Fighting for Joy

Posted on July 31, 2011 by

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The following series of posts (to be published Sundays and Wednesdays) started as a private searching of the Word for the root of abiding joy, and culminated in a sermon preached the morning of July 31st, 2011, at First Baptist-Las Colinas. It’s fairly lengthy, so I’ve decided to break it up into several smaller posts. My prayer is that it would be a source of comfort to those who are facing similar struggles: whether you’ve just undergone the pain of a miscarriage yourself, or you are experiencing trials of another sort.

The struggle for joy 

Introduction

Over the past three months I have been in a soul-struggle for joy and gratefulness. This has stemmed from dealing with deep loneliness as well as the death of my unborn son in June. Miscarriages are not uncommon (about 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage), but saying that and knowing that doesn’t make it any easier.

And the loneliness – well, the loneliness is something I have struggled with silently for the better part of my teenage and adult years. It comes and goes, but lately it seems like it’s been coming more than it’s going. And that is hard, when you are already fighting and losing the battle for joy in your soul – our souls are the battlegrounds in which the Christian life is fought.

This series of posts (and the sermon they came out of) is the heart’s cry of a man fighting against himself and against the world for joy. I haven’t beaten it yet. I haven’t won the fight. But I am fighting. And I want you to join me. For two reasons. First, joy is part of God’s purpose for us:

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. (Romans 15:13)

Secondly, joy in trials is not optional. It is a command, and as Wilberforce called it, it is our “bounden duty”:

 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2-3, ESV)

What is joy?

Joy is the feeling that goes beyond feeling, the knowledge that goes beyond knowledge. It is a lifestyle – informed by the knowledge that things are right and that there is grace. Simply put, it is a perspective that informs the attitude.

And it is not dependent on circumstances.

Did you know that? That’s what separates joy and happiness. Sometimes happiness will flow out of our joy, but a lot of happiness is just a natural by-product of our circumstances. But not joy.

At least ten times the New Testament uses the word “joy” in the context of suffering or trials. So understand: joy is not dependent upon circumstances. Where does joy come from, then? In Luke 6, Jesus shows us that it comes from perspective:

 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23)

Here, Christ tells us that we actually ought to rejoice when we are feeling persecuted and alienated and alone when it is for Christ’s sake. Why? Because the rewards there are worth the suffering here. In fact, they’re worth more:

 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

But it goes beyond that. Joy isn’t just about future rewards, it’s about praise. And honor. And glory. The praise and honor of Jesus Christ. Peter ties all of this – the perspective, the relationship with Jesus – all into a nice bow and shows us how we can have our joy in suffering. And that’s where our main text comes from:

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. (1Peter 1:3-9, emphasis mine)

There are three distinct thoughts presented here, and they are revolutionary. Think of them as three steps to abiding joy:

  • Jesus Christ offers an eternal perspective that enables true contentment
  • True contentment is the key to abiding joy (and covetousness will steal our joy)
  • Lasting joy is full of glory
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