Let’s continue our series called Choose Joy. I want to start off by showing you the core scripture for this series. Take a look:
Isaiah 61:3 NKJV – …to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…
In other words, God wants to give you joy for every area of your life where you are struggling, depressed, or just bummed out. God wants to replace your sorrow with joy!
And notice that the heaviness of life isn’t just circumstantial, it’s spiritual. There is a spirit of heaviness. Sure, our circumstances can bring heaviness into our lives, but oftentimes, it is a spiritual matter that we are not fully aware of.
The spirit of heaviness is legit. But, it doesn’t have to be part of your life. Jesus came to replace that spirit of heaviness with JOY. Look at who you’re with right now and say, “Joy belongs to me.”
But you have a part to play in this, you have to choose it. You don’t wait to feel joy. No, you choose it first and then your feelings will follow. So look at the same person and say, “You have to choose it.”
Last week in part one of this series, we examined the life of the Apostle Paul and found that we will not be equipped to choose joy if we don’t choose to pray first. We must all develop a lifestyle of prayer if we want to experience joy.
The reason it works like this is simple. Prayer draws us closer to God. It replaces worry and anxiety with peace. Prayer helps us redirect our thoughts to good things and it helps us realize we already have everything we need.
All of those wonderful things come as a benefit to a purposeful and dedicated prayer life and they make it so much easier to choose joy. So if you want lasting joy in your life, be intentional about prayer.
Today I want to show you how choosing joy is truly a life-changing choice. God doesn’t give us joy just for joy’s sake – although it sure is great to have in our lives. But there is a purpose behind the joy God gives you.
Let me ask you a question. How many of you grew up thinking that church was supposed to be a serious place? Maybe you went to a church where there wasn’t much laughter going on? It was just a bunch of frowning people.
Nevertheless, God has a way of bringing laughter into the church anyways. One of my favorites is church bulletin bloopers.
We don’t have them here, but many churches have what they call a bulletin, which is basically a newspaper for the church. Unfortunately, churches to have the budget to hire an editor, so funny things tend to happen like these:
- The pastor will preach his farewell message, after which the choir will sing, “Break Forth Into Joy.”
- Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community.
- Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It is a good chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
- Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say “hell” to someone who doesn’t care much about you.
- Don’t let worry kill you off – let the Church help.
There aren’t very many churches out there that are known for their joy. What a bummer. How about we change that? How about we become the church in Owasso known for our joy? People come here to be refreshed.
For that to happen, we all have to choose joy. To be honest, it’s often hard to do because we have an enemy out there who is on mission to strip joy from our lives.
The devil can’t have happy Christians because a Christian who is full of joy is an unstoppable force for the Kingdom of God. That’s why the enemy works overtime to steal your joy.
He steals it through a social media post, or through addiction, or by getting you so busy that you don’t have time to get closer to God through prayer. You’re even too busy to build the relationships that bring joy into your life.
Let me show you how Jesus explains what is going on here:
John 10:10 AMP – The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].
Did you ever notice that a thief does not wear a shirt that says, “I’m a thief.” No, they wait until you are not paying attention to steal from you. They steal out of your car when you aren’t around. They steal out of your bank account without you even knowing by stealing your debit card number.
It’s funny, really. We think that it is going to be so obvious when the enemy is trying to steal from us. But he’s been at this for awhile. He steals life from you by getting your priorities out of whack, or getting you around the wrong people.
If you try to do this without Jesus, the devil is going to steal from you left and right without you even knowing. BUT… Jesus already came. And He came to give you life to the full until it overflows.
Let me put it to you this way, Jesus is your fraud protection. Ain’t nobody going to steal your credit card number with Jesus around. All you gotta do is submit your life to Jesus to gain this benefit.
But too many of us are trying to live this life in our own strength. We’re control freaks and struggle to truly trust God. If we only realized how abundant life is when we humble ourselves and trust everything that God asks us to do in His Word.
Jesus came to give you life – an abundant life. But the only way to experience it is to humble yourself and realize that God is way better at this than you are.
At first it feels like you’re giving up something because you are. But only to gain a life way more valuable that you could create on your own. Let me show you:
2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT – This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
When you submit yourself to Christ, your old life disappears. It’s kind of weird, but there may even be a little bit of a grieving process, not because you want your old life, but because it’s all you knew.
But when you let that old life go, a new life begins. We’re talking about the life that Jesus came to give you – an abundant life, to the full, until it overflows. A life full of joy.
The Path to JOY
Joy is the destination of life in Christ. But there are some choices you have to make to get there. You gotta follow the map. There is a divine order of steps you need to take to get to a place where you are full of joy.
Even Jesus had to walk down this path to joy. The reason He was able to endure the pain and the shame of being crucified on a cross is because there was great joy set before Him. He knew joy was on the other side.
This is a message in itself because we tend to give up on joy when we’re walking through a tough season. But sometimes we have to keep our eye on the joy that’s on the other side so we can walk through the pain with peace.
Do you think Jesus was feeling joy when He was getting beat? Or when He was nailed to the cross? Or when the sin of the world was dumped on His shoulders and His father left Him because of it?
