Sermons - The Joy of GodWhy is “joy” a fruit of the spirit, rather than “happiness”? Is there a difference?
There IS a big difference that is evident in all the moments of your daily life.
We live in a world that seeks the sugar rush of happiness. The feelings we identify with happiness are literally a combination of chemicals (i.e., endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin & dopamine) produced in our body during very specific circumstances and events. When those circumstances and events stop, so too does our happiness.
Happiness is based on the temporary experience of what we seek in temporary circumstances by our own efforts. Happiness is fleeting. Fickle.
Joy is anchored to an acceptance of the permanent reality of what God sought out and won for us by His effort. Joy is self-sustaining. Nurturing.
Joy or happiness. Which would you rather have activated in your life, your relationships, your attitudes, choices, activities and the outcomes and results you experience daily?
Today we’ll have a look at the joy of God, which at times takes on the appearance of an outward expression; for example, rejoicing. We’ll also have a look at how all people can have the joy God wants in their lives.
The God we serve, the God who sought us out and still seeks the lost ones in our midst, is One of action and of great unfettered desire as He works all things out for our benefit and His glory.
The God we serve seeks and desires us to have joy by choosing Him instead of ourselves and our wants. He in fact engages in rejoicing when this occurs.
He has joy and He wants us to have a mature faith so that we can not only experience what He has but so that we, as those who are charged to tend the mission field, might share this fruit of the Spirit in season with others.
“The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17, NKJV)
This is the message of a prophet, during the reign of King Josiah, who personally experienced intense reformation with regards to God, while the people of Israel remained quite indifferent to the Lord and were engaged in pagan rituals and lifestyles.
The call of Zephaniah was a reminder that God was near Israel and wanted to be nearer their hearts forever. That He would rejoice over them with gladness and singing. This is the same call God makes to mankind today. God makes clear His intense desire to experience joy when we experience joy.
This intense desire that God has to rejoice over us is driven by His love for us. God knows that we will experience the joy He wants for us when we place our future in His hands; when we seek to follow Him not just in the grand plans of our lives but in the finer details of our days.
“I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 25:7, NKJV)
That there is such an intense desire on the part of God to rejoice over us, that there be joy in heaven when just one turns to Him, that “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God…” (Luke 15:10, NKJV) when we turn to Him for the first time but also when we remain in Him as His children; as those within His flock, knowing the sound of His voice. At times such as these there is joy on the part of God.
“But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; let those also who love Your name be joyful in You.” (Psalm 5:11, NKJV)
I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a pretty good deal. That our joy is moored to the faithful nature of a Creator who is perfectly consistent, perfect in His timing and quite frankly, in the final analysis, never fails.
Sadly many people spend the totality of their lives searching for the fleeting, temporary things that they believe will make them happy. They pursue anything and everything under the sun, from sins of the flesh to personal enrichment to pursuit of career to philanthropic works; all to get that sugar rush of happiness.
The greater reality is most are intentionally or inadvertently masking something that they’re missing or something from which they’re suffering greatly. The sad result is that the pursuit of happiness often distracts people from the lack of joy in their lives instead of it being an accompanying expression of a joyful soul.
Even less do people know what joy is; the meat and potatoes of our spiritual existence.
Joy. That deep rooted exuberance and glow of God that comes from knowing that everything is going to be okay despite the circumstantial evidence to the contrary.
Joy. That seemingly intangible something-or-another that no one can steal; which we would never consider giving away or losing, though we passionately want to share it.
It’s not complicated (because scripture is plain spoken on the matter) and it isn’t easy (because our self-centered nature gets in the way).
Our joy springs from abiding in Jesus Christ and allowing His word to abide in us.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4, NKJV)
When we “abide” in something we live in it, we continue with it and wholly remain in it. In this way, when the repentant of heart chooses to abide in Christ it is to “walk according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1) “as a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17); continuing with and to wholly remain within a secure and permanent relationship with the Lord.
“And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28-29)
When we abide in Christ and His words abide in us, it is then that we can produce the fruit of the Spirit by the power of the Spirit that Jesus promised, the One which lives within us.
When we abide in Christ and His word abides in us we are not inwardly focused on our problems, our situations or our wants and desires.
Instead we are outwardly focused on how we can love God more and thereby love people more. We feel the absolute exhilaration of doing His will in His name and for His glory while showing the loving touch of the One who sent His Son to Golgotha for our sake.
Sure, doing good things is a good thing. But those things are empty and hollow if they are done for their own sake or worse yet, for our personal legacy.
History shows that there is nothing more miserable than human beings focused on themselves and what they can consume next on the hamster wheel of life…running hard, getting nowhere, exhausted from the effort and nothing of substance to show for it all.
The very nature of the Christian walk is this; it is open to all those who truly choose Christ.
There are no experiences set aside for the select few among us (i.e. Star Bellied Sneeches); there is no oligarchy in God’s Church (note the capital “C”). Rather, a genuine desire on the part of the individual to pick up His cross and follow Him; maturing in faith with every step; abiding in Christ not out of obligation but out of joyful response to salvation won.
Joy is inherent in people when they are focused on God and others; not themselves. Joy is found in the lives of people when they give deep consideration and greater commitment to the heart of Christ and how their hearts can be in alignment with His. When their hearts and actions are equally aligned they reflect the heart of Jesus Himself. When we abide in Him and He dwells so strong within us, we possess joy.
Our joy is found in the joy of our Lord, Who, when the moments of His true purpose came to Him did not fade away or shrink from the charges before Him. He rose up in the perfection of His Heavenly Father and took our burdens upon Himself so that His Heavenly Father could know the joy of being with us for all time and that we could know the joy of being secured in paradise.
Jesus Christ bridged the unbridgeable by doing the unthinkable, to which He was appointed, so that His Father and His children could experience joy together, being reunited for all time.
“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:18, NKJV)
Minor prophet Habakkuk will overflow with gladness and will hold fast to the joy that He has in the Lord, He who is might to save. Even though, as it says in 3:17, “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls…” (NKJV)
Yet, in this life, times of trial, moments of frustration, anger, uncertainty and sadness seem to come at us from every direction; and happiness flees, proving itself to be fickle at best. Yet, great is our joy in these times when we are fully dependent upon Jesus and we can feel His encouraging and sustaining touch in our lives; when we let our lives hang in His balance, not ours.
“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NKJV)
When we are weak in ourselves we are strong in Christ. When we abide in Him and share in the unparalleled joy of our relationship with God we increase our ability to share with Him our praises and to talk about our troubles, and pour out our hearts in gratitude for what He has done and for what is assuredly coming next.
We, by the power of the Holy Spirit, have the fruits of the Spirit richly and in abundance. Not merely for our benefit, but for the benefit of others, so all may see Christ through us, His Church, and choose Him as Lord and Savior, so that none will perish.
Remember in each moment with God in our midst; that He desires to save; that He rejoices over His children with gladness; that He will quiet us with His love and that He will rejoice over us with singing. He wanted this from the beginning and He did all it took to make our eternal joy an absolute reality; even while we were opposed to Him.
The joy of God!