The Joy that God Gives
About the Guest
When people are asked to describe Christians in our culture today, what word most often comes to mind? Sadly, it's not usually the word "joy"...and yet during the Christmas season in particular, that word ought to be at the top of the list. Bob Lepine talks about this important fruit of the spirit.
When people are asked to describe Christians, what word most often comes to mind? Sadly, it’s not usually the word “joy.” Bob Lepine talks about this important fruit of the spirit.
The Joy that God Gives
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. Now that the hustle and bustle is over, this is always just a nice day to just relax a little bit.
Dennis: It really is. I really like the days between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s just a time to exhale because the activity is over. Now, you can really enjoy the relationships that matter most to you.
Bob: Although let’s be honest—for us, the days between Christmas and New Year—there is a little bit of anxiety going on.
Dennis: Well, we’re trusting God that He is going to raise up a number of you to help us take full advantage of the matching gift that we have had established by a number of families, here at yearend. And the reason is—is this radio program, FamilyLife Today, coming to you on this station, is dependent upon folks like you,—
Dennis: —standing with us, and financially saying, “We want this broadcast to continue to come to us because it’s helped us in our marriage/our family.” Or, as a single person—it’s helped create some hope for you—a perspective/a noble picture—a biblical picture of marriage and family—and a practical one at that.
Bob: Well, and here, in about a week-and-a-half, we’ll have a sense of what the yearend giving looked like and that will help us determine what kind of a year 2015 is going to be, in terms of ministry. So, if you have not made a yearend contribution to support FamilyLife Today, can we ask you to go to our website today? Click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says, “I Care,” and make a yearend donation. Or you can mail a donation to us today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Dennis: And I’ve just got to read this, Bob, because a lot of our listeners don’t know that our broadcast is heard in more than 35 countries around the world. And when you give, it makes possible quotes like this—
I won’t tell you where it’s from until I finish the quote.
This guy said: “I listen to your broadcast, all night long, while I’m working. You have started to make me a better person and a better follower of Christ—better to my father, better to my wife, better to my newborn child. You talk straight to my soul. You soften up my soul. God bless you in your work. Thank you.” Then, it’s a name I’m not going to butcher here, Bob—it’s a Greek name because it’s from Macedonia.
Dennis: So, when you give, you’re making possible this ministry, out over the internet. You’re making ministry possible to people who wouldn’t know what a biblical marriage and family look like.
Bob: Well, again, we do appreciate whatever you can do and hope you’ll pray for us—pray that we can take full advantage of this matching-gift opportunity.
And today, we’re going to hear Part Two of a message on the subject of joy. This is a message that I gave at Christmastime about six years ago, talking about—
Dennis: That Bob really likes and wanted to make sure we finished it here over the holidays. [Laughter] So, you are in for a treat as he talks about where joy comes from and how you can keep it as a part of your life.
Bob: Alright, that’s enough of that.
Bob: Ecclesiastes is, I believe, the quintessential post-Modern book. Solomon, who was very rich, very powerful, and very wise became a prodigal. He became an Old Testament prodigal son. He took everything God had given him—his wisdom, and his power, and his money—and he set off to see if he could find joy with those things, apart from God.
Ecclesiastes is his journal of what he experienced in trying to pursue those things. His ongoing assessment was that his attempts to find joy in things with his money, with his power, with his wisdom—
—his ongoing attempt led him to vanity and striving after the wind. He found this—he found that life without God is empty and full of pain. Then, he found this—life with God is still full of pain. I mean, that’s true; right? Life without God is empty and full of pain. Life with God is still full of pain, but some of the emptiness is gone. The point is—life is hard / life is painful. So, the question is: “Are you going to try to deal with that / medicate that, apart from God?” or, “Are you going to find some sense—some taste of joy in life with God?”
C.S. Lewis, again, entitled his spiritual autobiography Surprised by Joy. He said, “The reprioritization of his life”—that came about when he came to Christ—
—he was surprised that “that reprioritization led to joy.” And here is part of what I’m suggesting—I’m suggesting that it’s not just the pursuit of things, apart from God, but it’s the very prioritization of your life that determines whether you are going to taste joy or not. You see—if I’m right and if it is the motivation of your heart to pursue joy, then, the question is: “What choices do you make to follow that? What are the priorities you follow to get you there?”
