They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read. (Nehemiah 8:8)
Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. (Nehemiah 8:9)
Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Well I’m starting a new 3 week series this morning called ‘You Can’t Have My Joy’
And I’ve thought about how to bring up this subject because I think the temptation is going to be for you, the listener, to think of this series as kind of a throwaway.
That’s it’s such an obvious topic in a Christian Church, that it’s unexciting.
It’s like Faith. You hear - “Oh, so and so wrote a book and it’s on faith.” And you’re thinking “Pass” “Boring.” - Well I think that joy can kinda feel like that.
I mean, you say you’re doing a series on False Prophets, or the Book of Revelation, or Money. And boy, people perk up!
But I want us to resist that, because I believe that joy is an absolutely critical issue for the church in 2021.
And there’s one attribute that the Bible repeatedly uses when describing Satan: he’s crafty. He’s sneaky.
If you’re a Christian, the devil doesn’t overpower you. He’s been defeated. He’s been disarmed. He has a gun with no bullets.
No the devil doesn’t overpower you, but he does outsmart you.
A wonder if any of you are familiar with this man (Tony Slydini) - His name is Tony Slydini and in the world of progressional magic, he’s know as the Master of Misdirection.
Misdirection is taking your eye away from the place where the action is actually happening.
Let me show you. (Do a dumb coin trick)
Do you see what I did there?
It’s misdirection. The magician gets you focusing on one thing, while the deception is happening somewhere else. - They have you looking at this hand but the deception is happening in this hand.
I want to submit to you that this is one of the primary ways the devils works post-resurrection. Satan was defeated at the cross, and so he’s had to change methods. And he’s become the master of misdirection.
And while he has you looking over here, he hits you with a sneak attack here.
And so if you ask the average American Christian today what they think the biggest threat to the church is today, they’ll probably say something stupid like masks.
They’ll probably say something stupid like ‘it’s the president’.
I believe one of the great attacks that the devil has laid upon the church over the past 2 years, is that he has caused far too many of us to lose our joy.
Why does that matter?
Well let me say this, the devil doesn’t care if you’re happy. He doesn’t give a rats behind about that. But he does want you weak. And he knows that if you lose your joy, you lose your strength.
For the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
And when you don’t have joy, you don’t have strength. And when you don’t have have joy, you look weak because you are weak.
I believe we are experiencing a joy epidemic. I wonder if you’ve noticed this. I still see people outside, I just don’t see smiling people outside. And it just seems like everyone is so weary, and so frustrated, that is feels like the world is a much more serious place than it was 2 years ago. Am I the only one?
Russia Trip I remember years ago I went on a mission trip to Russia, and I remember our interpreter said ‘Now you have to understand this is a different place than the US. People are much more subdued and quiet here.’ And they said that you could easily spot Americans because they were the loud ones, making eye contact with everybody. I hope I’m not being racist right now. This has nothing to do with ethnicity, this is a culture thing. And man, it was so true, we stuck out like sore thumbs. We were talking, and laughing, and smiling at people, and waving at people. And we were just freaks over there.
And I just feel like I’m going to there grocery store these days and having flashbacks on Russia. I’m trying to wave at people, I’m trying to say hi to people and it just feels different now.
It comes naturally to us.
Babies When a baby is born, if they’re healthy, you don’t have to teach them to breathe. You don’t have to teach them to cry. You don’t have to teach them to throw up on their dad. It’s in their DNA.
And in the same way, when a Christian is healthy, you don’t have to teach them to have joy. We are born into joy.
In 1 Thessalonians, Paul is writing and explaining to people about their conversion, their rebirth, and look at what he says.
You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.(1 Thessalonians 1:6)
Whoa, what? Remember, he’s explaining their conversion, and he says they received the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
It’s not about believing true things, it’s about receiving the truth with joy given by the holy spirit.
Demons also believe true things. They know that Jesus was the son of God. They know Jesus died on the cross. They know he rose from the dead. They know those things, but they don’t receive that truth with the joy given by the holy spirit.
Jesus Parable Treasure in Field
Jesus tells a parable that the kingdom of God is like a man who discovers a treasure buried in a field, and when he discovers it, he buries it again and because of his joy, he sells everything he has and buys the field. It’s because of joy that he does that.
