Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we ask that You renew our joy over life by focusing our lives on You and Your goodness. Teach us to look always to You for help, strength and guidance. Teach us to glory in Your forgiveness for our sins. Teach us to be heavenly-minded. And once we possess such an outward focus, keep our eyes fixed there and away from the ups and downs of this world which really bring no lasting joy at all. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE JOY GIVER!
TEXT: Philippians 4: 4-13
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
For the past couple of years my mother has been enduring the pain of shingles. Many older people contract this disease. It’s caused by a common virus that afflicts nerve endings on the body and is very painful. For most, it will recede over time and eventually the pain will end. But for a few poor souls the pain stays active and it can take months, years to heal, and sometimes it never really goes away at all. Unfortunately, my mother falls into that later category. She’s been to the doctor numerous times with her shingles pain. He consoles her, writes her a prescription, and invariably it never seems to work. So, she’s forced to soldier on through life with eruptions of pain. All in all, it has robbed her of a certain joy over life. It’s hard to be “up” when you’re in constant pain.
However, she hasn’t given up or given in. She still remains a joy-filled Christian because she knows it won’t last forever. Christ has taken care of that on the cross through which eternal life, a pain-free life, awaits. That quiet confidence is the reason she gets up each morning and stays active.
Joy comes in many shapes and sizes. It has many causes. Special celebrations are joyful because we’re usually with loved ones. Getting an “all clear” from the doctor is joyful when you go into the office filled with apprehension. Buying a new car, a house, or just having a fun day of shopping can be joyful since it causes a chemical to be released into the brain bringing momentary bliss. Likewise, crossing a milestone in life such as: graduating from college, getting engaged or married, or having your first child brings its own kind of joy, too. And where would we be in this life if we didn’t have such moments of happiness?
That being said, earthly joy is really fleeting, isn’t it? It lasts a few minutes, or hours, or maybe even a day or two and then it recedes—replaced by the daily grind. We all feel the effects of advancing age and we all know death is inevitable. When we focus on that, it crushes joy right out of us. So, the question is: how can I have joy and keep true joy? Can I do it alone? Am I capable of that? You know the answer. It is a resounding: NO! That’s why we need God and His Word of enlightenment and comfort. That’s why we need this fabulous text. For in it we find:
GOD’S PRESCRIPTION FOR A JOY-FILLED LIFE
All 13 verses of this lesson are summed up in the opening sentence: “Rejoice in the Lord always.” To drive that home, Paul repeats this eternally wise counsel: “I will say it again: Rejoice!” Let’s take that sentence apart. We are to rejoice, find joy and inner happiness—not in ourselves, but in the Lord. Most people view joy as merely a human emotion. They would say that joy is created by the inner man due to, or combined with, some external stimuli. However, from God’s Word we know that joy is a fruit, a gift from the Holy Spirit. It is part of God’s eternal essence that He gives to us in Christ, through Christ, and with Christ. It is something that is always there for us. It doesn’t change, recede, or vanish just because economies go bad, a war comes, a disease strikes, or a death occurs. For those events are earth-bound, but God’s gift of joy cannot be tainted by such things. It is always there and always 100% active and effective. Just as God cannot vanish or recede, so, too, His joy. Therefore, when we focus on His love, His forgiveness, and His blessings given to us, His joy will be transferred to us. This is one of the tremendous blessings of faith. And this is why we can and should “rejoice in the Lord,” not ourselves or events in our lives, always.
Our joy comes from God. He’s the Source of it all. But that doesn’t mean we cannot get in the way of His joy and thwart its positive effects upon us. We’re sinners. We’re introspective. We often let our earth-bound existence and the pain of this life to pull us away from His joy. Shingles pain will do that, cancer will do that, kids who disappoint will do that, a job loss will do that, the list is endless. And when we dwell too much on such problems we get depressed and joy recedes. So, what’s the way out of this downward spiral? What’s God’s Prescription For A Joy-filled Life? It is focusing first on Christ and then acting on that focus. “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
One hard-edged radio talk show host was bluntly talking about pornography one night on his show. He was pondering why millions of people allow such human degradation to suck them into emotional depression, in essence to rob them of a joyful heart for a momentary hormonal high. And then he said something interesting. He said: “Why not start your day off by reading some Bible passages which uplift instead of tuning in porn which makes you spiritually dirty? Start your day on a positive instead of a negative. If you do, you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel and how much better everything turns out.”
Amen to that! And right here in our text St. Paul gives a much more complete answer as to why that is true. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Folks, that’s why attending church on Sunday morning is so important. If you really listen to God you’ll receive His joy and have it implanted in your heart. Where else do you hear Him say: “Your sins are forgiven”? Where else do you receive a heart transplant each week which takes the nasty dirt away and replaces it with clean, fresh joy? Not at school. Not at the ball park. Not at the workplace. Not on the soccer field. Here God fills out His prescription for joy and injects you with its antidote to depression and despair. Here He fills you with good things, heavenly things. Here He gives you not just a part of Himself, but all of Himself. For here He gives you His love in the form and person of Jesus Christ. Yes, “God is love” and love always brings and causes and elicits joy.
At the end of our lesson comes this famous line: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Everything means everything. And everything includes having joy and possessing joy as the foundation of your life. For with God in your corner and in your heart, joy must and will follow. It cannot be otherwise! God grant His joy unto all of you! Amen