I have titled this sermon “Real Joy” to distinguish it from mere happiness. As I look through the Scripture, I see a difference in these two words. More than the word definitions themselves, I find the usage of these two words to be very different. Happy and blessed are often interchanged, but not joy and happiness. The word for joy is usually associated with a condition of the heart, related to God, whereas happiness is based on circumstances. Joy is a gift of God. Happiness is the emotional result of His gifts. Joy is a deep abiding sense of overwhelming gratitude. Happiness is a momentary emotion. You may have come here with joy this morning, but not be happy about your circumstances. You may have come happy but not possess real joy. Some of us may never have experienced real joy. Let me share with you how people in the Scripture came to experience real joy.
(I Chronicles 16:27) Honor and majesty are before Him; Strength and gladness are in His place.
God lives in joy.
(Psalm 16:11) You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
The by-product of the Spirit of God in us is joy.
(Galatians 5:22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, …
Jesus is more joyful than any person you have ever met, or will meet, because God poured joy upon Him.
(Psalm 45:7) You have righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.
The wonderful truth for us to grab hold of today is that God desires His very own joy to be in us and for our joy to be complete.
(John 15:11) “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Every one of these expressions comes right out of Scripture. I encourage you to take the time to read the Scriptures from this sermon.
How did the people in Scripture find the joy that comes from the presence of God? First and foremost, they found it in their salvation. When the load of guilt and shame was removed from their souls, they were filled with joy. Listen to these passages about the connection with joy and salvation.
(Matthew 13:44) “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Are you sold out for Jesus Christ?
We have a hunger in our hearts to have our guilt load removed. We want to know we are at peace with our Maker, that judgment does not await us. Perhaps a better expression than guilt is “conviction of sin.” Guilt can imply feelings of inferiority or lack of self-confidence. I’m not speaking of that. I’m referring to a revelation of God. Once you begin to understand who God is, to see Him at a distance in your mind, you begin to see your flaws. It’s like walking closer to a mirror. From a distance you appear to be just fine, but the closer you get the more you can see the hairs out of place, the blemishes on the skin, and the wrinkled clothes. Jesus was always gentle with the sinners who saw in the mirror that they were a mess. It was the hard-hearted, self righteous ones He blasted. Those harsh words He spoke to them were a catalyst to get them to turn and take a look in the mirror. Without looking in the mirror we don’t have a clue as to what the weight on our shoulders is. In fact, we can even convince ourselves that it isn’t there. That doesn’t change the nagging reality that our shoulders are slumped under the burden.
Whatever your condition, when the load is lifted, joy floods into the heart as the weight of sin comes off of you. There is joy in your heart and joy in heaven because a soul has been reclaimed and now has a glorious future.
(I Peter 1:8,9) whom having not seen you love, though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory. receiving the end of your faith–the salvation of your souls.
Also (Acts 16:34) Now when He had brought them into his house, he set food before them, and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.
(Isaiah 12:3) Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
Isaiah described it as drawing refreshing water out of the well of salvation. If you don’t know this joy that comes from God, you can experience it right now by coming to Him and asking that the work of Jesus on the cross for your sins be applied to you. Ask for forgiveness, and He will gladly give it to you.
We can lose this joy that comes with salvation. David turned his back on God, and the joy vanished from his life. Whenever something is not right between God and us, we lose that sense of joy. That is the Spirit’s warning system to us. It’s that nagging light on our dashboard that says you better pull over before the problem gets worse. When David repented of his rebellion, he asked that God restore his joy. When the people of Nehemiah’s day heard the Word of God read and explained to them, they wept before the Lord. They looked into the mirror and saw they were a mess. It broke their hearts. The Levites encouraged them to celebrate and let God’s joy be their strength.
(Nehemiah 8:10) reads: Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Understanding what is wrong is the beginning to restoration. It is a painful experience to see we are not what we thought we were; but it is the beginning of restoration if we are willing. That is a cause for great joy! Again, the sense of the burden of separation from God is being lifted. Christian brother or sister, have you lost the joy of the Lord?
