The Gospel Applied: Finding Joy, Part II
We are going to pick up looking at the gospel applied through the summer. It was, for me, in my young teenage years where after suffering under the guilt and the shame of my own sin that God broke through, by his grace, and replaced that sin and shame and guilt that I was under, with an immense amount of joy as I confessed Jesus as my Lord and Savior. You recall those moments, that time, those days, early as you became a Christian, where it seemed as if you were carried along, for however amount of time it was, with an immense amount of joy because your relationship with God had changed. As it is, over time, I believe God does carry us along as a newborn into his family. Over time he begins to challenge our faith. One of the great challenges of walking with Jesus is that we nurture and cultivate joy in our lives. We had transitioned in looking at the guilt of the gospel, that the guilt brings all of us and helps us come to the understanding of needing Jesus, Jesus replaced that guilt with a joy, then coming to an understanding of what is joy and how it is found and described in the bible. We began looking at the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness, those feelings of happiness can certainly be a part of joy, but joy is there for us in much deeper moments. Those are some of the things we are going to move through today. Finding, maintaining, and nurturing joy in our hearts.
Joy, of course, is that good feeling you have deep within yourself. In your very being, in your soul. It is produced by the Holy Spirit. And what it does is it helps us to see the beauty of Christ. I would say, as I was growing early on in my life of faith, James for me was challenging because I never did quite understand this. What does it mean when James says, to count it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds. I mean, what? Count it all joy, what exactly does that mean and what is James talking about? Most importantly through that, how can I obey the Lord so that I can live faithfully with joy. In reality we know that we experience, some of you in fact might be experiencing now, some very deep difficult moments. Last week we prayed as a church, and I want to encourage you to continue to pray for Sharon Brady and Dave Dollwine that are literally in the fights for their lives. I was so struck by meeting with them, in their hospital rooms, having been given the type of news they were given with an immense amount of joy, yet they are in the fight, they are in the battle for their lives. We are all experiencing each and every day real feelings, aren’t we? Isaiah 53 tells us that Jesus was a man of sorrows. How does that work in concert with Jesus the sinless son of God who we know possessed joy. The bible will tell us in Ecclesiastes 7 that it is better for us to go to the house of mourning than to go to a party, for that is the end of all men, the living will take it to hear. What does it mean as we took it last week in trying to define what is blessed or happiness in the sermon on the Mount. What does it mean that blessed are those who mourn? How does that work over up against joy? No matter what your circumstance is, in terms of types of happiness we found, while people usually define happiness in the world as things that are happening to them and those things are the cause that gives them a sense of happiness. But James tells us here that as we walk in faith we are to count it as all joy. That phrase, count it all joy, carries this idea. James is writing this under various trials, various tribulations, various difficulties, know that they are the testing of your faith. To count it all joy means to reckon it, to consider under your life circumstance, and to deem it as the working of your faith. Trials placed into your life so that God is conforming you to the image of his son, so when you are under the fire (the great difficulty of life) not matter how severe, we can go through them know and trusting and having confidence in your life that you are under God’s hands and that Jesus himself is the one who is compassionately caring for you. The constance of knowing through trial, the trial that James describes here, that God can bring about good in your life, no matter how dark the moments may be. He is doing so for his glory, so that you will be greater created to his image. Under these trials, we know that we move through them, not with some sort of silly happiness. What we clearly know here is that James is not talking about being insincere or trying to conjure up and fake some sort of emotion when you feel like perhaps you can’t even talk because you are under such a severe trial. He is letting us know in those difficult moments, in the trial and testing of your faith, that you can (we can as God’s people) experience joy. Through the trials of our faith, God is working in our hearts a strengthening of our faith to give us endurance, provide a steadfastness, no matter what comes our way, a perseverance as you will.
Turn back with me to Romans 8. We will begin to look at this with varied passages that God has a design. He has a purpose. To know that, as we are in the shepherd’s hands, God can bring about good through our suffering. So that we aren’t living a kind of life that “whatever will be, will be.” That is the world’s fatalistic thoughts towards difficulty and trial. Rather, God is teaching us and God is nurturing in us so that we will be more dependent upon him, that we will lean upon him, that we will trust in him, so through the varied trials of faith we will come through them with a greater strength as we grow in Christ. Paul put it this way, in a verse very familiar to anyone who has been a Christian for any length of time, verse 28. We must trust in the fact that God, though we may not understand it, is going to bring about good through the varied difficulties we will all experience in life. You may have recently come out of a trial. Some of you may be under the fire of a trial now as we have submitted the Dollwin and Brady families in that care. You can rest assured, as long as you live, as a Christian you are going to experience these types of things. How is it that God wants me to tap into this joy that he truly wants us to experience so that people can see Christ really is alive in us.
Joy clearly is attached with hope. They are kind of like kissing cousins in scripture. For us to really experience joy under grace, we have to see the hope that God has provided for us for joy. Staying in Romans 8, I want you to look back at verse 16. Think of this in light of going through a fiery trial. He is talking about this type of suffering, suffering for the cause of Christ, and obviously we can suffer in various types of ways. But he says this, look at me in verse 18. That is joy attached to hope. The fruit of the spirit, those 9 singular things that are listed in Galatians 5, really are reflective of an attitude. There are ways that God wants us to cultivate and nurture these attitudes, obviously in looking at joy. At the center of joy, hope is attached. This hope is that there a bright future ahead for you. It gives us a type of heavenly focus, if you will. Now when you think of this globally, much of Christianity is under suffering. Across the globe, even this morning, much of Christianity is under the attempt of their lives being taken just for worshipping Jesus. It is easy for us from time to time to disconnect from that. That is much of the description of the situation of the early church. They were under threat, if not being bodily harmed, if not even death. God said, in that kind of experience, that they could have joy knowing that, in this hope, there is a better day coming. Those things that you are under in this fiery trial, they are not even worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us. I think what happens, as we begin to think something about heaven in a disconnect type of way as if there is something up there in heaven as if we can’t fully understand it, when really before the fall heaven converged on the earth, and when we get to the end heaven is going to converge on the earth. While there is some discontinuity about some future things that we have in our inner man, we hope for in our inner person, there is this expectation for there is also for us some continuity. It is attached to this life, and I want to try to explain it to you.
God says, about this particular hope, that when you are under this trial, you need to nurture this for your own spiritual health. You need to magnify Christ in your life so that he will, as you lean upon him and trust him and as you know you serve a good and loving and compassionate savior, the things you are going through in your life are building your life in faith. That what we experience in this age. Pales in a significance of what we will experience in the age to come. Paul will write about this in 1 Corinthians 15. You don’t have to turn there but I will go through one of the examples that he gives us there. While I am talking about this turn over to Revelation 21. Paul says this about the resurrection, about this idea of continuity and discontinuity. Again, in setting this up, sometimes we think that Heaven is so distant that we can’t even recognize exactly what life will be like. But Paul will describe it like a kernel, this life is like a kernel. We are like a kernal of corn and our kernel is our bodies. Our bodies are going to go into the ground and we are all going to die, yet in the resurrection, it will be raised to be 3 ears of corn on a stalk. So our lives in the difficulty of this life, because the world is fallen, the world is broken, though we are redeemed in our inner man we are going to experience because of our own sin and because of the brokenness of this world various forms of difficulty, there is yet this expectation that gives us this real sense of joy. A real sense of calmness and peace because there is a better day ahead. In the resurrection our life is going to be connected, because that kernel of corn that goes into the ground is still a part of the corn, yet it is raised in the new creation like this life for us on steroids. Not only will we never sin, but we never even desire sin. That is life in new creation. That is the hope that Jesus gives us. All of us, that is part of our battle. We know we have been saved for our sin, but we are struggling. Every last one of us is struggling in this battle against sin. What God says is he wants us to nurture a future hope that it provides to us a greater joy that whatever it is we are under in this life, there is a greater day coming that is very hard to describe yet it is not so far disconnected that we can understand that in eternity it is going to be beyond belief.
John writes it in this way. I want you to look at this in Revelation 21. This is the ultimate experience of the joy that is attached in hope. This the hope that in you and I will be realized. We get this picture, and basically this is recognized across the globe, marriage is a relationship that is designed in the hope for the apex of a loving relationship. What God is telling us there is that we are going to enjoy an eternal loving relationship in a very transparent and pure city. Not only will we not desire sin, we will be incapable of sin. There friends, is no capacity of sin because Jesus once and for all will have crushed the serpent's head on the cross. Sin is completely done away with. As a part of the connection of this life, so we don’t think that Heaven is laying on a hammock and a type of ghostly experience, he helps us to understand what that life will be like because these are some of the things you and I experience in this life (verse 4). That freshness when you became a Christian that was carrying you along was that new life you have in Christ. Part of accessing this joy is that salvation is much more than just saying a prayer, it is actually an exchange of life where Christ is in you. Paul said it time and time again, and you are in Christ. So it isn’t as if God saves us and he kind of leaves us alone to experience this life and “Hey I’m there at the end” and ultimately be able to go to this ethereal experience, away that is so disconnected. No he is with us in this life so that we can really experience joy, no matter the difficulty and trial we are under.
One of the illustrations I gave you, in my own personal experience, undoubtedly the Spirit has given you varied experience where man that reality was yours. You were under an incredible fiery trial and perhaps no one even knew about it, and yet you recognized that Christ was in you and you were in Christ. I would dare say this, as a believer, each an every day there are moments in your mind where clearly you know you are living and that Jesus is alive. Not only that Jesus is alive, but you feel the security and the confidence of being in him and he is in you and he is supplying that. He is supplying that, for no matter what you experience in this life. You see friends, the Christian’s joy centers on hope, but it fixes itself upon the person of Jesus. If Jesus becomes your soul satisfaction, no matter what you are involved with in life, then you can not only find joy, you can experience joy. It can be a reality in your life though it looks like on the outside your life is caving, your life is falling apart. God says that he wants us to experience this. It is the joy that as we studied in Hebrews, flip back to Hebrews 6, that anchors the soul. You see dear friends at some point all the pain, all the trial, all the struggle that you are up against is going to cease. There will be no more worries. There will be no more sorrows. You will never bud up against any form of adversity and we will all experience Jesus in a face to face way. That reality, that spiritual reality, again is not an ethereal experience because in the resurrection we are going to have a resurrected body that allows us to enjoy Jesus for eternity. He wants that to be the driving though, the driving motive, of our lives and it will help up to get through the difficulties, the pains, and the sorrows, and the real life feelings that we go through in this life.
Let’s be honest, death sucks. I have done a lot of funerals over the last 23 years. Please hear this, in the best of circumstances death sucks. It is horrible. Yet Paul will tell us in 1 Thessalonians that there is a hope for you and I, that we don’t have to be so disconnected. Though death takes place there is a greater experience, there is a greater day ahead for you and I. That is eternal life, an eternal existence with Jesus in a face to face relationship. Joy fixes and centers itself on hope but it is not some generic hope, it is not hope in the english mind of you are wishing for something to happen, it is fixed on the person of Jesus who died for you, who bore your sin and sorrow and shame and guilt, and every experience of hell was borne on Jesus on the cross and replaced that part of your life and my life and then gave you his righteousness. He wants us to think about that. He wants for us this joy filled optimism. Again, not some quirky try to be happy, this real experience of Christ in you. This union created, when the bible tells us again in 1 Corinthian 12 or Romans 8 where we baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. We never felt that in an experiential way but the reality of that feeling, when you are in that difficulty, or even if things are flying by well, you know you are in Christ and Christ is in you. Everything that is coming into your life, never are you out of the compassionate care of your great high priest Jesus. He wants us to be filled by a type of optimism that we will live with Jesus forever. Now when you think about this type of hope and this type of joy, there is no comparison in this life. The type of joy that God is talking about in scripture is only provided by for his people. If there is a yearning in you for that, a real reality of it can be found in Jesus if you come confessing to him. If you come in acknowledgement that not only do you need salvation, but that there is nothing you can do to save yourself. You exchange your life by faith in Jesus, in giving him your life as your Lord and Savior. Trusting in Jesus allows us to experience even the calamities and difficulties of life.
Turn with me back to Habakkuk 3. The writer of Hebrews, the pastor writer there tells us in Hebrews that this type of experience we are talking about that Jesus is the anchor to the soul. Again when you are under the fiery experiences of life it is Jesus that keeps you anchored to him. He is the one that is providing you himself so that you can endure, so that you can be steadfast, so that you can persevere in the faith. God has provided this type of endurance for his people, for all times. Romans 1:17. The just shall live by faith. I want to ask you this, are you really trusting in Jesus? Or have you, in your mind, you just believe in God? Are you really experiencing where you are trusting in God’s promises that are provided for you? Are you trusting in Jesus himself? Do you believe that the experiences that are coming about in your life are for the strengthening of your faith? Or is there this strong disconnect between you and God and these types of trials? Is there an understanding of your trust in Jesus that ultimately all of these things are leading to your ultimate joy and we are going to live, listen friends, we are going to live inside that ultimately joy for eternity? When all the difficult things of this life are put behind. Habakkuk relates, as we wrap this up, and we begin now to approach the table as you consider Jesus’ blood and body that was sacrificed for us. You may be sitting here and perhaps you are kind of wondering why is this happening. I don’t completely understand what is going on. It seems to me as if my life is falling apart. Habakkuk writes these very words when he doesn’t understand exactly how God is working in Judah and they are under captivity. I am telling you, these words we are going to read, they are just as real when they were written as in our experience. Under this type of trial Habakkuk writes this, look at verse 17. What is he talking about there? It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. He is talking about the material things in his life. Think about this, so when the farming industry collapses, when the auto industry goes belly up, when the stock market crashes, if the oil fields dry up, you can experience verse 18. Habakkuk not understanding all the things that were going on, it didn’t make complete sense to him and yet he was under this kind of fiery trial and too often we tie our christian experience to material things. Listen to verse 18. YHWH is Jesus friends, he is the covenant God who says, “I am with you, I will never leave you, I will never forsake you.” Habakkuk says this, “Though this devastation is going on around me and I don’t fully comprehend it and the victory is not blossoming nor the fruit on the vines and olive has failed and the fields yield no food and the flocks are cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, I will rejoice in YHWH. I will take joy in the God of my salvation. Because God the Lord is my strength.” See this joy is not us trying to conjure up this emotion, rather it is resting in the gospel that these promises are real. These promises are true. God is at work in my life for my good and his glory. I will experience him in a much greater joy filled way when hope is realized in the resurrection.