ABUNDANT JOY 12-10-17

ABUNDANT JOY

December 10th, 2017

 

          During the past few months, I have given quite a few sermons that dealt with tragic events that have taken place in our country.  But in the back of my mind, I looked forward to being able to write a message about joy.  Not because it is the third candle of Advent, but because it is what Christ came to bring us, in spite of the grief that the devil throws our way on a regular basis.  And especially during the Christmas season, which while joyous for many, only highlights sorrow for others, for those who are missing a loved one they celebrated with last year, or have painful memories of past Christmases.

          In our third Scripture reading (John 16:16-22), Jesus told his disciples they would grieve, but that their grief will turn to joy, and that no one would be able to take that joy away from them.  When we put our trust in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit takes up residence within our hearts, joy, along with the other three – hope, peace, and love – replace the sorrow, despair, anxiety, and hatred that Satan wants us to feel.  At least this is what God wants.  He wants us to be happy!  It is Satan that wants us to be miserable. 

          Yes, we are called to mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15), and the Bible also says there is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.  And indeed it would be inappropriate for us to laugh during a funeral, or dance while a family watches their home go up in flames.  But this morning we are celebrating the joy that Jesus has given us that will never die and that the flames of hell can never touch.  It is the joy of knowing that this life on earth is not the end, but only the beginning of an eternity filled with joy beyond measure, a joy that will never again be challenged by sin and its consequences, or the devil and his army.  For our Lord has promised that He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things will be gone forever.  (see Revelation 21:4).

          Nothing makes Satan madder than a Christian with irrepressible joy.  There are even people that can’t stand someone who is happy all the time.  I sometimes think they are almost in love with their misery, and aren’t ‘happy’ unless they are miserable.  Satan has so completely stolen their joy that they are almost as miserable as he is.  We laugh at memes of ‘Grumpy Cat’, but I do know some people that are actually like that feline character.  Why be like that?  Jesus died an agonizing death to pay for our sins, cleanse our spirits, renew our hope, and give us joy! 

          And it is when people see our joy that they will also want to know how we can be so happy.   Look at the example of Paul and Silas in Acts 16 where we read:  “A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.

Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, ‘Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!’ The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.’ And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.”  Paul and Silas’ chains fell off and the prison doors opened because they were praying and singing hymns to God.  Were they cursing God that they had been beaten and imprisoned?  No, they were joyfully praising Him!  Did they run away leaving the jailer to suffer the consequences that would have befallen him?  No.  And the jailer was so overwhelmed at the joy of Paul and Silas, which they had because of their unshakable faith, that he, as well as his family, came to believe and be saved.  And notice the last verse I read, “He and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.”  Faith in God brings rejoicing! 

          So during this Christmas season, remember that true joy isn’t a present wrapped under the tree.  The gift that brings true joy, everlasting joy, is the gift that God gave us through Jesus.  It is the gift of salvation, of eternal life, and of the Holy Spirit.  It is something we can’t buy in a store or order through Amazon.  And it is a gift that no one can take away from us, not even Satan no matter how hard he tries.  A gift that will never wear out, or get lost, or be destroyed.  A gift that is worth more than all the money on earth, but that money cannot buy. 

          Receive this gift from God, and then share it with others.  Share the joy of your salvation, the hope of eternal life, the peace of God that transcends all understanding, and the love of Christ.  It is the best Christmas gift you could give anyone.  Amen.