Surprised by Joy
Message #3 of "Surprised by Christmas"
Pastor Jeff MacLurg, Our Savior's Baptist Church; Federal Way, Wash.; www.oursaviorsbaptist.org
Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011 (My notes from the 10:45 am service, I pray they will be helpful to you. Would love your prayers for me, our church and our pastoral staff)
"All I want is to be happy in life." -- 'Jill'
"You will never find it," said Pastor Jeff, "until you accept the One who brings joy."
You don't get joy by searching for it, you receive it (it finds you) when God enters your life. It's that elusive.
Joyless at Christmas? The same shopping hassles, the same songs on the radio. If you go to church, you hear the same sermons about the same parts of the Bible. How can there be joy in the same old, same old?
--- The Joy in those of Christmas Past ---
1. Zechariah & Elizabeth (Luke 1)
This couple could have been bitter towards God at this point, never able to have children. But the passage says that they were still focusing on God.
They were GODLY before God. (God's opinion of them.)
They were GIVEN to God.
They were GRASPING for God.
>> They rejoiced when they saw what GOD had done.
Joy isn't about getting things (children, spouse) but about being in God's presence when (or if) you eventually receive those things. Joy is not in the receiving, but in seeing God working in your life.
2. Mary (Luke 1)
She was AVAILABLE, BIBLICAL and INSIGHTFUL.
>> She rejoiced over what GOD HAD DONE.
She saw God working in her life, she was shown that her life was part of something larger than her present situation and that brought her joy.
3. Shepherds (Luke 2)
>> They rejoiced in what GOD WAS DOING.
4. Magi (Matthew 2)
They weren't looking for joy or happiness - they were looking for a newborn king to worship and honor.
They rejoiced at seeing GOD'S HAND AT WORK.
They were overjoyed at the sight of the star. They knew this was a God-thing -- they knew they were experiencing God at work.
When you see branches move, even though you can't see it, this is evidence of the existence of wind. This star was evidence to them of God at work and they were overjoyed.
--- Joy in those of Christmas Present ---
So what do their experiences mean for us? Joy is something we all deeply long to experience joy and to experience joy deeply.
"All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves." - Blaise Pascal
Guy de Maupassant - author, very famous, very wealthy. Tried to kill himself at the age of 42. Before he went insane, he wrote something that became his epitaph - "I have coveted everything and taken pleasure in nothing."
God has hard-wired us to want joy. But we confuse joy with pleasure. But all this "stuff" grows dull and lifeless - eventually you dread. In time, this will all fade and fail. All of these stories above were of people not chasing after happiness (or things) but of people who were seeking God and found joy.
God's joy: When you see God's HAND AT WORK IN YOUR LIFE.
This Christmas, GET INVOLVED IN PLACES AND THINGS WHERE YOU CAN SEE GOD'S HAND AT WORK.
stretch - share Jesus
leave - go where you can help
serve - go serve people and let Jesus shine through you (and not just on Christmas day when everyone else is)
give - examples like our upcoming Caregiver Kit build
pray - get in touch with God. Pray for specific prayer requests of the people around you.
decide - commit to giving God control of your life in 2012 and work through you