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Asking ourselves the age-old question: “What are you looking for in life?”

04 Jul

(Eccl 2:10-11) “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. {11} Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”

We are all looking for something that brings JOY. Our perpetual busyness rat-race is a search for JOY!
1. We are trying to find a spiritual experience within the material world.
2. We are trying to find something that validates our life.
3. We are trying for an eternal reality in every day life.
4. We are trying to find “God-with-us” in the material things of life.

James 1:2 (44 kb)Biblical truth: True joy is found only in Jesus Christ! (Gal 5:22) “But the fruit of the Spirit is…joy…”

Luke’s gospel is the gospel of joy, while Paul’s letter to the Philippians is the epistle of joy–even though it was written from prison. The New Testament continues to stress OT usages of joy, but also adds the thought of “joy in suffering and pain.” The joy of service is also stressed to a greater degree in the teaching of Christ and the apostles.

Every Life Needs Joy More Than Happiness
Happiness is external Joy is internal
Happiness is based on chance Joy is based on choice
Happiness is based on circumstances Joy is based on Christ

The Joy of Living
We may put it this way whatever be the ingredients of the Christian life, and in whatever proportions they are mixed together, joy is one of them. In the Christian life joy always remains a constant. ‘Rejoice in the Lord,’ Paul writes to his Philippian friends, and he goes on to repeat his command: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice’ (Phil. 3.1; 4 4). ‘Rejoice always,’ he writes to the Thessalonians (I Thess. 5.16). It has been said that ‘Rejoice!’ is the standing orders of the Christian.

Every virtue and all knowledge is to be irradiated with joy; even the patience and the endurance which might well be bleak and grim things are to be lit with joy. ‘The kingdom of heaven,’ Paul wrote to the Romans, ‘is righteousness and peace and joy’ (Rom. 14:17).

There is no virtue in the Christian life which is not made radiant with joy; there is no circumstance and no occasion which is not illumined with joy. A joyless life is not a Christian life, for joy is the one constant in the recipe for Christian living.

When we examine the references to joy in the New Testament in all their variety and their multiplicity, they fall into a certain pattern, and they tell us of certain spheres in which the Christian joy is specially to be discovered.
(a) There is the joy of Christian fellowship.
The New Testament is full of the simple joy of what can best be called ‘togetherness’. It is a joy even to see such fellowship. Paul writes to Philemon to tell him what joy and comfort he has received from the sight of Philemon’s love and from the sight of the way in which the saints have been refreshed by Philemon’s loving care (Philemon 7).

In the famous saying the heathen looked at the Christian church and said, ‘See how these Christians love one another.’ It must never be forgotten that one of the greatest evangelizing influences in the world is the sight of true Christian fellowship, and one of the greatest barriers to evangelism is the sight of a church in which fellowship has been lost and destroyed. It is a still greater joy to enjoy Christian fellowship.

It rejoices Paul’s heart that his Philippian friends have remembered him with gifts (Phil. 4:10). To see Christian fellowship is great, to be wrapped around in it is greater yet. It is a joy to see Christian fellowship restored.

When Titus came back from the troubled church at Corinth with the news that the breach was healed and fellowship restored, then Paul rejoiced (I1 Cor. 7:7, 13). It is a joy to experience Christian fellowship reunited. The New Testament knows the simple joy of meeting friends again. John trusts that he will meet his friends again, and then his joy will be complete (II John 12).

In the New Testament there is nothing of religion which isolates a man from his fellow men. The New Testament vividly knows the joy of making friends and keeping friends and reuniting friends, for friendship and reconciliation between man and man are the reflection of fellowship and reconciliation between man and God.

(b) There is the joy of the gospel. There is the joy of the new discovery. It may be said that the gospel story begins and ends in joy. It was tidings of great joy that the angels brought to the shepherds (Luke 2.10), and the wise men re¬joiced when they saw the star which told them of the birth of the king (Matt. 2.10). So in the beginning there was joy.

There is the joy of receiving the gospel. It was with joy that Zacchaeus received Jesus into his house (Luke 19.6). The Thessalonians received the word with joy (I Thess. i.6). Repeatedly Acts tells of the joy which came to men when the gospel arrived in their midst. Philip’s preaching brought joy to Samaria (Acts 8.8); after his baptism the Ethiopian eunuch went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8.39). There was joy in Antioch of Pisidia when the Gentiles heard that the gospel was to leave the synagogue and come out to them (Acts 13.48). The New Testament makes it clear that con¬version should be one of the happiest experiences in all the world.

There is the joy of believing. It is Paul’s prayer for the Christians at Rome that the God of hope will fill them with all joy and peace in believing (Rom. i5.i3). It is the joy of their faith that Paul wishes to increase for the Philippians (Phil. 1.25). The New Testament makes it clear that Christian belief is followed by Christian joy. It was said of Burns that he was haunted rather than helped by his religion. There have always been those who have made an agony of their religion. But for the New Testament belief and joy go hand in hand.

