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Sunday, June 20, 2010 am

REJOICING IN THE LORD
Philippians 4:4

                 Phil. 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say rejoice!”  The saying of Paul is a simple statement we hear from time to time. We all know that we need to be joyful as Christians , but that is not always an easy thing to do.  So this morning, I want to present a lesson about rejoicing in the Lord to remind us of our need to pursue such.

                We are going to examine what the Bible says about joy and then notice some things that can help us develop joy.

 I.                    What it means to rejoice in the Lord

a.        The challenge – we face difficult times and frequent discouragement in this life.  Now more than in times past (or so it seems to us) things are not that great in this world – unemployment is high, criminal activity is high, greed and selfishness are present everywhere, and immorality and ungodliness seems to be expected and the norm.  And even more than this, the mood of society is not joyous.  Or at least that’s the way it is portrayed in the media and in conversations with others.  And Christians are not exempt from these troubles.  In fact, many Christians live their lives in misery, with a sour disposition and are not pleasant to be around.  The question we are faced with is: Is such acceptable?  Is this the way God intends for us to live?  Are we being proper examples if we live our lives with a pitiful disposition?
The even more probing question: WHY am I living without joy in my life?  Is there something not as it ought to be that causes me to lack the joy I ought to have as a Christian?  What am I doing to produce joy in my life? 
In our lesson today, I may not fully answer these questions for you, but it is my hope that we will see that God wants us to be joyful and to offer some suggestions to promote joy in our lives.

b.       The word rejoice

                                                   i.      In The Jewish Encyclopedia, Kauffman Kohler noted that no language has as many words for joy and rejoicing as the Hebrew language.  He noted that there are 10 different terms for joy in the Hebrew language.  (And that doesn’t include other words such as rejoice and gladness).

In the New Testament there are also several different Greek words translated joy and rejoice.

The point is that God expects His people to experience true joy as they serve Him. 

                                                  ii.      The primary word for joy in the New Testament is chara (xarav) and is found 59 times in the New Testament.  It is defined as “joy, delight” (Vine’s), Thayer uses the term “gladness.”  Louw & Nida describe the term as “a state of joy and gladness,…great happiness.”
The word rejoice is akin to the word joy (chairo,
xaivrw) as a verb.
What is remarkable about this term is passages where it is found.  As we shall see, joy is not about our surroundings as much as it is about our attitudes.

c.        Passages calling for us to rejoice

                                                   i.      Matthew 5:12 – dealing with persecutions.  Even in this we can “rejoice and be exceedingly glad.”

                                                  ii.      John 16:21-22 speaks of the anguish of childbirth and the joy that follows

                                                iii.      Romans 14:17, “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

                                                iv.      1 Cor. 13:6 – Love “does not rejoice in iniquity”

                                                  v.      2 Cor. 7:9, Paul rejoiced not that his fellow brethren were made sorry but because they repented.

                                                vi.      Phil. 3:1-2, 4:4, 1 Thess. 5:16 – rejoice always

                                               vii.      Colossians 1:24, “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of His body, which is the church.”

                                             viii.      Galatians 5:22 – a fruit of the spirit

                                                ix.      1 John 1:4, “And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.”

                                                  x.      3 John 4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”

 

II.    Developing Joy in the Lord

a.        Increase your faith

                                                   i.      Quite often our lack of joy is a result of weak faith.  We have not learned to trust in God.  That is why we let the things and ways of this world depress us.  If we want true joy that cannot be quenched by troubles in this life, we have to put our trust elsewhere. 
Jesus in Matt. 6:21 said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.”

                                                  ii.      Rom. 15:13, as Paul begins to conclude his letter to the Romans he says, “No may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  NOTE that our joy and peace are found in believing God and His promises toward us.  It is our HOPE!  The better we learn to trust God, the more joy we will have.  And you CANNOT trust God without faith (Heb. 11:1, 6) 

                                                iii.      Trials increase our faith which leads to true joy
James 1:2, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials…”
1 Peter 1:6-9 – rejoicing in various trials and what it produces in us.
Friends, this is WHY the Christian thinks differently and can rejoice when the rest of the world is in misery.   It is why Paul and Silas were singing in prison in Philippi (Ac. 16:25)

                                                iv.      One more thought!  How do we increase our faith? Romans 10:17 – by hearing the word of God.  If you want greater joy – READ YOUR BIBLE!

b.       Obey God

                                                   i.      When we obey God, it ought to bring us joy.  One of the ways I am seeking to increase my faith is by gaining a better understanding of God. I have come to realize that for obedience to be truly meaningful my motives have to be toward pleasing God.  In other words, our conduct needs to be MORE about Him than ourselves.  That is why I believe obedience is associated with knowing God AND loving Him (1 John 5:2-3, 2:3).  And when we understand this, we will find true joy knowing that we are doing what is pleasing to our heavenly Father.

