Thought: For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. Rom 8:14

The Premium of Joy
Sunday 5th January, 2014

JOY AND PRAYER IN SUFFERING

Margaret Sangster Phippen wrote that in the mid-1950's her father, British minister W.E. Sangster, began to experience some uneasiness in his throat and he noticed a dragging in his leg. When he went to the doctor, he found that he had an incurable disease that caused progressive muscular atrophy. His muscles would gradually waste away, he was told; his voice would fail, and he would soon lose his ability to swallow.

Despite this diagnosis, Sangster threw himself into his work in the British home missions, figuring he could still write and he would have even more time for prayer. "Let me stay in the struggle Lord," he pleaded. "I don't mind if I can no longer be a general, but give me just a regiment to lead." He wrote articles and books, and helped organize prayer cells throughout England. "I'm only in the kindergarten of suffering," he told people who pitied him. Gradually Sangsters's legs became useless. His voice went completely. But he could still hold a pen, albeit shakily.

On Easter morning, just a few weeks before he died, he wrote a letter to his daughter. In it, he said, "It is terrible to wake up on Easter morning and have no voice to shout, "He is risen!" -- but it would be still more terrible to have a voice and not want to shout." (From a sermon by David Scudder, The Four Hallelujah's, 10/25/2009)

I have shared this story here because the joy I wish to talk about is not derived from favorable circumstances, nor is it the result of interjected periods of pleasure, neither is it always expressed as laughter. This is a different type of joy. This joy that is derived from the Holy Ghost and found in those who are possessed by him, and who have made Him their possession, is not sold in stores or peddled by pushers. This Joy is neither connected to present nor even to pleasant circumstances. This joy is so critical to have that the life lived without it bows too low to the grave, while the life that has it could never be enslaved. The Bible declares the fruit of the spirit is joy!

The fruit of the Spirit? First of all, let's talk about the concept of fruit that is here indicated. Years ago I heard someone say that love was the fruit and that joy, peace, long-suffering, goodness, etc. were all seeds of that fruit. Given who I am, things like this must make analytical sense to me, so this fruit seed concept troubled me a lot. Instead, I found myself preferring the concept of fruit as a cluster of grapes. In this way a single grape is a representation of one characteristic outgrowth of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

One of the reasons why I am challenged with the idea of seed is the fact that most seeds in fruits are not edible and often they are not ingested. They must be spewed out of the mouth. They are not sweet. Moreover, they often serve as a type of barrier, if not a deterrent to the enjoyment of the succulent pulp. As far as I am concerned, this fruit of the Spirit is juicy stuff. If truth be told, if there is any fruit seed operations, it will be the struggle that I experience, seeking to retain the juicy pulp of the fruit of the Spirit in my mouth while trying to spit out the seed of sin. When it comes to the fruit of the Spirit, for me, it is all fruit.

Let me further add that no one could have the Spirit and not give evidence of the full cluster. Watch this: see how they are all connected. When you lose your love for someone, you lose your joy as well; out goes your peace. Suddenly your ability to take pressure or to suffer long just melts away. Since "they are the ones who are wrong" you can no longer find the low road of meekness, and goodness has abandoned you; your sleep gets affected and /or you begin to over eat or drink (comfort food): in has stepped intemperance. After a while you begin to wonder how you came so low. What happened to all this living by faith? Every single grape is implicated.

Let's turn our attention to joy. The fruit of the Spirit is joy. What is joy?

Joy is a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope. It is something or someone that provides a source of happiness. It appears 88 times in the Old Testament in 22 books and 57 times in the New Testament in 18 books.

DEFINITION OF JOY
Webster's dictionary definition: 1) to experience great pleasure or delight: REJOICE, 2) the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires: DELIGHT. Hebrew dictionary definition: 8057. simchah, sim-khaw'; from H8056 blithesomeness or glee, (religious or festival):-- X exceeding (-ly), gladness, joy (-fulness), mirth, pleasure, rejoice (-ing).

Greek dictionary definition: 5479. chara, khar-ah'; from G5463; cheerfulness, i.e., calm delight:--gladness, X greatly, (X be exceeding) joy (-ful, -fully, -fulness, -ous).

Definition of happiness - The comparison and contrast between happiness and joy may reveal that while at times they may behave alike (a sense of gladness), they are however, different in several respects.

