“Are You Full of Joy?”
Text: Matthew 5:10-12
I thought it would be worthwhile for us to examine joy just a little deeper this morning. My prayer for you is the apostle Paul’s desire in Rom. 15:13 – Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. I chose the reading from the Sermon on the Mount because in it Jesus introduces us to joy in His kingdom in a most unusual way. After telling His citizens that they are blessed when they are persecuted and mistreated for His sake, He concludes by saying, “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad.” Our Lord uses two different Greek verbs here that may both be translated “to rejoice” but the 2nd one in this phrase is used less frequently in the NT. In fact, a good translation would be: “Rejoice and be overjoyed – for great is your reward in heaven.” Hugo McCord translates: Be full of joy and celebrate. This helps us understand a statement a few years later after the apostles were beaten and commanded by the Sanhedrin not to speak in the name of Jesus and released from custody. We read in Acts 5:41 – So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. You may be thinking, “Well, I’m sure glad I wasn’t an apostle.” Are you part of the Lord’s kingdom – His church? Then those words in the Sermon on the Mount apply to you and me. Now consider the words of our Lord’s brother in Jas. 1:2 – My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials. Maybe we need to adjust our concept of joy as each of us to tries to answer this question this morning: Are you full of joy?
Let’s begin by asking ourselves: What is joy? Some might say this dishwashing liquid is JOY. While others might declare that a little baby is a bundle of joy. That was certainly the truth for the aged parents of John the Baptist when the angel spoke to Zacharias in Lk. 1:14 – “And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.” There was another birth announcement some time later to some shepherds which offers joy to every one of us – Lk. 2:10-11 – Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” So what is the definition of joy? I liked this particular definition: The passion or emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good; pleasurable feelings or emotions caused by success, good fortune, and the like, or by a rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire; gladness; exhilaration of spirits; delight. As we’ve already seen this morning, gladness is used by Biblical translators as a synonym for joy. I chose this definition because it does not give happiness as a part of the definition or as a synonym. Happiness is determined by circumstances. And that’s where a lot of Christians are erring today. They have made up a scripture that says God wants them to be happy and will use that to get out of a marriage. Nowhere can you read that God wants you to be happy. He wants you to repent. He wants you to be holy. He wants you to have an abundant life. He wants you to be saved. & the list goes on and on of what God wants for His children. A Christian’s joy is not determined by circumstances. That’s why the apostle Paul could write by inspiration: …for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content (Phil. 4:11). Maybe 1 Tim. 6:6-8 is even easier to understand: Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. Church, are these not the two necessities of life Jesus promised the citizens of God’s kingdom if they put it 1st in Matt. 6:33? I want to mention one other aspect of joy before we move on to how much joy Jesus wants us to have. I mentioned at the outset that joy was a fruit of the Spirit so let’s quickly look at Gal. 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. These are all things we must cultivate and develop as members of the Lord’s body – His church. Vs. 20-21 of this chapter contain a list of the works of the flesh. Vs. 22-23 give the fruit of the Spirit. Now notice vs. 24-25: And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. If we are Christians, we will get rid of all those things and the like in vs. 20-21 and then live and walk in the Spirit. We’ll be spiritual and develop the fruit of the Spirit and be joyful men and women, boys and girls. Our next task this morning is to look at how much joy Jesus wants us to have and any conditions attached to it. 1st of all, turn with me to Jn. 15:9-11 and let’s read these verses together: “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” Our Savior wants us to be full of joy. To be full of joy requires us to remain in His love and the way to do that is to keep His commandments. Jesus had already stated in Jn. 14:15 – “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” That’s pretty straightforward so let’s look at a 2nd passage – from Jn. 16:24. Let’s set the stage. Jesus will shortly be crucified & buried. This will be a time of sorrow for His disciples but that sorrow will be turned to joy – vs. 20 & 22 of this chapter – a joy that no one can take away from them. Surely enough, Jesus appeared to His disciples at evening on the 1st day of the week after He had arisen from the dead. The text of Jn. 20:20 simply says, “Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” And the Greek verb translated “were glad” is the normal one for rejoice we 1st saw in our reading from Matt. 5:12. But back to Jn. 16:24 – “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” Jesus has been preparing His disciples for His death & has promised them His Holy Spirit – the Spirit who makes intercession for the saints (Rom. 8:27). In a little over 6 weeks, Jesus will be seated at the right hand of God – making intercession for us according to Rom. 8:34. His disciples had been told from the beginning in the Sermon on the Mount to “Ask, & it will be given to you.” Now Jesus reiterates that promise but with a slight change. Ask it in His name and you will receive, that your joy may be full. Jesus wants us to be full of joy but prayer must be an integral part of our lives. We must pray without ceasing in the name of the Christ. Is it any wonder that 1 Thess. 5:16-18 reads as it does? Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I want to wrap up this section with a portion of Jesus’ prayer for unity in Jn. 17:13-19 – “But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. and for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” The key thought is in v. 13 that Jesus wants His disciples to enjoy the same fullness of joy He enjoys. The passage goes on to tell how God’s word plays a vital role in setting them apart and making them holy. We need to be faithful students of the Bible if we want our Lord’s joy fulfilled in us. Jesus had an urgency about sharing His words in Jn. 14-16 – He had so little time to make sure they knew how to be full of joy. How could they understand the fullness of His joy as expressed in Heb. 12:2? I want us to read the 1st two verses of this chapter. Remember chapter 11 contains the accounts of the heroes of faith in the OT. With that reference point, we begin in v.1: Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Jesus did not allow circumstances to determine His joy – He looked past the cross & that’s what we must do if we want to have joy now & in the hereafter. As the song goes: Joy without measure will be my treasure – Heaven holds all to me! So far, we have looked at what joy is & how Jesus wants us to be full of joy. To do that, we must keep His commandments, pray without ceasing with thanksgiving in His name & study His word to be holy. Lastly, I want us to look at some practical thoughts for us to be full of joy. I hope we’ve seen that Christian joy does not equal happiness. That’s an important distinction. Christians can be happy but you don’t have to be happy to be joyful. Joy is not found in possessions. While there are several passages that point to this great truth, I really like our Lord’s statement in Lk. 12:15 before He tells the parable of the rich fool who lost his soul because he laid up treasure for himself: “Take heed & beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” But isn’t that what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount in Matt. 6:19-21 about laying up treasures on earth? Now I want to show some positive things about joy. 1st, joy is found in having faithful children. Notice 3 Jn. 4 – I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. If that is where you find joy – and it should be, that changes what you emphasize in your children’s lives. The most serious task for parents is bringing children up in the training & admonition of the Lord. Another joy is the knowledge that other faithful Christians are going to heaven also. Read Paul’s words in 1 Thess. 2:19-20 – For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy. And finally this morning joy is found in a unified church. Read with me Paul’s words in Phil. 2:1-2 as he wrote to the church at Philippi. Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
In the past few minutes, we have looked at the meaning of joy, how Jesus wants us to be full of joy & finally we looked at some practical applications of joy. & so the question remains: Are you full of joy?
(Walter Hill; Sunday A.M.; 8/1/2010)