WHERE DO WE FIND REAL JOY?
We tend to sometimes look for happiness and joy in the wrong places. Today we will consider some of the hopeless ways we seek joy and compare them to the true joy offered by Christ.
Read John 15:9-11
JESUS says "I OFFER TRUE JOY"
Almost 105 years ago during the Christmas Season, a preacher by the name of Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon on the true joy of Christmas. The sermon took well over an hour to preach. (2) Today, I would like to share with you. what I gained from this hundred-year-old message, for in all those years the truth of this message for our need has never changed.
I. THE TRUE JOY OF CHRIST DOES NOT COME FROM THE POSSESSIONS.
The Babe in the manger had no earthly possessions.
... Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. Luke 9:58 (NIV)
During the Christmas season, we may see the movies or read the story of Ebenezer Scrooge. Ebenezer’s wealth and his position were his whole life. The story of Ebenezer finds his life-changing when Jacob Marley showed him the futility of his life. Jacob’s message to Ebenezer was that possessions just will not make him happy.
Of course, Ebenezer Scrooge is not the only person who depended upon his possessions to bring him happiness. An article that appeared in Psychology Today magazine demonstrated how desperate and futile a person’s search for possessions can reach. The magazine conducted a contest they called Scamarama, they asked their readers to send in a creative scam. The winner’s scam would be published in the magazine. They printed their winners. The grand prize was titled: WISH YOU WERE BORN RICH? NOW YOU CAN BE! If you are one of the growing millions who are convinced of the reality of reincarnation, here is a once-in-a-lifetime offer! First, leave us $10,000 or more in your will. After you pass away, our professional medium will contact your spirit in the other world. Then you tell us when you are coming back and under what name. Upon your return, we regress you, at age 21 through hypnosis to this lifetime and ask you for your seven-digit account number. Once you give us the number, we give you a check on-the-spot for your original investment plus interest! The longer you are gone the more you will receive! You may come back to find yourself a billionaire! Show your future self how much you care-leave a generous "welcome-back" present. We will take care of the rest.
Did I mention they were asking for scams? That is what that was. I did not find out how many people fell for that one, but I am sure there were some. Well, if we are Christians, we should not fall for it for one simple reason – we will not be reincarnated. We will be raised again to live eternally – and we will not need the monetary reward the scam offered.
Someone has written, "When you have nothing left but God, then you become aware that God is enough." Of course, we know that, but do we sometimes forget it and start depending on earthly possessions to bring us joy?
II. True Joy Does Not Come From Position. The early church did not seek high and important positions.
When we are living our life in Christ our nationality or race, or education, or social position is unimportant; such things mean nothing. Whether a person has Christ is what matters, and he is equally available to all. Paul speaks of this in Colossians 3:11 when he writes: “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and is in all.
We live in a world that glorifies and encourages "winning." Whether it is winning a position, gaining power, being recognized by others, and accepted because of who we are or what we accomplished. For so many today the goal in life is to achieve a position of acceptance and worth.
The problem with "position" is that it tends to be based on what other people think. And what people think may not always be the truth. Eric Hoffer, a social philosopher, who won the Presidential Medal of Honor, taught that however much we guard against it, we tend to shape ourselves in the image others have of us. Living our lives in that way comes from a lack of true meaning in one’s own life. And, by living that way we become what others expect of us, not what we should be as followers of Christ.
III. True Joy Does Not Come From Philosophy. I sincerely doubt that anyone gained any kind or level of joy from philosophy. Christ’s birth and His ministry were centered in the Simplicity of common people and life.
Few people who were called by Christ would have been considered wise in the world’s eyes. Very few, if any, were powerful in the political arena. They were not decision-makers whose decisions influenced others. Very few possessed any wealth to speak about. Among the earliest disciples, five were fishermen, one was a tax collector, and the careers of the rest are unknown. None (with the possible exception of Matthew) had any status of education or wealth.