                                                  ii.      Psalm 119 uses the word “delight” 8 times (vs. 16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 92, 174) all of them describing pleasure in the Law of the Lord; 119:162 says, “I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure.”  Do we find joy in God’s word?  NOT just because it is God’s word, but OBEYING His word and obeying HIM?

                                                iii.      Psalm 40:8 says, “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.”

                                                iv.      John 15:9-11, Jesus even emphasized this.

c.        Seek forgiveness –

                                                   i.      Many Christians fail to find joy in this life because they know they are not in favor with God OR at least they feel that way.  If you do not feel forgiven and are fearful of the eternal consequence of disobedience you will not be rejoicing in the Lord.

                                                  ii.      There are two possibilities to consider here:

1.       IF you know you are not right with God – you OUGHT to be miserable and find no rejoicing in the Lord.  Instead, as Hebrews 10:27 says, you ought to feel “a certain fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.”

2.       You are having difficulty forgiving yourself – in which case you have some personal issues to deal with. 

                                                iii.      Do what you need to do to be forgiven.

1.       If you have never obeyed the gospel that is what you need to do first –
Acts 8:35-39 records the Eunuch being converted – it was AFTER his forgiveness that he went on his way rejoicing.
Acts 16:31-34 – the jailer and his family rejoiced AFTER obeying the gospel.

2.       If you are a Christian, you need to repent, confess your sins and pray to God for forgiveness – 1 John 1:9, Luke 15:10 says speaking of the woman who finds her lost coin, “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

3.       If you struggle with forgiving yourself, you need to seek God’s help in overcoming such attitudes.  Often our failures in this are a misunderstanding of the grace and mercy of God.  Perhaps we do not dwell on these subjects enough.  It is hard to let go of the wrongs you know you have committed and the realization of what you really deserve.  But we MUST fully know that God wants to forgive us – 2 Peter 3:9.  If we truly mean it as we repent, there is nothing we have done that He will not forgive.  I know this is not easy, but it MUST be addressed if you are struggling with it.

4.       When one finds forgiveness, there ought to be a great sense of relief that leads to true joy.

                                                iv.      Psalm 32:1-6, 10-11 – a psalm of repentance that expresses the joy of being forgiven.

d.       Appreciate fellowship

                                                   i.      We ought to find joy in our brethren.  One reason too many do not have real joy in the Lord’s church is because their brethren do not mean that much to them.  They do not cherish their time together.  Instead it is viewed as drudgery.  Worship is seen as boring.  Problems with our brethren overshadow the joy of being together.

                                                  ii.      In many passages joy is associated with our spiritual family

1.       Romans 12:15 tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”  1 Cor. 12:26 describes this as well

2.       Phil. 4:1, “Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.”  Note how Paul LONGED to be with his brethren.

3.       It was even a part of the motivation that kept Paul going.  1 Thess. 2:19 says, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing?  Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?

                                                iii.      We must constantly remember that our church is our family.  If we are not joyful being with them or thinking about them, something is wrong and we need to face it. 

 

e.       Serve others

                                                   i.      We are again reminded that the Christian life is not lived in a vacuum.  One of the great responsibilities of being a Christian is serving others.  Much of what we do is about being servants.  One of the blessings of serving others is joy as we see the results.

                                                  ii.      2 Cor. 8:2 – describes the great joy and liberality in the midst of deep poverty.  All the result of being able to help others in need.

                                                iii.      Acts 11:22-23 describes Barnabas as he goes to Antioch where he sees that many have obeyed the gospel.  He was glad and encouraged them all.  His joy led to further service for them.

                                                iv.      Can you think of a greater example of true spiritual joy than when you have opportunity to take part in the conversion of a lost soul?  Acts 13:32 says, “And we declare to you glad tidings – the promise which was made to the fathers.” Glad tidings is a derivative of the same word for gospel.  Truly the gospel is the “good news” or “glad news”. 

                                                  v.      What about when you help to restore one overtaken in a trespass? Jas. 5:19-21

                                                vi.      Then there is simply the willingness to help others as you have been blessed.

 

As we can see from the points in this lesson, the joy of a Christian is not about self gratification.  While such things may bring you joy, the truth is they are temporary and soon are followed by a let down.  Everlasting joy is much deeper and requires a greater perspective.  May this be the joy we pursue in our lives.  And then when this life is over, the unending happiness will begin.  Where is your pursuit of joy?  Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy…” Jude 24