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Advent Week 3 - Our Joy in the Midst of Trouble

We have reached the middle of the month. We are inching closer and closer to Christmas day with each moment that goes by. Students are being released from school, if they haven’t already been released, for the semester break. Last-minute shoppers are getting their final gifts together. Meal preparations are being made for family dinners.

Yet, there are still those who do not find themselves with any happiness this time of year. Statistically speaking, this is the time of year when most people commit acts of self-harm. It is also the time of year when people are most depressed, most lonely, and most likely to turn to substance abuse to “get away from it all.”

However, in the midst of all that trouble, there is still something in which we can find true joy. Our joy is not found in anything here on Earth. Instead, it is found in knowing that we can be made fully whole through Jesus Christ.

Now, I am not going to sit here and tell you that Jesus is going to come and heal all of your diseases, make you rich, or any of that nonsense. What I am going to tell you is this: Jesus came to this world with a purpose. That purpose was to live a sinless life, teach those whom He called, die as a perfect sacrifice, be raised from the dead on the third day, thus establishing the new covenant between God and mankind. He then returned to the Father where He now makes intercession for us.

This is where our joy can be found. But what is joy and how is it different from happiness?

In the simplest terms I can find, happiness is based on external circumstances – those things that bring us happiness, time with family, a gift, a child’s laugh, etc. These are all external stimuli which may bring a warm feeling to us or make us smile, or even laugh, for a moment.

Joy, on the other hand, is not based on anything external to us. Rather it is based on the knowledge and understanding that we are not of this world and that we will leave this world and go on to be in the presence of the Lord for all eternity. Therefore, we can say that true joy is only found in Christ.

Joy is a fruit that is produced in us by the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Emphasis added)

We are told that we should rejoice (the verb form of the word joy) always.

Philippians 4:4 (ESV)  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 

One of my favorite quotes on this verse comes from Matthew Henry. He says, “Joy in God is a duty of great consequence in the Christian life; and Christians need to be again and again called to it. If good men have not a continual feast, it is their own fault.”

First, Henry calls joy a duty. It is not a light-hearted task that we should be flippant about. Instead, it is a duty. It is something that we are to aspire to achieve.

Second, he says that it is something that we need to be called to again and again. We need to be reminded that we should rejoice. We need to have someone around us that will tell us, no matter how bad things get, no matter how dark the night is, that we should be rejoicing. We should remind ourselves that we are in Christ and the things of this world are only temporary. We need to remember that our joy is not in external circumstances, but it is found only in the Lord.

Finally, Henry says that if we do not have joy, it is our own fault. We have the choice to remain in the joy of the Lord. Our salvation is not up to us, but maintaining our joy, despite our circumstances, is absolutely something we can decide upon. 

So, this week, as Christmas day looms ever nearer, I want you to make a determination to remain in the joy of the Lord. It doesn’t matter how many times you have to remind yourself to rejoice in the Lord, just rejoice, always.

Remember this refrain from O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

While we are not Israel, Emmanuel did come; Emmanuel will come again. That day is the day we look forward to and the day we long to see coming. Until that day, we are to rejoice!

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