Happiness is external. It's based on situations, events, people, places, thoughts and things. As one writer says, happiness puts all its eggs in someone else's basket, and hopes that outside situations, people, or events will align themselves with its expectations. When this goes well the end result is happiness.

Happiness is connected to the emotions and as such is easily upstaged by the arrival of a new situation, particularly one requiring or evoking a different emotional expression, like anger for example.

Joy on the other hand may only be philosophically connected to the emotions so as to help us define it as a feeling; but in reality, it is a gift which may better be seen as an attitude or state of mind. Joy is connected to the Holy Ghost. Joy is not dependent on external circumstances for its existence, nor on favourable conditions of continuity for its longevity. Good fortune does not even have to be ‘resident' for joy to be ‘president'.

Ellen White once said, "The Lord designs that His people shall be happy, and He opens before us one source of consolation after another, that we may be filled with joy and peace in the midst of our present experience. We are not to wait until we shall get into heaven for brightness and comfort and joy. We are to have them right here in this life.... We miss much because we do not grasp the blessings that may be ours in our afflictions.........Our happiness comes not from what is around us, but from what is within us; not from what we have, but from what we are." – (ML 185.5)

HOW TO GET THIS JOY
The song writer said "this joy that I have the world didn't give it to me... the world didn't give it and the world can't take it away." The source of this joy, we have been saying, is the Spirit of God. The fruit of the Spirit is joy, but this is not just a New Testament reality.

The Psalmist David expresses this truth this way in Psalm 16:8 – 11, "I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope... Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore". A slightly different rendering of the passage might read, "The only reason for my gladness and deep inner rejoicing, and for my immovability in spite of situations, is the fact that I have set the Lord constantly before me. You see, in His presence is fullness of joy and at his right hand there are pleasures forevermore, seeing He never leaves me in any doubt regarding the turns and twists of life". Brethren the source of this joy is God Himself. To want this joy without wanting the Father, Son or Holy Spirit is self- defeating, both for time and eternity. David once said, "The Lord is my shepherd." He then went on to show what the results of that are: he provides for me; he protects me, even when the paths of righteousness wind down into the valley of the shadow of death, I am not afraid. Even in the face of my enemies my cup runs over; and this is going to happen for the rest of my life so I am not going anywhere.

This joy is not the result of human effort or the pursuits of what some refer to as karma. It is a ‘present' of his presence

In the 1930's, Abraham Harold Maslow, an American professor of psychology, founded humanistic psychology. One of the things he created to explain his theory was a visual aid which he called the hierarchy of needs. This is a pyramid indicating the level of human needs and includes physical, emotional, and psychological needs. At the top of the pyramid is the high point of self-actualization. Here Maslow envisioned moments of extraordinary experience, known as peak experiences, profound moments of love, understanding, happiness, or rapture, during which a person feels more whole, alive, self-sufficient, and yet a part of the world. While I do not agree with any idea of man arriving at his best self apart from God, what is interesting to me is, that people who are said to have arrived at the top of their game are said to have grown past the pedestrian needs of food and friendship. They have found a purpose that is larger than themselves. They are more fulfilled by the focus on the other-self, and endure and achieve such greatness often in very grave, difficult and trying circumstances.

Three such individuals, well known to many, are Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Theresa. I will submit however, that what they accomplished and who they became cannot be separated from the place God had in their lives.

HOW TO KEEP THIS
Joy Jesus, speaking to his disciples in John chapter 15, points to the two most critically essential factors for keeping your joy. The first is to abide in him and the second is to obey his commandments. Both of these are predicated upon a love thing: the Father loving me and I loving you and you staying in love with me by your obedience to me. Then Jesus says something in verse 11 that must not be missed by today's disciples. "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." Jesus wants us to have joy that is full and joy that remains. In the face of so much that wants to empty your life and those things that walk out on you, you need a joy that is both full and that will remain. In this one text we find a joy that is abounding (speaks to its quality), abundant (speaks to its quantity), and at the same time abiding (speaks to longevity). What a joy this is.

REASONS WHY THE SPIRIT WANTS US TO HAVE JOY
1. It is essential for the setup in Christ
1 Pet.4:12-13 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

2. It is essential for the set- backs in witnessing
Acts 13:49-52 And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.

Everyone of us engaged in witnessing know first- hand the reality of rejection. But what keeps us going time and again is not that which has happened around us but what is happening in us. It is the joy of the Lord that is our strength. (Neh. 8:10) Even when the setback to my witness is the result of my own shortcomings, I cannot get back to serving until I get back my joy.