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, (Romans 14:17)
The Word ‘Gospel’ literally means ‘Joy News’
When Jesus is born, the angels say ‘I bring tidings of great…’ What? Joy.
Some of you may be familiar with Jürgen Moltmann who is a German theologian. He says this:
“The Christian faith is a unique religion of joy.”
He explains that every religion has a center.
But the center of the Christian faith is the gospel. The joyful news of Jesus Christ.
Meaning that the joyous nature of the Christian faith is one of the things that distinguishes it from every other religion.
Well I looked up the definition of joy and this is what it said “A feeling of happiness”
Now listen, that’s fine b/c that IS how most people use the word, but the joy that is the birthright of the believer, is NOT a feeling of happiness.
And so I thought and prayed and asked God to give me a definition of captures the essence of biblical joy. And this is what I wrote:
“Joy is the buoyancy that comes from the revelation of who we are in God.”
Now what in the world does that mean? What is buoyancy? Well buoyancy is when something floats.
And so when there is a shipwreck, the things that are buoyant find their way to the surface, while the things that are not buoyant sink to the bottom of the sea.
And when somethings buoyant, it doesn’t mean that is doesn’t ever go under water, it just means that it doesn’t stay there.
A storm can push something buoyant under water, but it will float back up to the top.
And in the same way, having joy does not mean you won’t endure storms, and it doesn’t mean you won’t endure shipwrecks, but it does mean that you won’t sink.
You guys know me, you know my series intros are long. But it’s over now. You did it.
What I want you to write down for this week is this: “Joy is Worth Fighting For"
The world can’t give you joy. Even if it wanted to, it doesn’t have it to give. So how the heck is it gonna give it to you if it doesn’t have it in the first place? But what the world has is counterfeit to Spiritual Joy, and lets call that ‘Worldly Happiness’. Now from the outside they might look similar. But there very different. And I’d like to briefly go over some of the differences.
We achieve worldly happiness by something coming to us from the outside. You got a raise. You got a new car. You have a new girlfriend. You’re having a good hair day.
Spiritual Joy is a natural byproduct of a born-again spirit.
Galatians 5:22 - many of you know - the fruit of the spirit is Love, Joy. When I was young I used to think those were just things I should try to have. Not till later did I realize that Paul is actually saying ‘These are things that I already have.’ In my spirit.
Sometimes I’m happy in the morning, and then someone cuts me off in traffic and happiness is a gone.
Joy can and should affect my emotions, but it comes from a place that’s deeper than my emotions.
In fact I would even go so far as to say that joy expresses it’s strength most profoundly in seasons of pain
Ok so Joy is Worth Fighting For. The Question is why? Why is it worth fighting for? Why is it important? You might be thinking “Well yeah I don’t have joy. But I’m fine with that. I’m devout” Well, yeah that’s great and all, but I hope to spend just a few minutes showing you that joy is, in fact, worth fighting for.
So let’s say there’s 2 people, one has joy one doesn’t. What does the person who has joy have on the person who doesn’t?
One who is full loathes honey from the comb, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet. (Proverbs 27:7)
Meaning you can be attracted to what's unhealthy, when you hungry.
Intermittent Fasting I do something called Intermittent Fasting. Which means that most days, not every day but nearly every day, I fast for 16 hours, and eat for 8. So I know about being hungry. And isn’t interesting how you appetite changes when you’re truly hungry? Not just bored, but actually hungry. When you’re seriously hungry.
Alone Show My wife and I watch this survival show called ‘Alone’ where these people are by themself on these desolate locations, and they get REALLY hungry, sometimes they’re able to fish and so they can have food, but other times the fish aren’t biting so they go days and days without eating anything. And when that happens, and the hunger sets in, and they come across some decaying, dead bird corpse with no head and they think “Yum”. And some of them eat it, knowing that it could harm them.
I bet if you were to honestly assess your life, you would admit that some of the worst decisions you’ve ever made, you made them when you were hungry. And I don’t just mean food. It could be emotionally, professionally, relationally. When you stop allowing the joy of the Lord to sustain you, you open yourself up.
Single people. At least have the honestly to admit that some of the worst decisions you’ve ever made were when you became dissatisfied and impatient.
