Sun. a.m. AGCC 5/28/2000

TEXT:      Gal. 5:22; I Thess. 1:6-7; II Cor. 8:1-3; Heb. 12:2-3; Jn. 16:16-22; Acts 16:22-25,34


Biblical "JOY" is one of the most misunderstood attributes of the fruit of the Spirit! Normally when we think of the concept of "JOY" we think in terms of the following:

a. laughter b. smiling faces all aglow c. lack of problems resulting in elated feelings d. carefree rest e. bubbling personality f. fulfillment without worry g. an emotionally high state h. without cares.
The truth of the matter however is that "JOY" in the Bible is nearly the opposite of a tranquil situation, and it may or may not have any strong emotions or feelings associated with it. It is truly amazing how many times phrase like "SING FOR JOY" or "SHOUT/S FOR/OF JOY" and even "LEAP FOR JOY" is used in the Bible. About 73 times in the NIV version of the Bible. JOY is an essential part of being a Spirit filled Christian, certainly where the fruit of the Spirit is at work. PROP. SENT:      The Bible teaches us that Joy is love's strength! It blossoms during tribulation, not after it. It is NOT just an outward expression or feeling, it is an inward confidence in God's love and goodness that gives a strength to our life no matter what we are experiencing.

I. JOY'S SITUATION       I Thess. 1:6-7; II Cor. 8:1-3

A. Pain!     I Thess. 1:6-7 1. Early believers knew tremendous pain and persecution, yet they were the most joyful Christians! a. It wasn't just suffering that involved a tight budget, it was suffering that meant loss of life and loss of income, even loss of family and friends! b. Notice that Paul says they welcomed the message of the Gospel "with the joy given by the Holy Spirit" in spite of "severe suffering." 1:6 2. How fragile our sense of joy is today, we can struggle with a heavy schedule or a bad cold, or someone gives us a hard time and before we know it we have no joy in the Lord anymore. 3. Biblical JOY is not an emotion, it is a frame of reference … a deep work of the Spirit that cannot be shaken by what happens in this world, it is rooted in God, not in the world. 4. In fact, sometimes it is the very process of our struggles and painful events that allow us to experience some of the greatest JOY, for those who realize that such struggles can bring out the best qualities of God's graces such times become the opportunities of JOY. ILLUS:In 1975 a child named Raymond Dunn, Jr., was born in New York State. The Associated Press reports that at his birth, a skull fracture and oxygen deprivation caused severe retardation. As Raymond grew, the family discovered further impairments. His twisted body suffered up to twenty seizures per day. He was blind, mute, immobile. He had severe allergies that limited him to only one food: a meat-based formula made by Gerber Foods. In 1985, Gerber stopped making the formula that Raymond lived on. Carol Dunn scoured the country to buy what stores had in stock, accumulating cases and cases, but in 1990 her supply ran out. In desperation, she appealed to Gerber for help. Without this particular food, Raymond would starve to death. The employees of the company listened. In an unprecedented action, volunteers donated hundreds of hours to bring out old equipment, set up production lines, obtain special approval from the USDA, and produce the formula--all for one special boy. In January 1995, Raymond Dunn, Jr., known as the Gerber Boy, died from his physical problems. But during his brief lifetime he called forth a wonderful thing called compassion. -- Larry A. Payne, Amarillo, Texas. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 3. 5. Many of the disciples and followers of Jesus were said to be full of JOY, yet so many of them perished at the hands of their enemies, or faced difficulties beyond our imagination. a. They discovered a JOY that was deeper than an emotion. b. They came to experience a state of JOY beyond the concepts of joy the world knows. B. Poverty!     II Cor. 8:1-3 1. Ironically, it seems that the greater the degree of difficulty, the greater the degree of JOY! a. The Macedonian Churches were undergoing severe financial crisis … and then Paul has the gall to ask them to contribute finances to help the financially strapped believers in Jerusalem! b. To the world this would have seemed in poor taste at best, to ask people who were severely hurting to give to others who were also hurting. c. But Paul understood that the Macedonian Christians would get something back from their giving, GOD'S JOY! 2. Indeed Paul says that even as their poverty was extreme so would be the level of their JOY! a. Their JOY overflowed! b. This has always been the way of spiritual realities. 