Inappropriate Joy

Advent 2023  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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Advent Intro: Today is the third Sunday of Advent. Advent means to arrive or to come to. During Advent we celebrate the first arrival of the Messiah, Jesus - for Christ has come; and Christ has died. And we also anticipate His second coming, that Christ will come again. If you’ve noticed, we haven’t focused on either – our services during Advent have been centered on the in-between – how do we live between Advents.
As we consider that, understand that Advent is the beginning of the Liturgical Church year. The rhythm of the Church calendar coincides with the rhythm of the natural seasons. Winter is setting in, the days are colder and darker, and the land lies bare and dormant. There is a sense of dying and that the days of ample light and warmth have come to an end. In a drearier season it can be difficult to find joy. Yet, the Church has a message for a cold and dark world. We have a message for a world that lacks hope, peace, joy, and love. Our message is that this Christ who has come, who has died, is the Christ who is risen, and will come again. He is the Light who brings life to a dead world – and that is Great Joy!
Pastor Alistair Begg tells of a note he received after a conference he was speaking at. The note said this - “Dear Pastor Begg, a friend was suffering through brain cancer and its treatments. His relationship with Jesus was such that the nurse on duty wrote as a critical comment on his chart, ‘Mr. X is inappropriately joyful.’ ‘Since then,’ said the writer, ‘it has become one of my goals to be inappropriately joyful.’”
Inappropriately joyful. In other words, this man was joyful when he wasn’t supposed to be. He had joy while experiencing circumstances that should have made joy impossible. Inappropriately joyful. What exactly does that mean? And how can a person have that kind of joy, especially amid adversity, chaos, pain, suffering, trials? Mr. X would say it’s because he knew Jesus. Ok, but I think a lot of people who know Jesus still wonder, “How can I have joy at a time like this!” Valid question, which we'll answer in a moment.
But first,
What is Joy?
It’s related to happiness, but understand happiness and joy are not the same. The word
Happiness comes from the Latin word: hap, which means chance or fortune. It means to be in advantageous or fortunate circumstances.
Literally, happiness depends upon external and temporary circumstances and/or people being in one’s favor. When things go my way, get what I want – I’m a happy camper. But how long does that happiness last? Not long. If happiness is dependent on circumstances, and circumstances constantly change (temporary), then our happiness is also in a constant state of flux. Like shiny object syndrome.
Consider this: the Bible speaks very little of happiness. The ESV uses the word happy 18 times. Joy, however, is mentioned 203 times - not including “rejoice.” What’s the point? I don’t know exactly, but what came to mind was this –
Happiness is not sustainable, nor will it sustain us.
So, if you’re thinking, “If I could just have that … make it through this … when I get everything in order … or whatever … then I’ll be happy,” your pursuit for happiness will never end because you’re chasing things that always change.
Joy, however, is different. How so?
Joy is built upon a firm foundation that never changes - God and His Word.
Scripture teaches us God does not change and that His Word endures forever.
Joy is built upon an eternal Kingdom.
Matthew 6:33 ESV
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Perhaps, some need to stop pursuing temporary happiness and start pursuing lasting joy.
From the video we find that
“Joy is an attitude God’s people adopt, not because of happy circumstances but because of their hope in God’s love and promises” (TBP).
So this tells me that joy is a choice. Interestingly, we talked about joy at the coffee shop this past Tuesday, and a wise guy said this -
“Joy must be intentional,” ~ Steve Watterberg.
We must look for it - adopt it. But choosing only goes so far. Choosing joy must be based upon receiving God’s eternal grace, love and truth. He’s the only One who can truly provide joy. My friend and pastor at the Four Square church in Happy Valley said this,
“Joy is being convinced God’s Word is true regardless of opposing voices or circumstances” ~ Pastor DJ Vick.
Again from the Bible Project,
“The joy of God’s people is not determined by their struggles [or lack thereof] but by their future destiny,” (TBP).
Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in this temporary world and its problems and our problems that Heaven seems to be nothing more than a dream. So, the other day I began to intentionally think about Heaven. Soon a song emerged that brought joy to my heart.
Sing the wondrous love of Jesus, Sing His mercy and His grace;
In the mansions bright and blessed. He'll prepare for us a place.
When we all get to Heaven, What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus, We'll sing and shout the victory!
What did that song do for you? The power of choice.
Kay Warren, in her book Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn't Enough said this -
Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life [I would say God oversees], the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.
Joy begins with our convictions about spiritual truths we're willing to bet our lives on, and truths that are lodged so deeply within us that they produce a settled assurance about God.”
She goes on,
“If we are going to experience joy in this lifetime, there’s only one possible way: We will have to choose it. We will have to choose it in spite of unbelievable circumstances.
We will have to choose it in the middle of a situation that seems too hard to bear. We will have to choose it even if our worst nightmare comes true. This isn’t what we want to hear. ~ Kay Warren: Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn't Enough.
Inappropriate joy must be intentional, and it must be received.
This past year I introduced a traditional Church proclamation – “Christ has come; Christ has died; Christ is risen; and Christ will come again.” There is a reason the Church developed this proclamation. It’s a truth that we can stand on – a truth that helps us persevere in the toughest of times and can create a sense of inappropriate joy. Think of it like this -
Remembering the past and anticipating His promises enables us to choose joy in the present.
Again– Remembering the past and anticipating His promises enables us to choose joy in the present. Let’s flip that over. If we neglect the past (what God has done) and we disregard the future (where we’re going and what God will do), what are we left with? The present circumstances – which probably won’t create a lot of joy.
When we understand that joy is a choice, then Scriptures such as 1 Thessalonians 5:16 “Be joyful always,” and Phil. 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord, always,” make sense and becomes possible.
Please understand the topic of inappropriate joy is expansive – this should be 2-3 sermons. So let me close with a few bullet points that are essential to our joy that go beyond merely choosing.
Joy ultimately comes from knowing a Person.
John 17:3 ESV
And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
Do you know Him? You can.
Joy, loving God, and obedience are inseparable.
John 15:9–11 ESV
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
You cannot be a joyful Christian while living in disobedience, sin, and loving Christ second or third or …. Got sin in your life – making you miserable? There’s a cure for that. It’s called repentance, confession, surrender, and stop it!
Joy does not necessarily eliminate or ignore grief, pain, or present trials. The opposite is true as well.
– grief, pain, present trials do not necessarily eliminate joy. All of those can coexist.
2 Corinthians 6:10 ESV
as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.
acknowledges that we can be sorrowful, yet have joy. We can have loss, yet still possess joy. Susan sent this the other day -
“Don’t fool your heart into thinking you must bury the pain in order to feel the joy. Joy doesn’t wait for the pain to go away before it shows up again. In fact, joy coexists the most authentically when it’s holding hands with our sadness. Light shines brightest when it’s dark.” ~ Little Miss Momma.
How will you respond to this message? What is the Spirit saying to you? What must you do to choose joy today?
Advent Prayer
Congregation: Lord, make us an instrument of thy peace;
Pastor: That where there is hatred,
Congregation: may we bring love;
Pastor: That where there is wrong,
Congregation: may we bring a spirit of forgiveness.
Pastor: That where there is discord,
Congregation: may we bring harmony;
Pastor: That where there is error,
Congregation: may we bring truth;
Pastor: That where there is doubt,
Congregation: may we bring faith.
Pastor: That where there is despair,
Congregation: may we bring hope;
Pastor: That where there are shadows,
Congregation: may we bring light;
Pastor: That where there is sadness,
Congregation: may we bring joy.
Pastor: Lord, grant that we may seek to comfort, rather than to be comforted;
Congregation: To understand rather than to be understood;
Pastor: To love rather than to be loved;
For it is in giving that we are received;
Congregation: It is by forgiving that we are forgiven.
All: And it is by dying that we awaken to eternal life. Amen.
Adapted from Francis of Assisi, Italian monk (1181–1226)
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