David further makes the point that when sin had left him such, he could no longer hear joy nor gladness, so Psalm 51:8-12, he cries out, "Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit".

Notice how he makes the connection between the Holy Spirit and joy in God's salvation. 12 "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit." It is like he was saying, please restore the joy and hold me up with the same spirit that can keep such joy in me. Now notice what follows in verse13 "Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee". Once the joy is restored, and I am upheld by your spirit, then...will I teach transgressors...This joy provides the hope of the come- back from the setback.

3. It is essential for keeping in focus, eyes that are set on glory
This side of Jordan, it is easy to lose focus on what really matters: heaven at last. Sickness and disease that seem to come from nowhere; the loss of a child or loved ones through death; broken homes and breaking marriages; pre marital complications of sex, STD's and babies; academic and employment challenges especially for sabbath keepers. Add to this list the things people do to us and the things they say about us. This is so both within and without the church. It is enough to have many persons forget that they are SDA's. I like to say they get their SDA mixed up and now they are SAD. But we are too close to the end for that. Keep the focus.

Here is how to do that: Heb. 12:2 "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God". Our safety is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and let the joy that is in us, which in troublesome times is displayed as hope, cry out to the joy that "is set before" us. Keep in mind that it will not always be like this. Trouble won't last always. Death will not have the last say. "Weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning". Psalm 30:5

The patriarch Job, in the face of all his losses demonstrated that he possessed this joy. It is only a secure, contented joy that could make him exclaim "though he slay me yet will I trust him". Or "the lord giveth and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the lord". But perhaps none more striking than when he exclaimed in Job 19:25-27 "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God; Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me." This joy does not fear death

As a third-century man was anticipating death, he penned these last words to a friend: "It's a bad world, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people are the Christians-- and I am one of them." Today In The Word, June, 1988, p. 18.

This joy is the attitude of the Divine Spirit, in the face of adversity which confuses the enemy. It sees as its goal, the will of God. This joy is the out-growth of faith and implicit trust that you are, despite of how it looks, traveling in the will of God. Such was the attitude possessed by the Apostle Paul when in 1Thes. 5:18 he declares "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." Time and again he will say, "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, rejoice."(Phil. 4:4). And again in Rom.8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose."

LET NOTHING STEAL YOUR JOY
The story is told about a Master who illustrated a message to, and through a servant of his. "Do you promise to do whatever I tell you?" asked the Master gravely. "I swear I shall do anything."

"Very well. How many animals do you have?" He replied, "A cow, a goat and six chickens." "Take them all into the room with you. Then come back after a week." The disciple was appalled. But he had promised to obey! So he took the animals in. A week later he came back, a pitiable figure moaning, "I'm a nervous wreck. The dirt! The stench! The noise! We're all on the verge of madness!" "Go back," said the Master, "and put the animals out." The man ran all the way home and came back the following day, his eyes sparkling with joy. "How sweet life is! The animals are out. The home is a paradise—so quiet and clean and roomy!" From One Minute Wisdom, Anthony De Mello

I end by telling you to put the ‘animals' out. Everything that is making your life a burden and you know it doesn't belong there, put it out. If it is making you and your place smell bad, put it out. If it keeps you from forgiving others or even asking them for forgiveness it needs to go. Every attitude that is robbing you of precious blessings; every thought that keeps you fretful and worried; if it keeps you from getting into God's presence get rid of it. If it robs you of your joy and takes to Holy Spirit from you put it out.

As you put them out, and as you lose stuff keep in mind that whatever you go through here remember, all of it is just light affliction that worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. And like Jesus, in the face of adversity, while the weight of the sins of the world (yours and mine) crushed out his life, looked ahead, so must we. The writer to the Hebrews described for us the sceret of jesus' overcoming saying "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Heb 12:2

Keep your joy. Keep looking ahead. Something better is yet to come.

APPEAL
1. There are three groups of people here tonight those who have this joy and are determined to keep it; those who have had this joy but lost it; and those who never experienced such joy. If you belong to any of these categories please stand

2. If tonight you want to say, "Lord, please restore the joy, and uphold me with thy Holy Spirit", leave where you are and come, I want to pray with you.

(Note to reader - end the prayer with these words found in Jude 1:24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever.) Amen.

Pastor Toney Mapp
President, Tobago Mission of SDA

 

Peace