Joy in the Lord
A 45 year old woman became suddenly ill. Her illness progressed quickly and within a few weeks she passed away. When she stood before the Lord she told Him that it wasn’t fair that she died so young, and He agreed that it was not yet her time. “In fact,” He told her, “you still have 37 more years of life left.” So God sent her back, her lifeless body was revived and the illness was gone. With her new revelation of 37 more years, she decided that if she was really to have joy in these remaining years, maybe she could splurge for some cosmetic surgeries. So she got some lyposuction, tummy tuck, face lift, botox, and she changed her hair color and got a permanent.
She walked out of the beauty salon, stepped off of the curb, and ‘bam’ she was hit by a bus and killed. “Lord, I thought You said I had 37 years left?”
“Yes, I did,” He replied, “But I didn’t recognize you.”
Happy versus Joy
To make the point in this sermon, I am going to use these two words:
Happy = favored by luck or fortune
Joy = a state of happiness or delight
Events in our life can make us happy. For instance:
- When my kids do something well, it makes me happy.
- When I tell you a joke, it makes you happy.
- If I bring home a Coca-Cola for my wife, it makes her happy.
- If your favorite football team wins a game, it makes you happy.
- When the stock car race is on, it makes me happy.
- When a young person guesses your age 10 years younger, happy.
- Your spouse prepares your favorite meal.
- When your dog greets you at the front door, happy.
- A new pair of shoes, a new car or truck, maybe a new house, happy.
- If I tell you the sermon is going to be short… happy?
These are all events that make us happy. I would refer to these as situational happiness. Like on TV: sit-com = situational comedy, in other words, the situation the people are in makes us laugh, situational happiness = the situation I’m in makes me happy.
The rest of the sermon is dependant on this particular situational happiness:
Psalm 32:1-2 (HCSB)
1 How happy is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered!
2 How happy is the man the Lord does not charge with sin,
and in whose spirit is no deceit!
Remember how I told you that Hebrew poetry (psalms) uses parallel thoughts and contrasting thoughts or ideas? This is an excellent example. These two verses parallel the thoughts of happiness in forgiveness from God.
I can tell you without reservation, this is the happiest situation you can be in: to be forgiven by God.
The psalmist makes a contrasting comparison in the next verses… before he confessed his sin – life was miserable, groaning, strength was drained… God’s hand was heavy on him. When forgiveness came, he was so happy that he was inspired to write, “How happy is the one… How happy!”
Joy beyond the Situation
Philippians 4:4-7 (HCSB) 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Sometimes our company offers seminars in an effort to change us into ‘better employess.’ We usually refer to them like, “Time for us to go to our therapy session.”
About 15 years ago, I went to one that was something like, “Anger Management” and I don’t mean the movie. Their whole psycho-babble was about how we should not let ourselves get mad and that we really have control over whether or not a situation will make us angry.
There is some truth to that. Notice in the Scriptures:
- “Rejoice in the Lord always,” and “Rejoice!” are both imperatives. COMMANDS and not options.
- The verbs in the Greek mean to continually & habitually experience that joy.
- Not just for the moment… for every moment.
- Not just for the situation… in every situation.
- Not for the day… for every day.
- The Apostle Paul was praying with joy for the Philippians (1:4) and he rejoiced in prison (1:18) because Christ was being proclaimed. Besides that, he was possibly facing death (1:20).
Have joy in the Lord beyond the situation you are in!
Notice the instructions in these verses:
- Rejoice in the Lord always / Rejoice.
- Let your graciousness be known to everyone.
- Don’t worry about anything. The English word for “Worry” comes from an Anglo-Saxon word that means “to strangle.” Worrying chokes the life out of us, yet we do it anyways (me included).
- Let your requests be made known to God (through prayer & petition with thanks).
Two Qualifiers for this Sermon
Joy in the Lord is only available for those who have received the forgiveness I spoke about in the first point.
- Rejoice in the Lord – does not apply to those who have deceit in their spirit.
- Worry? If you have kept silent about your sins… and have not confessed them to the Lord and asked Jesus to forgive you… you should be worried. I pray that God’s hand would be heavy on you and drain your strength as in the summer’s heat… so you will acknowledge your sin to God and receive forgiveness.
All of the ‘instructions’ in those verses are achieveable, but not on our own strength: Philippians 4:5b; “The Lord is near.”
- This means that God is nearby, ready to help, right now. Other passages of Scripture make comments like this regarding the return of the Lord. The usage here means that the Lord is close by and ready to give us assistance now.
- Look at the end of Psalm 32
Psalm 32:10-11 (HCSB)
10 Many pains come to the wicked,
but the one who trusts in the Lord will have faithful love surrounding him.
11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones;
shout for joy, all you upright in heart.