God does not seek out followers because the world admires and sets up as persons to be given special honor. Instead, he reveals, and actively seeks those who have proven themselves to be humble, with hearts searching for truth and service. These servants will not be concerned about or expect others to treat them as better than other people. God can use us no matter what our position or status might be.
To those who are wise in the ways of the world, it would have made more sense for God to call influential people of the world rather than the ragtag bunch He did select as His close followers.
But God does what seems foolish to the world -- he calls those who do not have these characteristics and achievements.
Proverbs 16:25 tells us: “There is a way which seems right to a man, but in the end, it leads to death.”
IV. True Joy Does Not Come From Peace – The world into which Christ – the First Century -was a time of Persecution and Danger.
James 1:2-4 (NIV) tells us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
We actually learn and grow and mature because of our perseverance in the time of trial. We do not face much persecution here today, but I believe the time will come when followers of Christ will face persecution for our beliefs and trust in God.
We are already seeing some of that persecution in areas today which are by God’s Word not acceptable, but if we speak against them, we are judging, and that judging will lead to our being ostracized and persecuted in the minds of others if not in a physical way.
There will ever be wars and rumors of wars. The world has been seeking peace for uncounted centuries. Our young country – young compared to most countries of the world at 245 years old – has been engaged in several world wars: WW I, WW II, Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq. The list goes on. While the purpose in going to war often was often to secure or maintain peace none of them ever achieved a lasting peace.
Christian songwriter Max Redman wrote a song that is one of my favorites in the modern music genre. This song brings the message that in whatever life brings, he is going to choose to say, "Blessed be your name."
Blessed be Your name...When the sun’s shining down on me,
When the world’s all as it should be.
Blessed be Your name; Blessed be Your name,
On the road marked with suffering, Though there’s pain in the offering.
Blessed be Your name
You [choose to] give and [choose to] take away.
My heart will always choose to say, "Lord, blessed be Your name."
V. True Joy Does not come from Celebrations and Festivities. Look at the places we find Jesus These places were not celebrated with a great announcement. The Stable – it was quiet, (except for the mooing of a cow); the Upper Room (the Apostles were questioning but no celebration was going on, and then in the Empty Tomb. Tombs are always quiet. This tomb was different, of course, because on the third day an earthquake shook a large stone from its resting place.
Paul says in his letter to the church in Rome. (Romans 14:17-18 “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Rom. 14:17-18 (NIV)
So far, we have looked at where True Joy does not come from. We need now to look at where True Joy DOES come from.
FROM WHERE DOES THE TRUE JOY OF CHRIST COME?
A. True Joy Comes From Alertness. The Wisemen studied and searched for this new king.
Hebrews 12:2 gives us some excellent advice on how and why we must be alert as we journey through our life in Christ here on earth.
” Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” - Hebrews 12:2
We are coming up on a new year. What a fitting new year’s resolution: A Habit of Bible Reading and Study of the Word. I know many of us have begun that and were successful until --- along comes Numbers. And the reading becomes less of a priority. My assessment of Numbers is that you do not have to read and comprehend all the “numbers.” At least read the headings you will find in most Bibles. You will find some to be interesting and even exciting. There are some remarkable stories there among the numbers.
B. True Joy Comes from Awareness. The Shepherds listened and responded.
1 Peter 1:8-9 says ”Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9 (NIV)
As we look ahead to the new year it is a perfect time to commit yourself to be faithful in worship. Although a new year is a suitable time to begin new practices, our commitment to every Lord’s Day congregational worship is not confined to the beginning of a new block of time. You are here today and if you have not been in the gathering of the Body of Christ, every Lord’s Day, today can be your day to commit to being faithful in worship.
C. True Joy Comes From Allegiance. Early believers followed and celebrated even in the face of persecution.
The Apostle Paul praised the Macedonian churches for their perseverance even during trials and persecutions.
2 Corinthians 8:1-2 - “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.”
Now we know where, and from whom our true joy comes from and where it does not come from. Our next step is to begin to act upon the fact that our Joy is in Jesus and no other person, place, or thing.