Friday, January 8, 2010

#54 Finding Joy

John 16:20 "Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy."

We are now well into a new year and most of us have gotten back into the routine of our lives. I think back to Christmas morning and I can recall the faces of my children. Children get so excited about opening gifts. Bows go sailing across the room, and shreds of multicolored paper softly falls to the floor as the frenzy begins. When I was a kid myself I loved Christmas. It was harder to fall asleep on Christmas eve than any other night of the year because of the intense anticipation of Christmas day. Now that I am older I love still love Christmas, but my joy connected to Christmas is in seeing my children enjoy all the festivities and fellowship.

While I would agree that many of us experience a certain measure of joy on Christmas and other special days throughout the year, I would suggest to you that it is only a temporary joy. Temporary because the joy is associated with something new and exciting. I would take it one step further and say that joy based upon emotions and excitement is not really joy at all, but rather a momentary rush that wears off after the stimulus of the event fades into history.

What does real joy look like? Can we experience true joy while we are on earth? From whom does real joy come? Can I claim to be a Christian if I have no joy? These are searching questions for which the Bible gives us good answers.

In Galatians Paul writes to the believers seeking to teach them about the origin of true joy. In chapter five he lists things that come when we trust in our sinful flesh. He says when we trust in our sinful flesh that we will be immoral, impure, and a whole host of things that none of us should strive to achieve. He sets this in contrast to the fruit that comes from the Spirit of God. He writes that when we have the Spirit of God in us we will bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It only stands to reason that if we claim to be a Christian and do not have these "fruits' evident in our life then it is highly likely that we are not really Christians beyond what we profess with our mouths.

To answer my earlier questions, I think when we have true joy in our lives it will show on our faces and in how we deal with others. My heart breaks for people who do not have true joy. They are often bitter, cold-hearted, and easily angered if people get in their way. People without true joy do not have an air about them that attracts others. The opposite is quite often the case; they repel people like a foul odor. Life does not have to be this way friends. Christ died that we might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). An abundant life is one that is filled with the fruit of the Spirit; it is a life that is filled with joy.

This does not mean that we must have a "Pollyanna" approach to everything in life. Solomon told us that there is a time to weep, die, and kill, but there is also a time to heal, build up, dance, embrace, and love (Ecc 3:1-8). How much more attractive would our Christian experience be to the world who does not have Christ if those of us who profess to have Him would allow Him to give us true joy?

So how do we get this joy? We must surrender our hurts to Jesus. No matter what has happened to you in this life, no matter how profoundly you have been hurt because of abuse or loss, no matter how badly you have hurt others you need to surrender those things to Jesus. Many of us have suffered intense loss in this life, and we feel justified in carrying around profound sadness because we feel that the world does not understand or that the world does not care. The truth is that there is always someone who cares.

Jesus did not die to save us just to have His children languish in misery until He comes again. He came to give us abundant life. He came to give us joy. He came that we might live eternally with Him where heartache will not exist. But if we do not figure out how to give our hurts to Jesus now heaven will not be an option for us. If we choose to hold on to our hurts and pain we will rob ourselves of the fruits of the Spirit; we will rob ourselves of joy, and we will rob ourselves of salvation. I want to challenge each of you tonight to examine yourselves and ask yourself if you have true joy. You might as well be honest with yourself because the Lord already knows if you have true joy, and it is highly likely that most everyone around you knows if you are filled with joy or if you are a miserable and sad person. Let today be the day that you choose to let go of your hurts. Let today be the day that you let Jesus turn your griefs into joy.

Dear Father God,
Please teach us to let You take control of our lives. Please forgive us for holding onto past hurts and wearing them as a badge of honor while displaying misery to the world around us. Please wash our hearts clean just now that we might be filled with Your Spirit. In Christ's name we pray, Amen.

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