One of the best-known Christmas stories of all time is a story about a man who was looking for joy in the wrong place. He thought that money and hard work would bring him joy; and then, on one night—on Christmas Eve—when he went home to his nice home, that was all calculated to bring him joy, he was visited by three spirits—the story of Ebenezer Scrooge.
I have to tell you—I believe the story of Ebenezer Scrooge is a gospel tract that most people miss as a gospel tract.
He is visited by three spirits—one of whom shows him his life in the past and shows him how his life got headed in the wrong direction in the first place. Then, the second spirit comes and shows him his life in the present. What he really shows him is a family who doesn’t have all of the stuff that he has but has joy—the Cratchits. Then, the spirit comes and says to him, “This is where your life is headed, and this is where it’s going to end—at the grave.” And he repents. The spirit shows him / illumines him—causes him to repent—and he wakes up the next morning, and he’s a different man.
And what is the evidence that he’s a different man?—
—joy, exuberance, generosity / a whole different focus. He has now found what’s going to give his life purpose and meaning and hope and joy. He throws open the door; and he’s saying, “God bless you, everyone!”—and buys the turkey or the goose / whatever it was for the Cratchits—and he goes over to their house and experiences Christmas, really, for the first time after the visitation from the spirit.
When the angels come and say, “For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord,” does your heart swell up with great joy at that news? The angel says that news ought to be the source of great joy: “I bring you good tidings which will be of great joy.” Why is it that a baby born in a stable in Bethlehem should be a cause of great joy for all the world?
Well, because of this—because God created us with a desire for joy in our own soul.
He said, “This joy, that you are craving, will only be satisfied in a relationship with Me.” Adam had it in the Garden—he had a relationship with God, where they walked together in the cool of the day. He had joy—day in and day out—beautiful place. He had the joy until Adam and Eve turned from God / rejected Him and rebelled against Him. Ever since then, the pattern has continued. Here we are—created to experience joy by being in a right relationship with our Creator; right? But we can’t experience that joy that we long for because our own sin and our own stubbornness / our rebellion keeps us from the one relationship that is the source of real joy.
So, the angel comes and says: “I’ve got good news—I’ve got good news! You’re longing for joy. You can’t experience it because of the broken relationship with the One who created you.
“I’ve got good news: ‘Unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior’—Christ the Lord, the One who can fix it so that you can have joy again—‘has been born.’” Which leads me to the last thing I want to talk about this morning: “How do you experience joy?”
We know what brings it, but how do you experience it? How can you rejoice and be glad? We live in a world that is screaming at us with counterfeit offers of joy, saying: “Do this—you’ll have joy,” “Get this present at Christmas. When you get whatever it is you’re longing for, you’ll have joy.” Well, I want to suggest five things that I think we can all do to experience joy—and this is obviously not an exhaustive list—but this is Doctor Bob’s prescription for what you can do when you find that your life is lacking joy.
The first thing you need to do—if you are not experiencing joy and you want to experience joy—
—is you have to look and make sure you are taking the right medication; okay? You have to check and make sure that you are going to the right medication.
Kierkegaard said this—he said, “Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.” I would say, “Most men pursue joy with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.”
Psalm 4:7—I love this verse—the psalmist says, “You”—God—“have filled our hearts with joy more than they have”—talking about the people who don’t love God / the pagans—“more than they have when their wine and their grain abounds.” I mean: “These people are happy with a good grain harvest and plenty of wine,” he said, “but we have more joy in our heart from You than they have from that stuff.”
Even good things—even friendships, and relationships, and family, and meaningful work—
—all of these things can produce a taste of joy, but they don’t leave your soul satisfied. The point is: “If your life lacks joy, where are you trying to find it? Are you taking the right medication? Are you looking to grain, or to wine, or to prosperity?” God is the source of joy—you find joy in God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.
Listen to these verses:
Habakkuk says: “I will rejoice in the Lord. I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Where does he find joy?—in God.
Then, in Philippians 3, Paul says: “We are the circumcision who worship God in the Spirit. Rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh.” Where does he find joy?—in Christ Jesus and puts no confidence in the flesh.
Romans 14:17 says, “The Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
We find joy in God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit—that’s where the connection gets made. So, the first thing—if you want to find joy—is you’ve got to make sure you’re taking the right medication. Check your pill bottle and see if it’s the right stuff: “Are you looking to God for your joy or are you looking to something else?”
