If you’re struggling, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and down about everything. But in this video, I want to share with you a secret: You can choose joy. You can choose joy even when life is hard.
The last couple of weeks we’ve talked about peace and hope. We, we talked about the, the peace of the future is the peace that we choose today. We said that we have hope that peace is possible because it’s been promised, and we claim the hope of that promise.
When we claim the hope of that promise, we change. Today we’re going to talk about joy. Today, we’re going to talk about joy and seeking it in our darkest moments. I need to give you a biblical definition of joy because it is not how we think of it. If you were in our Bible study this week, then you’ve heard some of this already joy is not just circumstantial happiness.
In the Bible, joy is often described as a deep-seated and long-lasting emotional state that comes from knowing and experiencing God’s love, grace, and salvation. It is not necessarily tied to external circumstances or fleeting pleasures, but rather a lasting sense of contentment and peace that comes from a relationship with God.
For example, in the book of Psalm, The Psalmist writes, you have put more joy in my heart than they have with their grain and wine when their grain and wine abound. This suggests that true joy comes from God and is not dependent on material possessions or temporary pleasures. Now, in addition to Isaiah, I’m going to add another bonus scripture.
Matthew 11:2-11 with that, Jesus finished instructing his disciples and he went on to preach and teach in the towns of Galilee. John the Baptist, meanwhile, was still in prison.
But stories about the Anointed One’s teachings and healings reached him. So John sent his followers to question Jesus. He told them to ask, are you the one we have been expecting as Savior for so long? Are you the one scripture promised would come, or should we expect someone else? And Jesus replied, go back and tell John the things you have heard and the things you have.
Tell him you have seen the blind received sights, the lame walk, the lepers cured the deaf here, the dead raised, and the good news preached to the poor. Blessed are those who understand what is a foot and stay on my narrow path. John’s disciples left and Jesus began to speak to a crowd about John. He said this, he said, what did you go into the desert to see?
Did you expect to see a reed blowing around in the wind? No. Were you expecting to see a man dressed in the finest silks? No, of course not. You find silk in the sitting rooms of palaces and mansions, not in the middle of the wilderness. So what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes. Yes, a prophet and more than a prophet.
When you saw John, you saw the one whom the prophet Malachi envisioned when he said this. I will send my messenger ahead of you and he will prepare the way for you. This is the truth. No one who has ever been born to a woman is greater than John the Baptist, and yet the most insignificant person in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Now for Isaiah. Just like peace and hope, joy is promised. And so joy is a choice. We can choose joy. Yes. Experiencing joy is a choice. I’ve said over the past couple of weeks, there will come a day and there will come a day when we will experience joy. I’ve said the will of hope is the will of God, and it is God’s will that we experience joy in this.
Experiencing joy will happen if we answer our call to live lives that live into God’s promises. As I said in the definition, joy is a deep-seated and long lasting emotional state that comes from knowing and experiencing God’s love, grace, and salvation. It’s a lasting sense of contentment and peace that comes from a relationship with God.
And so if you’ve listened to me or John Wesley for five minutes, then you know that we believe that very, we very often experience that relationship with God through our relationships with God’s creation, particularly other humans. We believe that we experience that relationship tangibly here with other people, and if that’s true, then we come to this truth.
We don’t experience joy alone. Christians do not experience joy alone. I would go so far as to say you can’t, as a Christian, you cannot experience true joy alone because joy is communal. Joy is communal. It’s shared and shareable. We don’t find joy in selfishness. You might be temporarily happy living into your selfishness, but we don’t find joy in our selfishness.
If we are only trying to make ourselves happy, then we are not seeking joy. We are seeking anesthesia. Say that one again, . If we’re only trying to make ourselves happy, then we are not seeking joy, we are seeking anesthesia. We find joy by building up others. We find joy by building up others. It’s in such a simple way that cereal box imagery. It’s a perfect illustration of this because I don’t know about you, but the impact that we’re, we get to have because of being able to do that brings me real joy. It brings me real happiness and I get nothing out of that. You get nothing out of that. The people we’re sending those to are never gonna step foot in here, but we do it and it brings us joy because we’re building others up. Isaiah doesn’t say “strengthen your own hands.” He doesn’t even say “Go and heal.”
He says, go and build up. Strengthen the weak hands of others, strengthen the weak hands of others. Once others are strengthened and build up, that’s when healing occurs. That’s when healing occurs, and the joy doesn’t come only in the healing. It comes from the building up. That is why as a church, There’s usually this debate on whether people, spiritual needs or their physical needs ought to be met first.
As the church, a lot of people wanna just keep a hands off approach and say, we just need to preach the gospel. Tell ’em about the gospel. Nobody cares about the gospel if they’re hungry. Nobody cares about the gospel if they’re full of fear because their security is at. Nobody cares about Jesus until they know that Jesus cares about them.