But when you have joy, you can say no to what you know ain’t good for you.
When you lose your joy, you open yourself up to temptation
But Joy protects me
Joy provides perspective You’ve all experienced this. You’re tired, you’re hungry, you’re upset. And your spouse says one tiny thing wrong, what do you do? You overreact. You miscalculate the size of a thing.
Amazon Table I remember one time me and Jordan found this end table on amazon, and we were like “Look how sweet that thing is! What a great table! And look at that price!” And so we ordered it, and it came in, and it was like this big!!!But you can’t tell, when you’re just looking at the item. Because there’s no frame of reference. If you saw it next to a person, you could tell, but by itself, it’s really difficult to tell how big something is.
Mind and Heart Like Still Water Something that God has been dealing with me on over the last 10 years or so is this: I want my mind and my heart to be like still water. Picture a lake with calm, still lake. And then you throw a rock in the lake. Well the lake responds appropriately to the size of the rock. So if you throw in a tiny pebble, just tiny little waves. And if you throw in a huge boulder, it’s gonna be much bigger waves. But in any case, the response is appropriate for the size of the rock. Water doesn’t over-react nor does it under-react. And that’s how I want to be. I want my reactions to be appropriately sized. Big responses to big things, little responses to little things.
And I have noticed, that when I lose my joy, I lose my ability to respond appropriately.
And when I have my joy firmly rooted in my relationship with Christ, and who I am in Christ, then worldly concerns, I’m not taking about deep tragedy and grief (although we are gonna talk about that next week), but just everyday stresses, in the light of this amazing life and salvation that is mine through Jesus, those issues don’t appear bigger than they really are.
Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth— (Isaiah 43:6)
everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:7)
We were created FOR his glory. “Pastor David, why did God make me?” - He made you for his glory.
It’s why we exist. To glorify the Father. God gets glory not just out of who we are and what we do but he also gets glory out of how we are.
Joy is evangelistic.
Joy makes your faith attractive. Joy is attractive to everyone. In every ethnicity, every age bracket, every socio-economic category. Joy is universal.
Joy is an aspect of God. And having Joy gives you an opportunity to reveal to people the goodness of God.
This is true with your friends, this is true at your job, this is true in your own family. If you want to be someone who helps situations wherever you go, become a person of joy.
Being with Grieving Families One of my great honors as a pastor is to be invited into peoples lives when they’re experiencing grief, and loss, and sorrow. When a church member experiences tragedy, we’re usually one of the first people they call. And that’s a great privilege, and that’s a great responsibility.
And I remember when I was a young pastor, and I would get called by a family who has just lost a loved one, and I would feel this huge pressure to be able to come in to those situations with the right wisdom and the perfect bible verses. This might sound secular, but I don’t worry about that anymore.
Now, when I’m going into a tough situation, I don’t pray that God would make me such a brilliant grief counselor that I could accurately solve their situation with advice. I don’t worry about that anymore. Now what I pray is “God, I believe your presence brings healing. So help me be someone who brings the presence of God with me whenever I go.”
And I don’t try to mimic other people’s suffering. I used to, but I don’t do that anymore. Now, my aim and my goal is to bring God’s peace and God’s joy with me wherever I go.
And I believe THAT invites God into a situation.
I bet you’ve seen this play out. Maybe you’re in a hospital room or in some tough situation, and a friend of family member who has spiritual joy, not cheap happiness, but real spiritual joy, they walk into that hospital room, and God’s presence comes with them.
What an asset you can be to your family, to have deep, spiritual joy whenever you go. Your family is stressed or tense, or whatever and you walk into the room and it just feels like the clouds lift when you walk in. And it’s not because you’re so amazing, it’s because the spirit of God changes the atmosphere.
Joy Invites God Into Situations
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, (James 1:2)
because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:3)
James is saying that when things get tough, put on your joy, because that joy gives you strength and endurance.
The ultimate example of this is Jesus.
Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, (Hebrews 12:1b)
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
Jesus ENDURED the cross. How? It was the “joy set before him” that gave him the endurance to withstand the agony of the cross.
Card When I get knocked down, my joy picks me back up. (Joy of the Lord is my strength)