3. There are greater things than just the material things of this world, and even a greater JOY than the happiness the world can offer. ILLUS:After a great gathering of Christian youth, the offering was being counted. At the bottom of the offering, the counters found a picture of a teenage girl. They all made the same immediate assumption. Some boy had taken a girl's wallet, taken out the picture and thrown it in the offering basket as a practical joke. That's the kind of thing teenagers sometimes do. Then someone turned the picture over. There was something written on the back. "I have nothing to give, but I give myself." -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997). 4. It is no wonder the unbelievers of the first century made statements on how Christians loved one another! a. The essential quality of a giver is that they are JOYFUL. b. "…for God loves a cheerful giver!" 2 Cor 9:7 5. JOY'S existence is FOUND in difficulties, not away from them. a. So often we think we will be joyful when our trials cease, but this is not so! b. Some of the most joyful Christians are those who struggle the most while some of the most miserable ones have the least amount of struggles. II. JOY'S SECRET       Heb. 12:2-3; Jn. 16:16-22 A. Power     Heb. 12:2-3 1. Jesus' ability to face the arduous task of the cross came from JOY that He knew WAS coming in the future. a. Joy has a power and strength that most do not understand. b. "Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." Neh. 8:10 2. How do we handle any trial that comes our way? a. We do so with the same knowledge that no matter what happens to us here in this world there is an eternal reward awaiting us, this JOY gives us strength even when our emotions are struggling. b. Our joy is not based in this world, but the world to come. 3. The writer of Hebrews encourages us to "Consider Him who endured … so that you will not grow weary and lost heart." 12:3 a. Christ's example of JOY giving Him strength for the greatest trial of His life on Earth should be seen as an example for us. b. Our JOY is found in our relationship to Christ, not in the things of this world. 4. Take JOY out of the Christian life and you have a joyless religion! ILLUS:I do not know why so much of mainline Protestantism has become a joyless religion. Perhaps we are more impressed by the problems of the world than by the power of God. Perhaps we have become so secular that we indeed think that now everything depends on us; that surely ought to make us depressed. Perhaps we have simply gotten bored with a boring God whom we substituted for the God of the Bible. We sometimes sing the Doxology as if it were a dirge. Even the Eucharist, despite the words of the Great Thanksgiving, is rarely the thankful, joyous foretaste of the Great Banquet with the One who triumphed over Death, but mostly a mournful occasion for introspection. A joyless Christianity is as clear a sign that something is amiss as a dirty church. -- Leander Keck in The Church Confident. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 1. 5. A joyless religion has no power! B. Perspective     Jn. 16:16-22 1. Jesus' point here is that for the moment the disciples are going to know mourning … but that is only for the moment. a. This is the point with any trial in a Christian's life, for the moment trials are painful events, but there is a purpose and a future for those who follow Christ. b. It is in the same context that Paul could later write Rom 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (NIV) 2. At the moment Jesus says that the world rejoices while we mourn, but a day is coming when this will be reversed. a. It is hard to be the ones in this world that have to endure chiding, persecutions of all sorts, and to stand up to all the mocking of our faith. b. So often it seems the world is winning, it seems that those in the world don't pay for their sins or see the consequences of their rebellion against God … but there is coming a day when we will rejoice and those outside of Christ will wail and gnash their teeth! c. We must not become short sighted and lose perspective, this was Jesus' point here with His disciples. 3. For Christians victory is simply an issue of timing! a. But JOY is our strength during the waiting stages! b. JOY is a real quality, it is not just an idea. III. JOY'S STRENGTH     Acts 16:22-25,34 A. Perseverance     Acts 16:22-25 1. How powerful can this JOY be in our lives? a. Paul and Silas discovered its strength in the most unlikely place, a jail! b. After being severely whipped, mocked, and abused they are placed in not just the ordinary prison cell but the inner prison cell … a real terrible place, and on top of this they are put in stocks and chains! (1. Such treatment was harsh and unusually brutal after a severe flogging. (2. Guards sometimes did this to protect themselves from the more dangerous criminals … for if a prisoner escaped the price tag for the guard was to serve the same punishment of the escaped prisoner, this often meant death for the guard if the prisoner escaped. (3. This explains the guards action after the earthquake when he thought his prisoners had escaped … he was about to commit suicide rather than go through flogging and then death by the Roman system! 