Second thing—if God is the source of your joy / if that’s where you’re going—let me encourage you to increase the dosage of the time you spend with Him. Now, if that’s the—it just makes sense; right? If God is the source of your joy, then, you spend more time with Him—this is one prescription you can’t overdose on; okay? You can take all you want of this, and you will find that it continues to have that effect. Psalm 16:11: “You make known to me the path of life. In Your presence, there is fullness of joy. At Your right hand are pleasures evermore.”
So, time with God should produce joy.
When you spend time in the presence of God—whether you go off to a cabin in the woods, you sit at your kitchen table, you’ve got your laptop / whatever—you need to be spending time with God. Let me just suggest—part of this—for this prescription to work right, you have to, not only take that dose, but you have to kind of turn down the noise in your life in order to spend time with God.
If you are trying to spend time with God, while all the noise is going on around you, that’s just isn’t going to work. It’s like if—imagine trying to spend time / good, solid, relational time with one of your children or one of your kids—well, if you are doing that and the TV’s on, and there’s a blender going on in the background, your soul can’t be quiet. But when you go out for a nice evening together—it’s just the two of you, and it’s quiet, and you can just share—there’s a depth there. Same is true with your relationship with God—if you want time with God, you’ve got to have quiet time.
Now, I’m just assuming nothing here. When we talk about spending time with God, you understand we are talking about the dosage being to spend time in His Word. That’s really “2A” on my list. You need to increase the dosage of time spent in God’s Word—whether that is reading it, or studying it, or hearing it preached, or meditating on it, or memorizing it / whatever—and all of those are helpful—but it’s time in God’s Word that brings joy.
Listen to what Jeremiah said in Chapter 15. He said: “Your words were found, and I ate them. And Your words became, to me, a joy and the delight of my heart for I am called by Your name, O God, Lord of hosts.” He said, “I found Your words and I ate them and it became joy to me.” Then, he says, “It became joy to me because I am called by Your name.” You see—it’s the Word of God that brings us in a deeper relationship with God—
—that brings us deeper understanding of our relationship in the family of God—and that’s what brought him joy.
Psalm 19 says that God’s Word is to be desired more than gold / more than the honey from the honey comb. So, if you lack joy, increase your dosage of time with the Lord, which means increase your dosage of time in His Word.
Number three: “You need to add a worship supplement to your life every day”—a worship supplement to your life every day. And by that, I mean you need to spend time each day singing out loud; okay?—singing out loud. Now, you can do that in the shower or in the car. You don’t have to do it in front of other people. Get alone, but just go get some time—shut a door in a closet somewhere and sing out loud. Now, I have to make a—a couple of verses here: Psalm 32: “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice you righteous. Shout for joy all you upright in heart.” Psalm 100: “Serve the Lord with gladness. Come before his presence with singing.” I think there is a connection between singing and joy.
Now, I have to confess—
—there are some songs I hear that just make me smile: My Girl is one of those songs; okay? Let’s be honest—Daydream Believer. Every time, it comes on, I just smile at that song. Good Vibrations makes you smile; okay? But the smile from those songs fades. They are there for a moment—the happy—it’s nice, but that doesn’t sustain you. But when I sing: “Oh, to see my name written in the wounds. For through Your suffering, I am free. Death is crushed to death. Life is mine to live, won through Your selfless love,”—that doesn’t fade. That causes joy in my soul that “I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day” doesn’t do.
Listen to what Martin Luther said about the gift of music and how it stirs your joy in your heart. He said, “My soul, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when I am sick and weary.” He said, “Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul.
“It is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.” He said, “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” I think he’s right. So, when you are lacking joy, sing loud/long—and make it hymns—not Motown; okay?
Which brings me to the fourth thing, which is actually connected to the third thing—Psalm 100 says, “Serve the Lord with gladness.” If you are looking for a way to deal with joy in your life, you need a little physical therapy added into the regiment—and that means serve the Lord. You want joy? Serve the Lord—find a way to engage in service. We love—when we love and serve others from a pure heart, I believe that God puts joy in our heart in doing that. You’ve had that experience; right?—where you go and you serve somebody—and you just walk away and you feel good.
There is joy at how you’ve served. If you are lacking joy, you find a way to love and serve others.
I’m going to tell you something—when Tom and Curtis come back from Myanmar in February, they’ll be tired; but they will have stored up joy in their soul from the experience of weeks of serving others—serving the Lord by loving and serving others. There is joy in that.