No, the cross is an ugly pace – a place of death. It’s where you go put to death all the things in your life that aren’t of God. And let me tell you, it isn’t pleasant. You aren’t going to be feeling any joy there.
But you can choose to endure the pain, just like Jesus did, because you know that great joy is just on the other side. When Jesus was on the cross, He kept His eyes set on the great joy to come. And that joy was you.
Jesus knew that what He was going through would hold the power to save you, to heal you, to make you new. So He kept His eyes on the joy of having a relationship with you which enabled Him to endure the pain with peace.
Let me show you what I mean in the book of Hebrews:
Hebrews 12:2 NLT – … Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
This is our example of joy. In the tough times, we look forward to the joy that is to come. There is a path to this great joy and it is three steps. Here’s the first one:
Joy starts with Jesus. You can’t be full of joy without belonging to Jesus. And I’m not talking about a prayer that you said one Sunday. I’m talking about every day, you live your life with Jesus. Jesus has to come first.
Matthew 6:33 NKJV – But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Here’s the next step on this path to joy:
There’s no way to discover joy on the path called “me, myself and I”. I deceive myself when we think that giving all my attention, time and money to myself is going to bring good things into my life.
Let me put it to you this way. Doing what you want when you want doesn’t bring you joy. Spending all your money on yourself doesn’t bring you joy.
It’s only when you sacrifice your own desires for the sake of others that you experience joy. That statement didn’t sound very joyful, did it? Sacrifice myself? I know, it sounds strange, but it works.
Start with Jesus. Give yourself to Jesus. Humble yourself before Him and trust Him by following everything He teaches us in the Bible, including this:
Acts 20:35 NLT – …You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Here’s what Jesus is saying:
An others-focused life is more blessed than a me-focused life.
If you want to be full of joy, you have to follow this divine order. Jesus first. And then I live my life defaulting to what I can give, not what I can get. Then and only then you get to this last step on the pathway to joy:
I don’t even need to explain this one to you, because we all know how to take care of ourselves. But get this: I’m not first. I’m not even second. I’m third.
Jesus first. Then others. Then you actually find out that Jesus takes care of you. You don’t even have to worry about yourself because when you follow this divine order to joy, Jesus takes care of you.
1 Peter 5:7 NLT – Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
He takes care of you. Actually, God puts you first. He cares about you that much. But in order to experience the benefits of new life in Jesus, we have to put Jesus first, then others, all the while trusting God to take care of us.
That’s the path to joy, but there’s also a purpose in joy. Have you ever noticed how when God does something in your life, it’s usually not just for your benefit, but also for the benefit of others?
When Jesus healed my wife of infertility five years ago, it wasn’t just for our benefit, but for the grandparents and for the World because all my kids have a purpose that they are going to fulfill. They’re going to make a difference for the Kingdom of God.
When the Holy Spirit helped me overcome fear and anxiety that was trying to grip my soul this year, it wasn’t just for my benefit, it was for yours. It’s easier for you to step into peace whenever your pastor is at peace.
God wants to give you joy. It’s going to benefit you, but it is also going to benefit others.
There’s a great example of this in the book of Isaiah. This is kind of a funny place to go to talk about joy because it’s a rather serious book of the Bible. It was a time when Israel was going through some tough times.
It’s kind of like this year. When you don’t think it could get any worse, it gets worse. When things seem to be calming down, something comes along to get everyone heated up again.
Israel was in one of these seasons in the book of Isaiah. But look at this prophecy that was given:
Isaiah 9:2-3 NIV – The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.
Come on somebody. We may be walking in a land of deep darkness, but a light has dawned! God is going to enlarge our nation and increase our joy. The enemy is defeated and we are going to rejoice as we divide the plunder.
The wealth of the wicked is transferred to the righteous. We are going to have all the provision we need to fulfill God’s plan for our lives and for this church.
I know, it looks dark right now. But we have seen a great light. His name is Jesus. And we can trust Him to bring us to a place of victory and prosperity. There is nothing to fear. Jesus comes to the rescue each time.
Don’t fear this battle that we are in. Put on the attitude of a warrior. The battle is not the problem, it’s how you handle the battle that can be the problem.
Stop fearing the battle. Stop hiding from the battle. Put on your armor and engage in this battle because Jesus has already won. And when we get to the end of this battle, we going to have a heck of a time making a difference with all the stuff the enemy used to have that is now ours.
Let’s choose joy even when we’re walking through a dark season because we keep our eyes on what’s to come. And when we choose joy in the tough times, it makes a difference in the lives of those around us.
Identifying Godly Joy
I’ve realized that in order to choose joy you need to be able to identify what Godly joy looks like. There’s a lot of imposters out there. People try to find joy through achievements, or possessions, or sex, or substances. But it’s all a bunch of BS.
None of that stuff works but it’s pretty easy to get deceived by these joy imposters. So let me give you four qualifications that will help you identify Godly joy.
1. Godly joy is inside out.
God plants it on the inside and then it is expressed on the outside. If you are looking for joy that comes from something on the outside, it’s an imposter. Godly joy always comes from the inside out.