2. Instead of mourning their situation, instead of wondering where God was when they were severely flogged, instead of crying out over their unfair imprisonment they begin to sing praises to God in song at midnight! … they are filled with JOY which gives them the strength to worship and praise God in the midst of horrible pain! a. Notice that all the other prisoners were listening to them at midnight! b. It is no wonder that all the other prisoners stayed even after the earthquake loosened everyone's chains … they had to know where these men got the strength to praise God in the midst of pain … even the guard wanted to know! 3. When others saw Paul and Silas' JOY in the midst of horrible suffering they wanted to accept this same Jesus that had come into their lives! a. The guard takes them home and accepts Christ as his Lord! b. The guard's whole family gets saved also! 4. There is real power in JOY! It gives us the power to persevere under the worst of circumstances! ILLUS:I know a pastor in Florida who used to have count-it-all-joy parties every now and then. He so believed this verse, that when he would face a difficult situation, he would call friends over to his house. He'd say, "I want you to come over to my house for a party." They'd say, "Oh, is it a birthday?" "No," he would say. "Uh, you got a promotion?" they'd continue. "No," he'd say. "What's the situation?" they would finally ask. "Well," he'd say, "I'm going through this incredibly difficult crisis right now, and I'm having a count-it-all-joy party. We're going to celebrate the difficulty, because I know that this difficulty is going to bring something of special value to my life. I don't know what it is yet, but I want you to come and count it all joy with me." Have any of you ever thrown a count-it-all-joy party? I haven't either. To tell you the truth, it's tough to consider it pure joy, because it hurts. Yet it's important to realize that unless we go through some test, we will never know what our faith is made of. -- Mike Huckabee, "Practice of Patience," Preaching Today, Tape No. 78. 5. Christianity would be a whole lot more appealing to others if they saw the JOY that we have in the Spirit and the strength it gives us! B. Proclamation     Acts 16:34 1. Notice that once the jailer had accepted Christ it states that "he was filled with JOY because he had come to believe in God--he and his whole family." a. The same JOY that had made it possible for Paul and Silas to praise and worship at midnight while their wounds dripped blood was now in this jailer. b. Though he had considered suicide earlier and had fallen before Paul and Silas trembling with fear (see 16:27,29) he now is unafraid and JOYFUL! 2. The result of JOY is the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! a. people got saved because of the JOY expressed in the worst of circumstances! b. what do people see in us when things go terribly wrong? Do they see JOY in us or complaining? 3. What we express in the moments of great trials can have great power in whether others find Christ or not! ILLUS:When Handel wrote the "Hallelujah Chorus," his health and his fortunes had reached the lowest possible ebb. His right side had become paralyzed, and all his money was gone. He was heavily in debt and threatened with imprisonment. He was tempted to give up the fight. The odds seemed entirely too great. And it was then he composed his greatest work--Messiah. Could we not say of Handel that the Spirit entered into him and set him upon his feet? -- Peter Marshall, Sr., "Who Can Take It?," Preaching Today, Tape No. 131. 4. JOY is love's strength … and is found in a Spirit filled believer! a. There is incredible JOY possible when we walk in the Spirit. b. There is incredible strength in God's JOY … do you have it? CONCLUSION:    JOY is God's gift of love operating in us even in the midst of suffering and painful events. JOY exists in the presence of pain, not in the absence of it. JOY is love's strength … because it allows us to endure with confidence in God and keep perspective even in the greatest of trials. JOY results from the fruit of God's Spirit at work in our lives. Are you a JOYFUL Christian?