Life without God is a DESERT
I have never been to a desert. I don’t much aspire to ever really go to a desert, other than to say I’ve been there. What do you think of you when you think about a desert? In many ways a life without God offers many of those things.
When we try to live without God, we worry a lot. Usually it’s about stuff that doesn’t really matter. Jesus said, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”
Worrying is useless, because if it’s something we can do something about, then there is no need to worry. If we can’t do something about it, then why worry? We can sit and worry about a test, or we can study.
This is more than physical blindness. This is spiritual blindness. Just because we have 20/20 vision doesn’t mean we can truly see.
A life without God means we can’t hear him. We can read the Bible and not hear the voice of God. We can pray and not hear the voice of God. Listening is more than hearing.
In days gone by a physical challenge was a death sentence, or at least a sentence to a life of poverty living at the mercy of a stranger. Christopher Reeve would never have lived as long as he did. Sin makes all of us spiritually lame.
We cannot praise God when we are walking away from him. We can’t tell others of what has done. If we do credit someone or something it is usually “luck.”
In the desert, we are in danger from wild animals. The jackal, the lion and the ravenous beast are our enemy. Peter said, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
An inexperienced desert traveler will soon find himself lost. Sand lies as far as the eye can see. If there is a road, it will probably be covered with sand. We are lost without God.
A life without God is self-centered. It’s all about me, me, me. Have you ever met someone who thought the sun rose and set on their command? We get all wrapped up in where we are headed, where we are going. A life without God isn’t fun.
* Life with God is an OASIS
Often in the desert, people think they see water, but it’s a mirage. All the good times promised by a life apart from God are a mirage. The Bible says that the pleasure of sin lasts for a season, but we must be concerned with eternity. A life with God gives us
Instead of worry we have security. Worry is produced by a lack of security. When children worry about their parents, it’s because something has shaken their security.
Jesus healed no fewer than 7 blind men, and that is all that is recorded. There were likely many more. When Paul was physically blinded, he received spiritual sight. When we begin to walk with God, our sight becomes clearer.
I saw on the news the week the story of a one-year-old boy who was born deaf. They gave him copular implants and now he can hear. When we begin to walk with God, our ears are opened to hear his voice, when we read the Bible and pray. Paul’s companions heard the voice, but they couldn’t understand what was being said. Listening has less to do with hearing than with perception and understanding. I can hear someone speak another language, but I won’t be able to understand what they are saying or perceive what they mean.
We gain strength in walking with God. Acts 3:8 tells about a lame man who was healed: “And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.”
David wrote, “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord” (Ps. 40:3). If we don’t praise God, Jesus said, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Not only are we able to praise God, we are able to encourage others, as verse 4 tells us to do.