Luke 2:8-11 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of GREAT JOY that will be for ALL THE PEOPLE. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord!
The message of the angels to the shepherds is still a much-needed, very relevant message for today. The news of Christ’s birth, the reality that God became man, the opportunity we have to place our trust in Him and have our sins removed from us, and the difference that knowing Jesus makes on a daily basis ought to be cause for great joy. Do you possess the joy of Jesus this morning?
We see from Luke’s Gospel that the joy God offers is an:
The good news of great joy was for all people! Everyone can experience joy because of Jesus’ entrance into the world. Isn’t that a message of good news? Isn’t that an experience many people are missing? If you are struggling to experience God’s joy, if you are overcome with the trials of life, the answer is found in Jesus. If you aren’t a believer, if you aren’t a Christian, real joy can be introduced into your life if you choose to follow Jesus. In the New Testament, “joy” is the Greek word chara. Related to both charis (“grace” or “gift”) and charos (“rejoice; express joy”), joy is the natural response to a gracious gift. God has a Christmas gift for you to experience today. It is the gift of joy! Joy comes with Jesus and in learning how to access the joy He can give. You don’t have to live without joy! When you get Jesus, you get joy.
And Jesus promises an experience with joy that is full or abundant.
John 15:11-I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete/full.
Psalm 16:11-You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Let’s call this kind of joy:
Complete Joy. Have you experienced it? It is a joy that completes our lives even when we feel empty. It fills in the gaps in our heart when we are in pain. It is an abundant joy because it can be accessed and experience even in the midst of life’s trials. This is where joy and happiness are separate from one another. You see, happiness depends on happenings. Happiness depends on circumstances. Happiness depends on everything turning out the way we want it to. Joy, however, is deep and unbroken. It remains even in the midst of the storm. Why? Because Jesus never jumps ship. Jesus brings joy, and as He is with us, our joy can remain in tact.
The joy Jesus gives is also an Enduring Joy
Enduring joy is experienced as Jesus keeps us safe in the midst of trouble. Look at the Psalmist’s words in Psalm 27:5-7: For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.
We can be in a difficult situation and yet experience joy. It is a supernatural experience. People without Jesus can’t understand it. You see, joy is like an anchor. It runs deep. It is that which makes our heart sing because it is a reminder that this world is not our home! When we are hurting, we can look forward with joy to the day when there will be no more sorrow, no more tears and no more pain. When life delivers a blow and seems unfair and we seem to lose even when we took the high road, even when we did the right thing, even when we sacrificed, we can rejoice because we know we aren’t living for the rewards this life delivers. Our joy isn’t based on the rewards of life, but on the rewards to come in eternity.
Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.”– Luke 6:23
Joy is the quiet confidence, the inner smile, that Jesus always has something better for us than what this world can deliver!
James said, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” –James 1:2-3
Joy doesn’t come from the trial. We aren’t joyful about our sickness or job loss or wayward child or lost friendship, but we are joyful in spite of those bad circumstances because of the fellowship of God and the comfort we receive in the trial and the confidence we have that we will overcome. The message of Christmas includes tidings of comfort and joy. As we are comforted by God, we have the grace we need to also experience joy that sustains us.
The joy Jesus brings provides us with perseverance and endurance to keep going, to keep living, to keep serving, to keep making a difference, to keep growing in Christ. The happiness of the world can be here today and gone tomorrow. The world’s happiness cannot be counted on. One day you may be riding high, but the next day you may have the rug pulled out from under you and the wind knocked out of your sales. You can’t count on happiness in this world. You’ll live up and down and up and down and up and down. But the kind of joy Jesus gives, is a consistent bubbling up of energy, excitement, and power to keep moving forward.
Another kind of joy Jesus has to give us is what I would call Transforming Joy.
When we go through painful times, and we let Jesus lead the way, there will be a gratitude well up within us. There will be a purpose to discover. There will be a blessing as we watch God work. We are transformed into people of faith rather than fear. Look at what Scripture promises us:
Jeremiah 31:13-I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.
John 16:20-I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.
This is what Jesus does. He transforms pain into joy as we trust Him and walk with Him. He even transforms everyday, ordinary life into a joyful adventure. Isaiah 61:3 tells us that Jesus wants to comfort all who mourn in such a way that the experience of grief is transformed because of His presence with us. Those who despair, can be transformed into those who joy and praise.
It is the joy of the Lord that gets us through our times of sorrow. Nehemiah 8:10 tells us the joy of the Lord is our strength. When would we consider a person most vulnerable, most exposed and most broken or weak? Probably when they are grieving and are crushed in their spirits. God literally has joy to give us that empowers people to go from weak and crushed to strong in Him.
Look at Nehemiah 8:10 with me as I emphasize it in three different ways.
The JOY of the Lord is your strength.
The joy of the Lord is YOUR strength.
The joy of the Lord is your STRENGTH.
Don’t you already feel encouraged and lifted and supported and helped as you emphasize each of those words, but how much more encouraged can we become when we emphasize the the three most important words in the verse? The joy OF THE LORD is your strength.
Our joy will be limited; therefore, the strength that comes from our joy, will have a cut off, a shut off, and an end. But the joy OF THE LORD that becomes our strength? It will be without limit! When you feel squeezed by life, backed into a corner, without help or hope, ask God for what you need, but in your ask include that God would fill your life with His joy because it will get you through.