Galatians 5:22-23 NLT – The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Where does the Holy Spirit live? On the inside, in our spirits. And He is in there producing joy which creates fruit on the outside for others to enjoy.
Joy that comes from outside circumstances – from a new car, or a new job, or a new girlfriend, or from your kids finally behaving – it disappears as fast as it shows up. But Godly joy is developed from the inside out. It fills you up until you overflow.
Here’s the next identifier of Godly joy:
2. Godly joy is beyond circumstances.
Some people think that the joy I have is because of my perfect life. There is one thing that is perfect in my life, and that’s Beth. But in everything else, I experience setbacks just like the rest of you.
Just a few months ago, I woke up one morning and heard running water. No one else was awake, so it occurred to me that something was probably wrong. I tracked down where it was coming from and turns out, the water heater was busted and water was just pouring out.
Our water heater is in the garage. There is even a drain in the water heater closet. But whoever installed it back when the house was built didn’t see a need to connect the drip pan to the drain, so it was going everywhere.
Some of it went into the garage, but most of it went into our master closet. I’m just glad I practiced up on choosing joy because it was pretty easy this time.
We had just gotten our COVID stimulus check and the whole thing went to replacing a water heater. But hey, we got to support a local business and help provide for other families that work for that business. Choose joy.
Just a few months later, our main drain got clogged and the sewage started back up into our shower and tub. It smelled great. Yet another opportunity to choose joy and support local business by hiring a plumber.
You probably won’t believe the next part, but I think it was the next week that the electrical panel burned up for our aerobic septic system. So it filled up to the brim and almost backed up into our house.
There were a few days where we couldn’t take showers or do laundry. We flushed the toilets as few times as possible. But hey, we got to support two more local businesses – the septic guy and the electrician.
If you thought our life was perfect, there you go. We are presented with opportunities all the time to choose joy. But it’s okay because Godly joy is beyond circumstances.
We don’t have to have a perfect life to experience joy. We can choose joy regardless of what is going on around us.
Psalms 19:8 NLT – The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living.
When we follow the instructions we find in the Word of God, we remain full of joy even when our circumstances aren’t joyful. Because Godly joy comes from the inside out.
Here’s the next one:
3. Godly joy is with others.
There is no joy on the path to me, myself, and I. Godly joy only comes when we live life with others. That’s why we put so much effort into our small groups because I want you to experience the joy and freedom that comes with developing close relationships with others here at church.
I know, you don’t need something else to do. I know, you’re busy. I know, it’s intimidating to meet new people and work on building relationships. But the joy that is on the other side. That’s what I want you to experience.
If you are not in a small group, do your best to work one into your schedule. If you are not able to make it work, I have another assignment for you.
And I only bring this up because it is so important. I don’t want you to let an entire small group semester go by without investing your time into relationships.
If there is not a small group that works for you, I want you to find one or two people here at church and find a day every week to meet for lunch, or have them over for dinner, or go out to coffee, or whatever.
Find something that works and commit to it every week throughout this small group semester. Do whatever it takes to build relationships with people here at church. Joining a small group is probably the easiest thing, but it’s not the only thing. Don’t allow yourself to be too busy for relationships.
1 Corinthians 12:25-26 NIV – …so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
We suffer together. We rejoice together. Godly joy is experienced when we live life together. The enemy wants to steal the relationships from you, but you don’t have to let him.
Here’s the last way to identify Godly joy:
4. Godly joy is going to win.
When you choose joy, it will always lead you to a place of victory. When you choose joy instead of being upset with your spouse, you’ll win in your marriage. When you choose joy instead of barking at your kids, you’ll win as a parent.
When you choose joy when serving at church instead of coming in with a bad attitude, our efforts are going to win people to Christ. When you choose joy, you will be full of strength just like Nehemiah says:
Nehemiah 8:10 NLT – Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!
It’s time to choose joy.
The Bible says that heaven throws a huge party every time someone says yes to Jesus. There must be a never-ending party going on up there. Heaven is going to be a good time, no doubt about that.
I want to be real with you though. Saying yes to Jesus is more than a prayer you say one Sunday morning. It’s more than the emotions you feel after a sermon that touches your heart.
Saying yes to Jesus is saying goodbye to your old life and yes to new life in Christ. Some of you have been in church for a long time, but you’ve yet to do that. Well, heaven is blowing up balloons now to get ready for your party.
It’s time to say goodbye to me, myself, and I and say yes to Jesus. Yes, I will follow you. Yes, I will do what you Word tells me to do. Yes, I will choose joy.
If that’s you, I want you to have that conversation with Jesus right now. Between you and Him, make that commitment.
Salvation Next Step
If you just prayed that prayer, we want to support you along the journey that’s ahead. But we can’t support you if we don’t know. So we set up an easy way for you to tell us. Simply text the word Jesus to 918-373-9883.
We’re not going to bug you. We’re not going to spam you. We are just going to help guide you through your next step. We’re here for you. So please, go ahead and send that text.