Summary: This second of a sermon series on the Fruits of the Spirit covers what makes God happy and what makes Christians happy.
June 20, 2004 What is Christian Joy All About?
There are two kinds of people that want to be happy in this world. Christians and unbelievers. There are two forces that want happiness. God and Satan. Within these two realms of good and evil, both experience joy and both experience sorrow. Yet the WAY in which they experience joy and sorrow - and the reasons for their joy and sorrow are completely opposite. Consider the story of Haman, for instance.
Haman boasted to (his friends and family) about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials. . . . But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.” His wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Have a gallows built, seventy-five feet a high, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai hanged on it. Then go with the king to the dinner and be happy.” This suggestion delighted Haman, and he had the gallows built. (Es 5:11-14)
Haman had riches, fame, and honor which made him somewhat happy. But as long as “that JEW Mordecai” would not bow down to him or give him the honor he felt he deserved - he wouldn’t be completely happy. The ONLY thing that he felt would make him ultimately happy would be the death of Mordecai and all the Jews along with him.
This is a true sign of evil - taking joy in the suffering and death of God’s people. Satan says, “When I see the temporal suffering of humans who finally escape us, I feel as if I had been allowed to taste the first course of a rich banquet and then denied the rest.” (C.S. Lewis Screwtape Letters - page 39) Satan must have enjoyed putting Job’s children to death with a mighty wind! (Job 1) He must have enjoyed putting those boils on Job’s skin and watching him suffer in agony for days on end. Satan was happy to see Peter weeping bitterly at his sin of denying Christ. He was overjoyed when Job cursed the day he was born. He was ecstatic when Sarah was angry with Hagar for having the child she couldn’t bear. But like Haman, Satan still isn’t completely satisfied until he sees us spiritually dead and burning in hell. 1 Peter 5:8 states that “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
God and His angels, on the other hand, find pleasure and joy in the exact opposite things. God’s Word says that, I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Lk 15:7) God’s Word says that He - wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4) So when Jesus went into Jerusalem and realized all of those who were lost - without faith - without comfort - he cried out - O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. (Matthew 23:37) God primarily finds joy in saving people through the blood of His Son. There’s nothing that makes him happier than seeing you at comfort with Him - feeling confident to pray to Him - rely on Him - trust in Him for your salvation. And if He is able to give you more without hurting your faith - it makes Him glad to do that as well.
So here we sit in the middle of this world with two powerful forces seeking joy over us. One side - the weaker of the two - wants you to miserably burn in hell. The other side - our powerful LORD - wants you to be happy in heaven. So you would think that those on the way to hell are miserable - while those on the way to heaven are happy. I could understand why unbelievers are unhappy - couldn’t you? I mean, they’re born in sin and the devil has control over them. Their happiness revolves around temporary things like sex, material goods, and whether their favorite teams win or lose. They have no comfort of knowing where they go when they die. They’ve only got temporal things to live for - things that come and go like fame, health, acceptance, and temporary items. But more often than not, it appears to be the exact opposite. The unbelievers are living seemingly carefree and fun lives, while the Christians are the biggest complainers and the most disgruntled - complaining about the country, their health, their marriage, their children, and everything else. What about you? Do you find yourself constantly unhappy? How can that be? You’re sins have been paid for. You’ve been baptized. You have the Holy Spirit in you. You know that through faith - not by works - you’re going to heaven. You know you’re holy in God’s sight by the blood of Christ. On top of all this, you have plenty of food on your table. You have plenty of clothes. You have a roof over your head. You have a church to freely worship in. Yet how many of you are joyful? How many of you have a smile on your face most of the time? What in the world is the matter? What’s wrong with you?