Psalm 4:7-8 7 You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. 8 I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
If you are struggling to sleep in peace, if you are needing the Lord’s protection, ask for joy. It has the byproducts of peace and strength.
How is it that joy is accessed? If it is so readily available, how do we acquire it? First, we have to be located in Jesus. We have to belong to Him. After that, joy is manifested in us in three primary ways. First of all, Joy is accessed when we are filled with the Holy Spirit.
Joy is listed as a fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5. If you possess the Spirit of God on the inside of you, you will grow in joy as you grow in your relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Look at these verses: Acts 13:52-And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is…righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is our Helper. He is the one who comforts us. He is the one who convicts us of sin. He is the one who leads us into all truth and enables us to understand Scripture. He is the one who makes us more like Jesus. He helps us discover and do the will of God. He empowers us for life and ministry, and He is also the one who infuses our life with great joy.
Here it is again in Romans 15:13-May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The second way we access joy is through the Word of God.
Hearing from God is an experience with joy like nothing else. When you know that God is speaking to you, it creates a satisfaction, an inward joy, that is hard to describe. It is so exciting. One word from God to your heart can give you joy for a week, a month, a year. And when you know that you have not only heard the Word of God, but you are walking in the way of God, obeying His commands, it will fill your life with overflowing joy. That is what the Psalmist testified to in Psalm 19:8.
Psalm 19:8 8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
If you want a life that overflows with joy that possess constant joy and joy in an increasing measure, get into the Word of God.
Jeremiah had this to say about his experience with the Word of God: 15:16–When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.
That was the incredible appeal God’s Words had for Jeremiah. It was like chocolate drizzled in caramel and covered in sprinkles on set in rich vanilla ice-cream and decadent whipped cream and nuts in a waffle bowl that was also dipped in chocolate. 🙂 Jeremiah ate the Word of God. He ate it up. He couldn’t get enough of God’s Word. It was his joy. Sound dramatic? How about the Psalmist’s depiction in 119?
Psalm 119:11-16 11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. 12 Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees. 13 With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. 14 I REJOICE in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. 15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. 16 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.
For him, hearing and acting on the Word of God was like winning the lottery or inheriting great riches. He was rich in joy because he heard God’s Word and didn’t neglect it. Hearing God and following Him will bring great joy into your life. I didn’t say it will keep you from all trial and tribulation, though I guarantee it will prevent some of those heartaches that we bring on ourselves by doing things our way. No, it won’t keep you from all trial, but your life will still be blessed with joy.
I can honestly say that my relationship with God and the opportunity I have to serve Him and tell others about Him is the greatest joy of my life. Have I had some struggles. Yes. Am I having some right now. I could honestly say, “yes.” But God has poured His joy out on my life and it sustains me, satisfies me, energizes me, thrills me, and keeps me wanting more and more of Him.
Jesus told His disciples in John 15:10-12-“IF you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
Do you understand what Jesus said here? He said, “Joy is a byproduct of obedience.” God’s joy is completed in us as we keep God’s commands. You want to live a joyful life? Live by the book! The words of Scripture aren’t merely inspiring quotes to be made into cute social media memes to give us a pick-me-up in the middle of the day. They are good for that. But they are useless to us and won’t transform our mourning to joy and our darkness to joy and our pain to joy if we don’t do any more than read them. It is as we live them out that God’s joy lives in us. If you are down and out, depressed, focused on the negative and are on the “woe is me” path, ask yourself, “How much am I seeking to know the Word and live it out each day?”
The third and final way that I believe we access joy is this: We access joy by practicing joy. We need to learn to praise God for the good things He has already done.
Doesn’t it make you smile to think about all that God has done for you? When I read the Psalms I am struck by the depth of the Psalmist’s pain and the height of his joy at the same time. You can be hurting and have joy at the same time when you walk with Jesus. It is a deep, profound experience. I can’t explain it. I can just tell you it is possible because I have experienced it. Even though the Psalmist talks about being lonely or being persecuted or feeling like he is being hunted down, he recounts over and over what God has done for him and it puts his heart and mind in a state of joy. For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord; I sing for joy at what your hands have done. How great are your works, Lord, how profound your thoughts! Psalm 92:4-5
The Psalmist was so joyful that laughter spilled out of his mouth as an extension of that joy. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. –Psalm 126:2-3
We need to practice being joyful by thanking and praising God every day for what He has done. We can also practice joy by making Christmastime joyful for other people. I guarantee every one of us knows someone who lives alone and could use some Christmas cheer. God has laid someone special on my heart that I intend to Christmas carol and to take a small gift to.
Can you think of a way to share some Christmas joy? Can you leave an extra generous tip, the kind that would really give someone a life lift? Can you bake some cookies for a neighbor? Can you take lunch to a co-worker? Can you visit someone in a nursing home? I guarantee you, as you focus on infusing joy into other people’s lives, you’ll become more joyful yourself. Look at the example of Jesus.
For the joy set before him Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
Jesus experienced joy even in His sacrifice. As He laid down His life for you and me, we became His joy. Knowing that we could one day be with Him in Heaven brought Him joy even in the worst moment of His life. Knowing His life would bring salvation and joy to countless people gave Him great joy. Imagine that, you bring joy to Jesus!
Jesus is a joy-maker and joy-giver even when it would seem that joy would be impossible. If you need it, you can access it and possess not only at Christmas, but every day you live!