And the best way that we can show them that Jesus cares about them is by meeting their physical needs first, by building them up. Only when we do that first will they ever stop to listen to what you have to say about the gospel. It doesn’t come just in. The healing comes from the building up. Joy isn’t only in arriving at the destination.
Joy is found along the journey, especially the journey spent bringing others along. And when we spend the journey bringing others along, building others up, finding that joy, we can never lose our way. If that is the journey we’re on, then we’re never gonna lose our way because that is the way of Jesus.
But what about John the Baptist? I’ve spent all that time reading that story, but why? Why? What about John the Baptist? Where’s the joy for John? He’s in prison. He probably knows his days are numbered. He has doubts as to whether Jesus is really the promised Messiah. Where is the joy for John? Because I think this scripture perfectly illustrates today’s message in how we can find joy in the middle of really dire circumstances.
John is in a bad situation, but we can see here. Jesus provides John Joy in his darkest moment. It’s probably one of his darkest moments.
John sends his followers to ask Jesus if he’s the promised one, and Jesus sends back a message that could only bring John an overwhelming sense of joy. He says, go back and tell John the things you have heard and the things you have seen. Tell him that you have seen the blind received sight, the lame walk.
The lepers cured the deaf here, the dead, raised in the good news, preached to the poor. Blessed are those who understand what is afoot and stay on my narrow path. Where is the joy in the darkness for John? Jesus sends John a message that says his life was not wasted. His life was not wasted. John was right.
You were right. The prophecy of Isaiah was being fulfilled, and that had to bring John a profound sense of joy, even if this was going to be the end. He knew it wasn’t all for nothing. He knew his life had purpose and that whether people thought he was crazy eating locust, dressed in camel fur, wandering around in the desert or not, that he was right and that the work that he did to pave the way for Jesus meant something.
We can find joy in our darkest moments if we look for the good around us. That’s the takeaway here. John could do it from prison, knowing his days were numbered. Jesus gave him some joy. We, too, can do that in our darkest moments. Looking for joy doesn’t mean ignoring all that’s wrong. There’s no way that John heard that from behind prison bars.
And could ignore the reality of his situation, but that did not take away the fact that he had to have felt joy. It means paying attention to what is right, what is of God. It means looking for the signs that love is still at work in the world and in your life. And that’s exactly what Jesus did there. He sent John a sign that love was still at work in the world.
It means watching the reign of God breaking out here and there. It means watching the reign of God breaking out everywhere. When we focus on finding the good among the misery, it makes the miserable bits tolerable. Doesn’t make ’em great, but it makes ’em tolerable. When we try to find the good that is around.
And I promise you, no matter how horrible your situation is, there is something good. Then we are choosing joy. I shared a story in Bible study about some books that I read, uh, years ago about the Holocaust, specifically written by Holocaust survivors. And every one thread that went through every single one of ’em is that no matter the atrocities that happen in those places, and my goodness, you can’t even imagine.
Every single one of those people made it through with their ability to find joy and hope intact.
We can do it. None of us are sitting in a concentration camp right now. So I promise you, no matter how bad it is for you, it could be worse. If they could find joy among that, certainly we can. Certainly, we. For John. It meant facing prison and death with a clean conscience and the knowledge that he was on the right side of history.
It meant that he could face his own mortality knowing that he was part of Kick-starting the kingdom of God breaking into the world. Man, what a cool feeling that. For me, it means focusing on the fact that I continue to get to answer my call of ministry, even if that doesn’t look like I thought it would, which oftentimes it doesn’t.
It means focusing on the love being given to me. It means experiencing the worst life has to offer and choosing not to let it define my life moving forward. Y’all have heard the stories and I have many more that I’ve never shared.
But they don’t define where I’m going. They may have impacted absolutely where I came from and how I got here, but they do not define where I’m going. Your situations do not define your life moving forward, either. So do these things.
Do these things: choose joy by focusing on the good around you. Again, it doesn’t mean ignoring.
Your situation, but it does mean not letting it define your life. You are still here. You are still kicking whether you like it or not, so you have a choice whether to enjoy it or not it. It may sound crass, it may sound blunt, but that is the reality of the situation. We get to choose whether we think this sucks or.
You may not be able to choose the situations that make you miserable, but you can choose whether or not they actually make you miserable.
Second, seek joy beyond yourself. Seek joy beyond yourself. You find it in God and you find it. However you find community, however you define that, whether it’s uh, in-person gatherings, time with family and friends, phone calls, letter writing. If you’re with us online, it could be community in the digital realm, like gaming groups, Facebook groups, text messaging, video calls, Snapchatting, whatever.
Whatever form you find community in, you find joy there. You can find joy there, and certainly as many of us has have experienced in the church, service to others in all of its forms brings joy because if there’s one way to look beyond yourself, it is by serving others. You cannot serve others while focusing on yourself, so you will find joy there.
Joy is shared. Joy is sharable. And you can choose whether to experience it or not, no matter what. Amen.