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How to Have Joy

How to Have Joy

It will not matter who wins the election for president this Tuesday, all of us will be tempted to be anxious about the results. Whoever wins, they will not bring unity, peace, security, or joy to this country, because those things are only found through faith in Jesus Christ. We would be wrong to expect the next president to do produce those things, and wrong to put our hope and trust in their leadership.

We learned last week to trust the LORD instead of presidents. Psalm 118:9 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.

So what will our reaction be to the election results? Will we be worried, happy, or disappointed? As Christians, our reaction should be the same, regardless of who wins. Our commission to “go and make disciples” does not change. God’s commands do not change. God’s purpose does not change. Our battle does not change. And we still must focus on Jesus Christ and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

So, here is what our reaction to the election should look like: Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

God is love, and when God, the Holy Spirit, is in us, we will love others with His love. Likewise, if we are filled with the Spirit, we will have His joy. I’m not talking about being happy. Some people seek a church where they can get happy and have a good time. They call that joy, but it does not endure. Happiness and joy are not the same thing.

Dwight L. Moody says it well, “Happiness is caused by things that happen around me, and circumstances will mar it; but joy flows right on through trouble; joy flows on through the dark; joy flows in the night as well as in the day; joy flows all through persecution and opposition. It is an unceasing fountain bubbling up in the heart; a secret spring the world can’t see and doesn’t know anything about. The Lord gives His people perpetual joy when they walk in obedience to Him.”

A life of loving Jesus is characterized by joy. It doesn’t matter what happens at church, at home, at work, at school, or in the world. By loving Jesus, trusting and obeying His commandments, the Holy Spirit fills us with His joy.

Jesus said in John 15:10-11 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 be in you, and that your joy may be full.

The miracle of the joy of Jesus has nothing to do with a man’s life, nor his circumstances, nor the condition he is in. In the midst of the most crushing situations, if God, the Holy Spirit, is in us, there is always profound joy. The Holy Spirit makes us joyful in the midst of circumstances where other people see nothing but disaster.

Nehemiah 8:10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

Notice, the stronghold of the Christian faith is the joy of the LORD not my joy in the LORD. “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” The LORD can give a man His joy in the midst of external misery, a joy which gives him power to endure and to serve in spite of the misery. Joy is different from happiness, because happiness depends on what happens. There are tribulations in this world we cannot help; joy is independent of them all.

Jesus does not come to a person and say, “Cheer up”!  No, He implants within a believer joy from His own nature. Joy is a witness of the presence of God in our life. If God is in our life, if we are filled with the Spirit of God, then joy will be obvious.

In every human experience apart from Jesus, there is something that hinders joy. We may have fulfilled our ambitions, we may have love and money, yet there is the sense of something missing. (personal experience) A person is joyful only when he fulfills the purpose for which God created him, and that is a joy that can never be quenched—certainly not by any election results.

But we have some enemies, messengers of Satan, to rob us of joy.

One enemy of joy is our right of self-fulfillment. (to get what we want)

Self-surrender is the most difficult thing—‘Oh well, I suppose I must devote my life to God.’ There is no joy in that attitude, and there won’t be until we get rid of the idol of self-fulfillment and become a servant to God and to our fellow man. We will never know the joy of denying self until we abandon ourselves in every particular.

When the Holy Spirit comes in, we receive joy from laying down our life for Jesus. The thought of sacrifice never affects us because the Holy Spirit gives us love for Jesus. His love motivates us. We find joy in obeying Him and serving others. Therefore, die to self-fulfillment and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Then you will have joy.

A second enemy of joy is disobedience. Disobedience leads to guilt—a real joy killer.

Eph. 4:30-31, And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

David experienced a loss of joy when he disobeyed God. He committed adultery and murder. He tried to cover up his sin, yet he felt enormous guilt over it. He finally repented, confessed his sin, and prayed to God, in Psalms 51:12, "Restore to me the joy of your salvation..."

Likewise, we cannot not walk in disobedience to God and experience His joy. Repent and draw near to God. The Holy Spirit will restore the joy of your salvation.

A third enemy is self-consciousness, a focus on self.

When we are focused on self, we walk around with our feelings exposed, just waiting for someone to say the wrong thing or to ignore us. And it happens. People don’t act the way we would like. They don’t always say the right things. Sometimes they offend us, and our feelings are hurt. In our self-pity, we feel unloved, unneeded, left out, and joyless.

We must stop focusing on people and our feelings. We need to focus on what God thinks about us and humbly serve others, even our enemies. Then joy will flood our soul.

Phil. 2:3, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

A fourth enemy of joy is unpleasant circumstances.

