“Choosing To Rejoice” – 11-12-17

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” Last week we covered love, because love is the lynchpin. Joy is next. It’s a fact, everyone wants to be happy. An honest answer to “what’s your number 1 life ambition?” I just want to be happy. You can find happy people all over the world, but you can find unhappy people too. While we each might have different things that make us happy, bottom line is we think if we have good days, we will be happy. But can you be happy even on the bad days? But what makes a bad day? Here are some ideas:

Your birthday cake collapses from the weight of the candles. You realize you’ve only been at work for an hour. You take your income tax refund to the bank to deposit it and it bounces. The bird singing outside your window is a vulture. You see, it may be easy to be happy when everything is going your way. But what about the rest of life? Are you happy only when everything is going your way? If so, you are going to be unhappy for much of your life.

So what do you think when Paul says in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” ALWAYS? Happiness depends on happenings. The root word for happy means “circumstances”. Things go your way – happy, not happy when they don’t. Joy is different though. It goes deeper. Joy is an attitude – it is a choice. Joy is an inside job and is not dependent on circumstances. It is your choice to rejoice. You can choose. regardless of the circumstances, to be joyful. Joy is what makes life, enjoyable. Side note: people that do not possess love, are seldom joyful. Frankly I believe most of the fruits after love correlate to your love. So why have joy? Why choose joy?

We Should Have Joy Because…..
1. God Has A Purpose For Our LIVES
We can rejoice because God has a purpose for our lives. In fact, He has a purpose for every situation in our lives. Yes, the good stuff as well as the bad stuff. Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” God is in the life change business, he desires us to be used for His purpose. That is why the Bible also says in Romans 5:3: “And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”

Whatever happens in your life is there for your good, even the bad stuff. The Greek word translated “sufferings” here means “distress,” and it refers to anything that puts us under pressure. It also is translated “trials,” “troubles,” “pressures,” or “problems.” Have you ever noticed you always have a problem yet we think when we get rid of that problem we will be happy. You never get rid of problems. Solve a big one, you will then notice a little one. Solve that one and there is another.

Joy is learning to enjoy life in spite of problems. Joy is not the absence of problems, but it’s realizing the presence of God in the midst of the problems. That is why Paul says we rejoice in suffering, not because of the suffering. Christians can be positive even in a negative situation because we know God has a purpose for it. We have a perspective that non-Christians do not have. No matter what happens to us, God is big enough to take the bad stuff and make it work for our good. It is a matter of perspective – isn’t it?

Perspective. Here is a classic example. A girl in college emailed her parents and said: It’s been a while since I contacted you but my laptop was burned in my dorm fire. I’m out of the hospital and soon I will get my eyesight back. Remember Bill? He offered to let me stay with him until the dorm is rebuilt. He comes from a good family so surprise, we’re getting married. I know you want a grandchild so be happy, you will be in 4 months. I know you’d be happy with all the news.

P.S. Please disregard the above paragraph. It is a practice in English composition. There was no fire, no hospital. I’m not pregnant. I don’t have a boyfriend. But I did get a D in Math and an F in Chemistry, and I just wanted to be sure you received this news in the proper perspective. Perspective makes all the difference in the world. How you see your problems makes a huge difference on how you react to them. Problems have a purpose.

James 1:2-4 says: “whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing”. Notice “you know”. Know that the testing of our faith produces endurance. It makes us stronger. So strong that we become “mature and complete, lacking in nothing. The stuff that happens in our lives, God uses for His and our benefit.

We Should Have Joy Because…..
2. God Has Given Us A Life Of HOPE
Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, followers of Jesus should never be without hope. In any situation we should never feel, hopeless. It is said that a person can live forty days without food, three days without water, eight minutes without air, but not one minute without hope. But we who are in Christ, should always have hope. Because we have Jesus Christ.

1 John 4:4, “For the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” That’s a verse of hope. You can have hope, but what’s it based on? The wrong things? The stock market, their good looks, a big salary, a nice job, a good family. But all those things are temporary and can be taken away. When they disappear, and when they do, so does their hope. And when their hope is gone so is their joy. Because joy is impossible without hope.

If you’re a Jesus follower, you have a reason to have hope. You have a reason to rejoice. “For the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” All kinds of things can happen to you in this life, but the fact remains, “For the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” All the world may be crashing down around you, but guess what? Jesus is in you, this world is not all there is, there is more to life than this life! I can always have joy because of this fact.

3. We should have joy when we have an attitude of GRATITUDE, GIVING and SERVICE.
First Thessalonians 5:18 says: “In everything give thanks.” That is the attitude of gratitude. Notice again that we do not have to be thankful for all circumstances; rather, we are to be thankful in all circumstances. Psychologists say that gratitude is the healthiest emotion.

GIVING, Jesus said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
SERVICE. – MARK 8:35, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Lose your life to service. The happiest people are usually too busy serving others to ask themselves, “Am I Happy?” Joy comes as we get our focus off of ourselves and concentrate on helping others.

4. We should have Joy when we eliminate “JOY BASHERS”
Joy Bashers steal joy away.
1) Unfilled Expectations
Some of us would admit that things aren’t going according to how we “expected them” to go. Maybe it’s our marriage, or our career, our retirement, or perhaps our kids have moved away and are not faithful. Maybe you don’t have everything you want- bigger house, newer car, etc.
One thing we can be certain of in this life is that our life will be full of things that are uncertain and are unpredictable. Discontentment about our unfilled expectations rob joy.

Philippians 4:12, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” There’s a mystery about it. Paul had to “learn” to live with unfilled expectations. We must learn to be content with whatever we have or do not have in life.
Contentment does not come from having everything we want, but wanting what we have.

2) Unresolved conflict
When we allow unresolved conflict to go on with another, our joy disappears. What eventually happens is emotions boil over and we are so spent from our conflict, that we have nothing left to give to God. Remember we said to have love we need to handle our conficts. Unresolved conflict also robs you of joy. Your too busy remembering how you have been wronged to have joy.

3) Unconfessed Sin
This one is responsible for killing more joy than any of the others mentioned. Sin can send joy far away, guilt drives it there fast!

David is a great example of this as he understood this when he attempted to ignore the Spirit in Psalm 32. Take the time to read it and you will find that when David owned up to his sin, his joy returned! (vs.11) “Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” David could not rejoice until he confessed his sins. Once he had, his joy returned.

But that is not all – We Should Have Joy Because…..
5. God Is Always For US
Take the scripture you might have heard from Romans 8:31 to heart, “If God is for us, who is against us?” God is on our side. Remember how much he was on our side? Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
He gave himself for us. We can be joyful in any circumstances because God is always with those who believe in him, no matter where we are or what we are facing. As believers we have been reconciled to God though Jesus Christ. We have become God’s friends, and this friendship will last forever.

Isaiah 43:1-3 echoes this assurance: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Trust in this. If you truly believe in Jesus, God is for you and nothing can overwhelm you, nothing can destroy you. The devil can’t, other people can’t, and God won’t. No matter what you go through in life, you will never go through it alone.

Bottom line? When it is all said and done, the greatest saints in your life possessed two of the most important fruits: love and joy. When you have chosen those two things and chosen to concentrate on growing that fruit, people will want to know what you got, why you got it, and they will want that. Then you have opened the biggest door to tell them about Jesus and what a difference you will make.

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