People who are depressed / people who lack joy—I don’t mean—this is going to sound harsh. I don’t mean for it to sound harsh; but some people, who are depressed and lack joy, just need to get out and serve, and just need to pour their lives into serving others, and let God put some joy in their heart that comes from doing that.
Now, I don’t know all there is to know, medically, about chemical—and all of that. I’m not trying to play doctor on this, but I’m just saying that a part of your dosage needs to be serving. There is joy in that—which leads me to number five, and the last thing I want to say.
There is great joy, not only in serving, but in giving—
—in giving—which is really tied to serving. At the end of the year, Mary Ann and I spend some time, looking back on the year and asking this question—we ask, “What has God used in our lives to cause us to grow / to cause us to be ministered to?” And we ask, “How can we, then, bless and support those ministries that God has used?” And we also have started asking the question, “How can we help those who are in more desperate situations than us?”—whether people who need fresh water in Africa, or people who need food in Little Rock, or whatever it is. So, we’re saying, “What can we do, here at the end of the year?”
You know, I’m beginning to think we ought to do it at the end of the month, every month, rather than at the end of the year. Why do we save it up to the end of the year?—but we do. So, we start to think: “Where can we give? How can we be generous?” So, ask, “Lord, how can we experience some joy by giving?
“What can we do to bless those?”
John Templeton, the financier and philanthropist, said this—he said, “If you try hard to bring happiness to others, you can’t stop from it coming to you.” To get joy, you have to give it. To keep joy, you have to scatter it.
Now, I think the fundamental question we are facing is this, if I am right—if we are fundamentally motivated by a quest for joy in our lives—and I think we are—then, I think the question in our lives is: “Are your lives prioritized in such a way that it leads you to joy or to substitutes?” That’s really the issue—is your life prioritized in a way that it leads you to joy or leads you to substitutes?
And let me just say this—I think, even when we are pursuing a life that’s built around loving and serving God and others—I think in that—the joy you experience will be rich, and full, and real; but it is still just a foretaste / still just an appetizer of the complete meal of the real joy that’s coming later.
Counterfeit joy stirs up in you a long—stirs up that longing for joy, but it never satisfies. The real joy that comes from loving and serving God and others satisfies but not completely—it never satisfies you completely. Why? Because what it is designed to do is whet your appetite for what’s coming—to whet your appetite for the joy that will come. C.S. Lewis said: “All joy emphasizes our pilgrim status—always reminds us, and beckons us, and awakens desire.” We will never—our longing for joy will be sated but never fully satisfied, this side of heaven; and it’s not supposed to be—it’s supposed to whet our appetites for what’s coming.
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to Part Two of a message on the subject of joy, and it’s true.
Whatever joy we have experienced, here in the Christmas season—even if it has been great joy—and I hope it has been for every listener—it is still just a shadow of the kind of joy we will know one day.
Dennis: I look forward to seeing joy Himself—
Dennis: —is what I do—I’m going to strip aside all the substitutes that I’ve made for joy, and a bunch of my complaining—and I look forward to seeing Him, face to face, and laying aside all these struggles, down here on planet earth. Heaven looks better and better all the time.
Bob: Yes, I agree. We ought to take just a minute, before we wrap up, Dennis, and say, “Thank you,” to the folks that we’ve heard from this week. I know, in the middle of the holiday season, it’s been busy for folks; but we have heard from some of our listeners—who have called in, or who have written to us, or gone online to make an online donation—to help support the ministry. We appreciate your support of FamilyLife Today.
And, of course, this is kind of critical time of the year for us because, really, what happens over the next week will set the course for all of 2015 for us, as a ministry. The next seven days are vital for what we are going to be able to do in the new year.
So, if you’ve not made a yearend contribution to support FamilyLife Today, we’d like to encourage you to consider doing that today. And the good news is—when you make a donation, it’s going to be matched, dollar for dollar. And our matching-gift fund has actually increased over the last few days. We’re now up to a total of $3.5 million dollars. So, obviously, we are going to need to hear from as many FamilyLife Today listeners as possible in order to take full advantage of the matching gift and to finish out 2014 strong. You can donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or again, you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223.
And with that, we’ve got to wrap things up for this week. Thanks for being with us. Hope you’ve had a great week. Hope you can join us on Monday. We’re going to talk to one mom who decided to try a one-year experiment—a campaign in her home to defeat the entitlement attitude that she saw creeping into her children’s lives. Kay Wyma joins us on Monday. Hope you can be here as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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