All of us have unrealistic expectations of a life without unpleasant circumstances. But tribulations come, and they come to everybody. The election results may not be what we wanted. Injustice seems to prevail. Droughts, floods, hurricanes, or tornadoes may strike. We may lose our job. Our business may fail. Our children may disappoint us. There may be broken relationships. Our health may decline. Loved ones die. We can’t avoid these things. These things will not make us happy and they shouldn’t. It is not a sin to be sad or to grieve for a season. However, our faith in God gives us grace to overcome these unpleasant circumstances as we put our trust in Him.

But here’s the good news. God is in control. Even though the circumstances are unpleasant, God is still accomplishing His purpose. Our reaction to unpleasant circumstances is to trust God, stay filled with the Holy Spirit, and will remain, for we know that the testing of our faith will produce steadfastness and refine us.

James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

We can’t become like Jesus if our faith is not tested. Steadfastness during trials perfects our faith and matures us. Trials will work for our good as we turn to God. So count it all joy because you trust God. Praise Him during the trial and you will feel joyful again.

Matthew 5:11-12 Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Reviling, persecution, and false accusations are hurtful experiences. Nevertheless, the command is to rejoice and be glad, for that is how Jesus and the prophets were treated. If you are being treated this way on account of Jesus, you are doing the right thing and becoming like Him. After the apostles were beaten for testifying about Jesus, it says in Acts 5:41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.

Jesus wants His joy to be ours. The joy of Jesus was the absolute self-surrender and self-sacrifice of Himself to His Father, the joy of doing that which the Father sent Him to do. So, Jesus tells us to pick up our cross and follow Him.

Luke 9:23-24 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

1 Peter 4:12-13 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.

If you are a Christian, and there isn’t much joy in your life, then you need to repent of the cause and ask the Father to fill you with the Holy Spirit. There are some basic things that we can do to stay filled with the Holy Spirit and have His joy.

1. First of all, we need to read the Word every day. Jer 15:16, When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty.

We can’t know what God’s will is, or what God wants for us until we read His Word. So read His Word daily, and spend time in prayer. Get to know God. Otherwise, you will be walking in the flesh, on a broad road that leads to destruction, not following Christ.

When we read His word, we find every bit of knowledge - that God reveals to us - fills us with unspeakable joy. It is a delightful possession. It satisfies our soul and we want to share the revelation with others. If your faith seems joyless, read the Word and pray.

2. Be rightly related to God, find your joy in Him instead of things in the world, and out of you will flow rivers of living water. Be a clean vessel for Jesus Christ to pour living water through. Stop being self-conscious, stop being self-righteous, and live a joyful life of loving Jesus and others. Then people will see Jesus living in you.

3. Give yourselves in service for others. One of the biggest problems today is that we have become so self-centered that we no longer experience the joy of serving others. That is a good indication we are walking by our fleshly desires. There is no joy in that.

Do you want to know why the cross was an object of joy for Jesus? One reason is because He didn’t do it for Himself. He did it for the Father and He did it for us. And there’s joy, even in a cross, when you’re doing it for someone else. So become less focused on yourself, more focused on God and others. The fields are ripe for harvest. There is much work to do and you will find joy in doing it.

4. Focus on the eternal and not the temporal. Another reason Jesus could endure the cross with joy is because He was looking forward to the resurrection and being with the Father.

Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross and scorned its shame.

As we go through the experiences of life, focus on Jesus and remember that one day there’s going to be a glorious resurrection when we will be with Him. He has gone to prepare a place for us. This world is not our home. This election will have no effect on that.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Therefore we don’t lose heart. Though outwardly we waste away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Everything we can see will be destroyed by fire someday. The things which are not seen are eternal. God is unseen and eternal. Love and joy are not seen. They are eternal, because God’s character is made up of these things. Fix your eyes and mind on God and His character. Follow Jesus and you will express a strong family likeness to Him. You will have His character, His love, His joy, and all the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

1Peter 1:8-9 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 end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Regardless of what happens Tuesday, regardless of anything that happens in the world or in our life, we can have joy. Our focus is always the same—Jesus Christ and staying filled with the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is the exact expression of the disposition of Jesus. We cannot pretend to have the fruit of the Spirit. If we have not the fruit of the Spirit, it could be we have not asked for the Holy Spirit, or we are hanging onto something that grieves the Spirit.  In other words, we have not desired Jesus with all our heart. We are still seeking happiness in the world. Repent and give Him everything: your life, your trust, your worship and praise. Then you will have His joy.

If you’re here this morning and you are not a Christian, believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to atone for your sin and was resurrected to prepare a place for you in Heaven. There is no sin that you can commit that He will not forgive, except the sin of refusing to believe and making Him your Lord and Savior.  Come to Jesus in repentance and give your life to Him by being baptized. Then you will be born of His Spirit and filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory.