Faithlife Sermons

EXCHANGE YOUR DESPAIR FOR JOY

Gift Exchange  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction

-{Psalm 30}
-In August of this year, in Oklahoma City, a pedestrian out on a walk called police when he found a vehicle where the bodies of a father and three children lay. Police determined that the father shot his three children before turning the gun on himself. In September of this year, police were called to a house in Maryland where a man shot and killed his wife and three children before turning the gun on himself.
~I would love to say that these were isolated incidents, but unfortunately these are becoming much too common place. You cannot help but wonder why. How could life be that bad that you take the life of your family and yourself? How could someone be in such desperation that they go to such extreme measures?
-We call this extreme feeling of helplessness and hopelessness: despair. It’s like you’re in a pit that you can’t get out of. And I would love to say that God’s people are immune to despair, but they’re not. And if that feeling of being in a bottomless pit describes you, then know that you are not alone. And know that God sees and cares. And know that you don’t have to hold on to despair—or let despair have a hold on you.
-This Christmas season, I have been doing a series on gift exchange. The day after Christmas, you take all the presents that don’t fit or are not the right color, and you exchange them for something else. For God’s people, sometimes we take on attitudes or dispositions that are not spiritually healthy, and we need to exchange them for something that will help us grow and flourish. We exchange worry for trust. We exchange hurt for comfort.
-Despair is one of those temperaments that can really put a halt to our walk with Christ, so it’s important to deal with it. And I think that this is especially appropriate at Christmas time when so many people struggle with despair during the holidays. What I want us to take away from today is that in spite of circumstances that might drive us to despair, God can still gift us with joy. I want us to exchange our despair for the joy God gives in Christ.
-We find that even a man after God’s own heart, King David, can feel despair; but he also shows that through God he exchanged it for joy
Psalm 30 (ESV)
1 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
3 O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
4 Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.”
7 By your favor, O Lord, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed.
8 To you, O Lord, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
9 “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!”
11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
-{pray}
-According to vv. 6-8, David brought upon himself the circumstances that led to his despair. God made David prosperous, which led to him being conceited and prideful, so God sent a trial that brought him down a few notches. But David did not allow the despair to overtake him and lead him to constant hopelessness. Instead, he turned to God.
-Be it God’s discipline or just the circumstances of a fallen world, things may happen that drag us down, but we don’t have to stay down, because God gifts us with joy. I want to answer two questions today about exchanging despair for joy.

1) How does God give us joy?

-What does God do in our lives to get us out of despair and allow us to live with true joy—not merely tolerating what’s going on, but actually living in a state of joy. And what we find is that it is not a change in circumstances—those may never change—but it is a recognition of God working in our lives. So, what does God do?

a) God lifts us above our circumstances (vv. 1, 3)

-In our psalm, David uses a lot of imagery of being in a deep, dark hole. For example, in v. 3 he describes his situation as like being in Sheol. The word is sometimes is translated as grave. It was a word that the Hebrews used to describe the place of the dead. It could both reference a body being in the ground, but also the abode of the dead. We might say that his circumstances led him to the brink of death either literally or metaphorically. In vv. 3 & 9 he uses a parallel term of pit. There’s a reason why we call it a pit of despair. Despair feels like you’re in a pit, in a hole, in the abyss, roaming the abode of the dead, surrounded by darkness.
-But in v. 1 David says that God had drawn him up (ESV), other versions will say that God lifted him up. The word is used of drawing up a bucket from a well. Just like the shepherd pulled the bucket up from the bottom of the well to water the sheep, so God draws his people up from the pit of their despair. And then in v. 3 David says that God brought him up from Sheol.
-Why this is so important is because it reminds us that we might go through a season where we feel that we will forever be in the pit, but we must remember that God will not leave His children there. God does not abandon His children to Sheol. If you belong to Christ, there will come a time when God will lift you up—maybe not in your timing or way. But there is hope that God will lift us up—even if it won’t be until our death and we are in heaven. But just the sheer knowledge that God does not abandon us to our circumstances is a constant source of joy. God will lift us up above whatever our circumstance might be, just like He did David. But we also see...

b) God heals our souls (v. 2)

-God doesn’t allow our souls to remain in the sickness from our time in the pit. The psalmist says in v. 2 that God healed him. We know that ultimately in heaven we will be completely healed—no tears or pain. But God also heals in the here and now.
-I think of days when we are busy and we do a lot physically, and at the end of the day our body aches. You do various things to ease the pain and heal the hurt. You might take some medicine. You might use a heating pad. You might soak your feet. You might take a hot bath—to help the body rejuvenate.
-Our soul goes through a lot too, especially during the trying circumstances of life that might lead us to the dark pit. Our soul goes through wear and tear just like our body. But God heals us. He heals us through encouraging Bible verses. He uses the words of a friend to lift our spirits. God uses reminders of His presence in nature—something as simple as the sunshine, or the sight of one of our favorite birds.
-There is a lot of negative in the world that sickens our soul. But God lifts us up out of the pit, He heals the sickness of soul, and we have joy. Now, I’ve known a lot of people over the years that refused some sort of treatment or medicine out of stubbornness, and then they remained sick. You need to let the doctor heal you if you want healing. And I’ve also known a lot of Christians to do the same to their souls. God offers the way of healing, but they choose to stay in the pit. Don’t blind yourself to the ways of healing that God places all around you. Allow the Divine Physician to do His work of therapy upon you. And in the healing, you find joy. And closely related to this...

c) God restores our vitality (v. 3)

-When your spirit is in the darkness, you have no life, you have no energy. But David says in v. 3 YOU RESTORED ME TO LIFE. Just when the world and your personal circumstances seemed to suck the very life out of you, God puts it back in. Just when you thought you were completely drained, God fills you back up.
-God is the source of all life. He puts life into you when you first come to faith in Christ. Before Christ, when you were still in your sin, you were physically alive but spiritually dead. But when you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are made alive—a spiritual resurrection occured. If God can give life to the dead at our conversion, that means that He can restore that life when it seems to drain out of us because of whatever we go through.
-We’re reminded in the prophet Joel that God restores the years that the locusts have eaten. Whatever life and circumstances and Satan and even God’s discipline may have taken out of us, God is able to reestablish and refresh and rejuvenate. God is a God of life, He has given us the Spirit of life, and whatever the darkness stole to lead us toward this despair, God can give it back to us, and through this revitalization (this restored life) we find joy. And then we also see that...

d) God reminds us these things are temporary (v. 5)

-V. 5 reminds us that whatever circumstances are driving us to the pit of despair are temporary for the believer. The darkness is not permanent for the one who belongs to God through Jesus Christ. And that’s an important distinction. These promises of what God does to bring us to joy are for people who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and been saved. For those who have not believed, you cannot make your way out of the pit until you surrender to Him.
-For the child of God—whatever you feel and are going through is not eternal. It might last days, months, years, or decades, but it is not forever. Whatever David was going through was a discipline from God for whatever sin he committed. David realized that the anger of God is only for a moment. But it says that the favor of God upon His people is for a lifetime. And lifetime includes the afterlife. If you belong to God, His favor is with you wherever you go on earth and in heaven. You are ever under God’s favor.
-He goes on to say that the weeping that comes from circumstances is only for a night (meaning, a small, fixed amount of time). But JOY COMES IN THE MORNING. You have your circumstance leading to despair, but it is always followed by joy—just like morning always follows evening. Whatever you are going through that makes you feel like you’re in the pit, always remember that it is temporary. It will not last forever. It will not follow you into eternity. This remembrance gives us joy.
-What does the psalmist tell us about joy? Joy comes from God, not circumstance. Joy comes knowing that God lifts us out of the pit, heals us and revitalizes us, comforting us with the remembrance that our circumstances are temporary, but God’s favor is eternal. This is our joy in Christ. It has nothing to do with a change of circumstance, but has everything to do with allowing God to work in our lives. But then the next question is what do we do with this joy?

2) What is our response to God’s joy?

-We let God have our despair, and let Him do His gracious work within us that gives us joy. When we realize the joy that comes from God, what do we do?

a) Express the joy God gives (vv. 5, 11)

-When you have the joy that comes from God, you don’t hold it in or hide it. When you have something amazing happen in your life, you don’t keep quiet about it. Or when you receive something that gives you a lot of happiness, you put it on display. In v. 5, when David says that joy will come in the morning, the word used there for joy is a word that means a cry of jubilation—it means a shout for joy. It’s an expression. You have joy from God, you shout it out loud. In v. 11 David says that God turned his mourning into dancing and changed him from wearing sackcloth to gladness. The Jews outwardly expressed mourning and despair by changing their regular clothes to wearing sackcloth, which would be like wearing burlap. People see you and know that you are mourning. David says in the same way, as God lifts you up and heals you and restores life to you, it shows. It is out there by the way you speak and act and interact.
-Next week we’re going to be getting our Christmas presents. More than likely we’re not going to hide them in a closet. If it’s clothes, you’re going to wear it for others to see. If it’s a gadget, you’re going to use it. And more than likely many will post something in social media to show some things that you got, not out of arrogance or conceit, but just out of happiness and thankfulness.
-When the world and life and circumstances give us nothing but reasons for despair, the fact that God does some amazing things for us to bring joy in our lives is a whole lot better than any Christmas present you’re going to get. And out of that joy and out of thankfulness to what God has done, we put that joy on display. We don’t go in public or come to church looking like we sucked on a lemon. Our joy in the Lord will show itself. Let the joy just flow out of you. But David also shows that we are to...

b) Continually pray for the joy God gives (vv. 2, 8, 10)

-The world and life and circumstances are just going to constantly bombard us with its darkness. Evil and wickedness is relentless and will not give up. So, even when you have joy in the Lord, the enemy is going to constantly do whatever he can to steal that joy from you. The only way to get the joy of the Lord and hold on to the joy of the Lord is to continually pray that the Lord would fill you with that joy.
-In v. 2 David says I CRIED TO YOU FOR HELP. In v. 8 David says TO YOU O LORD I CRY, AND TO THE LORD I PLEAD FOR MERCY. In v. 10 David cries out HEAR O LORD AND BE MERCIFUL TO ME. David knew that the only way to tap into the source of joy, who is God Himself, would be to pray and pray and pray and pray. You show me a Christian who has little joy, I will show you a Christian who has a weak prayer life.
-As circumstances wear us down, we allow our joy to leak out. We need a constant refresher of joy. We need a constant filling of joy. Think of it this way, when I bought my truck the dealer got it all clean and filled-up and ready. Suppose I drive the truck around for a week and all of a sudden it stops working. I get a mechanic to look at and they say it’s out of gas and ask why I didn’t fill it up. I say I didn’t think I’d have to. The dealership filled it up and I thought that’d be good enough for the life of the truck. The mechanic explains that’s not how it works. You need to constantly go to the pump and fill it up with gas, and then it will keep going. It’s the same with joy. It’s not just a one-time shot. If we don’t go to the throne constantly praying, our joy meter will hit empty. We need to go to God and fill up. But there is another response...

c) Praise God for the joy He gives (vv. 1, 4, 12)

-When we see how He works in our lives, giving us joy for our despair, we cannot help but worship Him and lift His name on high. In v. 1, David says I WILL EXTOL YOU, O LORD. The word EXTOL there means to lift up. If you think about it, David is saying I WILL LIFT YOUR NAME ON HIGH BECAUSE YOU LIFT ME UP OUT OF THE PIT. In v. 4, David says SING PRAISES TO THE LORD O YOU HIS SAINTS. And in v. 12 David says MY GLORY MAY SING YOUR PRAISE AND NOT BE SILENT. O LORD MY GOD I WILL GIVE THANKS TO YOU FOREVER. David praises God for the work of joy in His life.
-Praise and worship should be our default response to anything that God does in our lives, but especially that He gives us joy. There may be a million reasons on this earth to despair. And it might not even be personal reasons. Look at what’s happening in politics. Look at what they’re doing to children in this nation. Look at what the wars and man’s inhumanity to man. And yet, in the midst, God gives joy. If it weren’t for God, we’d be joyless and hopeless. But we have joy and hope, and that is a reason to praise Him. Finally and quickly...

d) Tell others about the joy God gives (v. 9)

-In v. 9 David is reasoning with God to not allow him to wallow in the pit. He reasons that if God leaves him in the pit, what profit is there? Who will praise God from the pit? And the final phrase is interesting—who will tell of God’s faithfulness in the pit? The word there is related to the word for truth. Who will tell the truth about God in the pit of despair?
-That means when God lifted you out and you’ve received His joy, that is something to tell others. You have experienced the truth of who God is and what He can do in people’s lives. God lifted you up and healed you and revitalized you to give you a joy that nothing else in the world can give. Those who are in the pit of lostness need to know there is the joy of salvation. And those in the pit of despair need to know that there is the hope of joy. And we are the ones to share that great truth.
-There is a pastor friend of mine who lost a ton of weight and is in amazing shape. He found a system that worked for him. Do you think he stayed silent about it? No…he’s all over social media talking about it. I obviously haven’t listened to him, mostly because it costs a bookoo amount of money. But he found something amazing and he spread the truth. We have the joy of the Lord as He lifts us out of despair…there is a whole world in the pit that needs to hear that.

Conclusion

-One of my all-time favorite Christmas carols is Joy to the World:
Joy to the world, the Lord is come; Let Earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room; And Heaven and nature sing; And Heaven and nature sing; And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing
-Our joy comes from a Lord who came to earth as King, who lifts us from the pit of despair, heals us, revitalizes us, and reminds us that the circumstances that lead to despair are temporary. So, let’s express our joy, pray for more joy, praise God for the joy, and tell others where they too can find joy.
-Christian, come to the altar and pray and exchange your despair for joy
-But if you are not a Christian, you cannot find joy. Give your life to Christ...
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