When people are in a cult, the joy of the Lord slowly drains from their lives. The more they walk in disobedience to the Holy Spirit the more weight they feel. People comment they do not smile like they used to do. Hear the Apostle Paul’s warning to the Galatians:
(Galatians 4:15,16) What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me. Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?
The Galatians had rejected Paul because his word brought conviction. They were once filled with joy and obedient to the Holy Spirit, but they began to listen to someone who drew them away from the truth. That made them have animosity to the one who presented the truth. The result was a loss of joy to God’s children. How is your joy? If it is not so vibrant, it may be time to walk up to the mirror and get things right, to pray with David, “Restore to me the joy of my salvation.”
God’s word brings joy into our lives. If you are not letting God speak to you through His Word, then you are missing out on greater joy.
(Psalm 119:111) Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, For they are the rejoicing of my heart.
(Jeremiah 15:16) Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.
(Psalm 19:8) The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
God’s word can fill your heart with joy because it will come alive as you read it. The Lord Himself will speak to you through it. There is great joy in knowing that God is real, alive and concerned about you individually. When the disciples found out that Jesus was truly raised from the dead, the Scriptures say they could hardly believe for the overwhelming joy. As the Word of God speaks to you personally, you are filled with joy at the realization that it is true. I can’t explain that experience to you. You have to read the Word with an open heart and mind and you will experience this joy of realizing He is alive.
(Matthew 28:8) So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.
Joy is not the expectation of the things God promises us in the future. That is hope and faith. Joy is His presence in us right now. The Living Word brings a realization of that.
Remember, from the introduction, this joy I’m talking about is not based on circumstances. The Scriptures tell us a number of times of joy in the face of pain and loss.
(II Corinthians 7:4) Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulations.
Imagine that, in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds! That is joy that can only come from Jesus!
(II Corinthians 8:2) that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.
You would almost think this Paul guy was off his rocker. Writing from prison he says to always be rejoicing in the Lord.
(Philippians 4:4) Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
This guy is wacko, or he has found what Jesus said to be absolutely true. In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas are chased out of town and the next verse says they were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
(Acts 13:52) And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
They had joy that was greater than outward circumstances.
I want to share with you a true story that Max Lucado tells about joy being beyond circumstances. You can only explain this if the man Christ Jesus is God who wants to share His joy with you.
“I have everything I need for joy!” Robert Reed said. His hands are twisted and his feet are useless. He can’t bathe himself, can’t feed himself, can’t brush his teeth, comb his hair, or put on his underwear. Strips of Velcro hold his shirts together. His speech drags like a worn out audiocassette; Robert has cerebral palsy.
The disease keeps him from driving a car, riding a bike, and going for a walk. But it did not keep him from graduating from high school or attending Abilene Christian university, from which he graduated with a degree in Latin. Having cerebral palsy didn’t keep him from teaching at St. Louis Junior College or from venturing overseas on five mission trips.
And Robert’s disease did not prevent him from becoming a missionary in Portugal. He moved to Lisbon, alone, in 1972. There he rented a hotel room and began studying Portuguese. He found a restaurant owner who would feed him after the rush hour and tutor who would instruct him in language. Then he stationed himself daily in a park, where he distributed brochures about Christ. Within six years he led 70 people to the Lord, one of whom became his wife Rosa.
When he speaks, others carry him in his wheelchair onto the platform. They lay a Bible in his lap. People watch as his stiff fingers force open the pages and the audience continually wipes away tears of admiration from their faces. Robert could have asked for sympathy or pity, but he does just the opposite. He holds his bent hands up in the air and he boasts, “I have everything I need for joy.” His shirts may be held together with Velcro, but his life is held together by joy.
You may be happy, but do you have joy? Happiness is fleeting; joy is abiding when you abide in Christ. “No man can steal it from you,” Jesus said in John 16:22.
(John 16:22) “Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.”
If your life isn’t held together by joy, come to the cross today and find Jesus’ own joy. If you have let it slip through disobedience to His Spirit that lives in you, come to the mirror. See what’s wrong. Get it right, and the joy will return. Do not live without joy to see you through the difficulties of life. It comes from living in His presence. He longs to share it with you!
(Jude 1:24,25) Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen
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