There is a certain sternness in this Christian joy. It is a joy which rejoices even in discipline and in testing. James bids his readers to count it all joy when testing comes (James 1.2). The Christian joy is like the joy of a woman whose travail has passed and whose child has come (John 16.2 1, 22).

It is a notable thing how often in the New Testament joy and affliction walk hand in hand. In spite of persecution the Christians in Antioch are filled with the Holy Spirit and with joy (Acts 13.52). The Christian may be sorrowful but he is also rejoicing (II Cor. 6:10). The gospel brought tribulation to Thessalonica but it also brought joy (I Thess. 1.6).

This joy in tribulation can be a very wonderful thing, and its wonder lies in the fact that it is endured and under¬taken for Jesus Christ. Peter and John left the Sanhedrin and its threats rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus (Acts 5.40. Peter encourages his people by telling them that when they suffer they are sharing the sufferings of Christ himself (I Peter 4. 13).

The most startling passage in the New Testament is in Col. 1.24 where Paul says that he rejoices in his sufferings. ‘In my flesh,’ he says, ‘I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church.’

How can there be anything lacking in the sufferings of Jesus Christ? How can anyone in any sense complete what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ? Let us take an analogy. It may be that in his laboratory or his operating theater or his research room a scientist or a surgeon or a physician toils and sweats and labors and suffers and endangers and risks and destroys his own health to find some cure or some help for the pains and ills of men.

But that discovery remains useless until it is taken out from the laboratory and made available for men all over the world. And it may well be that those who take it out to men have to sweat and toil and suffer and sacrifice to make it available. And it may accurately and fitly be said that their sufferings to make the gift available to men fill up and complete the sufferings of the great man who made the original discovery.
The work of Jesus Christ is done and completed. But it has still to be made known to men. Time and time again in history men have laboured and suffered and died to tell men of that which Jesus Christ did for them. And in their sufferings they may well be said to be completing the sufferings of Jesus Christ himself. Here is the great uplifting thought that, if ever our loyalty to Jesus and our service of him cost something, it means that we to are completing the suffer¬ings of Jesus Christ. What higher privilege could there be than that? If this is so, it is true that ours is a joy which no man taketh from us (John 16.22).

(c) There is the joy of Christian work and witness. There is joy in the sight of God in action. The Seventy re¬turned with joy, because the devils were vanquished at the name of Christ (Luke10:17). At the sight of Jesus’ wonder¬ful works people rejoiced because of the glorious things that were done by him (Luke 13.17; 19.37).

There is joy in the sight of the spread of the gospel. Barnabas was glad when he saw the Gentiles gathered in at Antioch (Acts 11.23). The tale of the spread of the gospel brought great joy to the brethren (Acts 15.3). The gospel is the last thing which any Christian wants to keep to himself. The further it spreads and the more who share it, the greater his joy. There is the joy of the teacher and the preacher in the Christian progress of his people. The news of the obedience of the Christians in Rome has spread abroad and Paul is glad on their behalf (Rom.16:19).

The unity of the congregation is the joy of the minister (Phil. 2.2). Even in his absence Paul rejoices at the steadfastness of the Christians at Colossae and the progress of the Christians at Thes-salonica (Col. 2.5; I Thess. 3.9). John rejoices when his children walk in the truth (II John 4). `No greater joy,’ he says, ‘can I have than this, to hear that my children follow the truth’ (III John 4).

It must never be forgotten that, as the New Testament sees it, the object of all Christian preaching is to bring men joy. ‘These things have I spoken to you,’ said Jesus, ‘that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full’ (John 15.11). Jesus’ object in speaking to his disciples was that they might have his joy fulfilled in themselves (John 17.13).

John’s aim in writing to his people was that his and their joy might be complete (I John 1.4). It is Paul’s desire for the Corinthians that he may work with them for their joy (II Cor. 1.24). Paul would wish to be spared for a little while longer that he may help the Philippians in their pro¬gress and joy in the faith (Phil. 1.25).

It may be that a preacher has to awaken sorrow and penitence in his people; it may be that he has to awaken fear within their hearts; it may be that he has to rouse them to self loathing, and to humiliation. But no Christian sermon can ever end there. The sermon which leaves a man in dark despair is not a Christian sermon, for after the shame and the humiliation of penitence there must be the joy of forgiveness claimed and the love of God experienced. No man should ever rise from a Christian service without the possibility of joy flaming and blazing befbre him.

Stanley Jones tells of Rufus Moseley ‘the most bubbling Christian’ he ever knew. Someone said of him: ‘The first time I heard him I thought he was crazy, but the second time I heard him I knew he was crazy.’ Someone once asked Mosely if he thought that Jesus ever laughed. ‘I don’t know,’ he said, ‘but he certainly fixed me up so I can laugh.’

It may be that in the end of the day the greatest of all will be the joy in the people whom we have brought to Jesus Christ. To Paul it is the Philippians and the Thessalonians who are his joy and his crown (Phil. 4.1; I Thess. 2.19, 2o). The writer to the Hebrews urges those who are set in leadership and authority to be so faithful to their trust that they may render account at the end of the day not with grief but with joy (Heb. 13.10.

And so we come. to the end, for this joy is nothing other than the joy of God, for the joy of God is the joy of one who finds things which have gone lost, like the shepherd and the lost sheep (Luke 15.5, 7; Matt. 18.13); like the joy of the woman who found the coin that was lost (Luke 15:10); like the joy of the father whose lost son came home (Luke 15.32).

For man and God alike the greatest of all joys is the joy of love reborn and love restored, and the joy of the pastor in his people is nothing other than the joy of God.

SOME ENEMIES OF JOY
Sometimes we’re robbed of joy by the differences between generations. There have always been generation gaps, but it seems to me that generation gaps are more obvious now than they’ve ever been before.

A second enemy of joy is unresolved guilt. A lot of people are unable to accept themselves, & to accept the forgiveness of God. You may have come through a divorce & you feel that you’re inferior in the sight of God. Or you may have had a brush with the law & you feel that you’re not welcome in God’s house. Or that people would not understand if they knew the secrets of your life.

David was the same way in the O.T. He had committed adultery, & he felt enormous guilt over it. He wrestled with the guilt & finally came to God in Psalms 51:12 & prayed, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation…”

A third enemy might be a wounded ego. A lot of us walk around with our feelings exposed, just waiting for someone to say the wrong thing or not to say anything at all. And it happens. People don’t always act the way we would like. They don’t always say the right things. Sometimes they offend us, & our feelings are hurt. We feel unloved & unneeded & left out.

The fourth enemy of joy is unpleasant circumstances. All of us, I think, begin life with unrealistic expectations as to what life is going to be like. I know that I started out thinking, “Well, I’ll marry the perfect woman.” And I did. “And we’ll have perfect children.” And we do. And that we would live in the perfect house, & make lots of money. Which we haven’t. And we would be wondrously happy all of our lives, & there would never ever be any problems.

But problems do come, & they come to everybody. You may lose your job. Your children may disappoint you. There may be heartaches. Your health may break. Problems do come.

But here’s the good news. Even though the circumstances are unpleasant, God still wants to give you joy, to change who you are, & the way you think.

True joy allows us to live with this motto: Today, when I awoke, I suddenly realized that this is the best day of my life, ever! There were times when I wondered if I would make it to today; but I did! And because I did I’m going to celebrate!

Today, I’m going to celebrate what an unbelievable life I have had so far: the accomplishments, the many blessings, and, yes, even the hardships because they have served to make me stronger.

I will go through this day with my head held high, and a happy heart. I will marvel at God’s seemingly simple gifts: the morning dew, the sun, the clouds, the trees, the flowers, the birds. Today, none of these miraculous creations will escape my notice.

Today, I will share my excitement for life with other people. I’ll make someone smile. I’ll go out of my way to perform an unexpected act of kindness for someone I don’t even know. Today, I’ll give a sincere compliment to someone who seems down. I’ll tell a child how special he is, and I’ll tell someone I love just how deeply I care for her and how much she means to me.

Today is the day I quit worrying about what I don’t have and start being grateful for all the wonderful things God has already given me. I’ll remember that to worry is just a waste of time because my faith in God and his Divine Plan ensures everything will be just fine. And tonight, before I go to bed, I’ll go outside and raise my eyes to the heavens. I will stand in awe at the beauty of the stars and the moon, and I will praise God for these magnificent treasures. As the day ends and I lay my head down on my pillow, I will thank the Almighty for the best day of my life. And I will sleep the sleep of a contented child, excited with expectation because I know tomorrow is going to be the best day of my life, ever!

A treadmill becomes a treadmill because it doesn’t answer our real needs. It carries us along, gathering momentum because we’re secretly feeling worse – we secretly give up hope, as feeling better seems increasingly elusive.

The Workaholic Test
1. Is work the primary source of your identity.
2. Do you believe work is good, and therefore the more you do the better person you are? Do you brag about the “long hours?
3. Do you feel you are unworthy unless you are pushing to the point of fatigue?
4. Do you think you are indispensable; do you often work while you’re sick?
5. Do you control your work or does your work control you?

The Eight Characteristics of a ‘Driven’ Person
1. Are you gratified only by accomplishment, and the need to acquire more?
2. Are you preoccupied with the symbols of accomplishment, status symbols like: titles, office size, flow charts and special privileges?
3. Are you obsessed with growing “it” bigger, faster?
4. Does your personal integrity sometimes lose out to your ambition?
5. Do you sacrifice people and people skills for the job?
6. Do you find ambition is a competition to have and hold onto more than others?
7. Do you have a temper when things don’t go your way?
8. Are you abnormally busy, and too busy for the pursuit of ordinary relationships in marriage, family and friendship – even God?

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2019 in Encouragement

 

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