We do not know nearly what we need to know about joy. In our culture, we confuse joy with pretense, or lust, or greed, or selfishness, or indulgence. Joy is a vacation trip that lets me pretend I have escaped reality. Joy is an incredible high, regardless of how it produced. Joy is having what I want. Joy is no one bugging me. Joy is doing exactly what I want to do.

The New Testament places considerable emphasis on joy. My understanding of a fundamental New Testament message is this: joy is discovered and experienced in healthy relationships. Joy begins by entering a healthy relationship with God. That joy embraces a healthy relationship with Jesus Christ. There are three natural products of this joy. The first natural product is sharing that joy by establishing and nurturing healthy relationships with other Christians. The second natural product is sharing that joy with your physical family. The third natural product is sharing that joy with those who do not know God and Christ.

If our relationship with God reflects a life of distress and depression, we misrepresent God's family, we penalize our physical families, and we sabotage our outreach. Everyone has more than enough distress in life. Too few are sustained in this evil world by God's joys. We must realize that joy attracts people to God and His people like an outdoor light on an early June evening attracts flying insects.

  1. Let me share some scriptures with you. Surely you are encouraged to read with me in your Bibles. Listen and think.
    1. The first scripture is very familiar to most of us; it describes the conduct of the first Jews who became Christians in Acts 2:44-47.
      And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
    2. The second has to do with the persecution of the Jerusalem Christians: Act 8:1-4.
      And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.
      1. Can you imagine fleeing your home to escape imprisonment?
      2. Can you imagine sharing the message that made it necessary to flee?
      3. Did their joy in Christ have anything to do with that?
    3. The third scripture I want to share was a reaction to the existence of the first sizable non-Jewish congregation: Acts 11:22-24.
      1. The Jerusalem congregation, a Jewish congregation, had many questions about the congregation in Antioch, Christians who were not Jews.
      2. To answer their questions, they send Barnabas as their representative to evaluate this congregation.
        Acts 11:22-24 The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.
    4. The fourth scripture was a plea and an encouragement Paul wrote from prison to Christians in Philippi: Philippians 2:1-4.
      Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
    5. The fifth scripture gives us a incredible insight into the mind and thinking of those who endured persecution: Hebrews 10:32-36.
      1. These words were written to Christians [my understanding is to Jewish Christians] who endured persecution for years and were about to decide to deliberately abandon Jesus Christ.
      2. The writer challenged them to remember and not to leave Jesus Christ.
        Hebrews 10:32-36 But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
    6. Now let me share with you the emphasis in several additional scriptures.
      1. Paul's writing to the churches in the Roman province of Galatia declared in Galatians 5:22 that joy was a component of the fruit of the Spirit.
      2. In Acts 8:8 the result of Philip preaching about Christ and performing miracles in the city of Samaria was this: there was much rejoicing in that city.
      3. Acts 13:52, as a result of the teaching of Paul and Barnabas to non-Jewish Christians, these Christians were continually filled with joy.
      4. Acts 15:3 states that Paul and Barnabas reported on their mission work to non-Jewish Christians in Phonecia and Samaria, and those reports brought great joy to all the brethren.
      5. In the conclusion to his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul wrote this:
        Romans 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

  2. Let me share some observations.
    1. Observation one: Christians must know each other if they are to share their joy meaningfully.
      1. Knowing each other requires more than "going to church building worship assembly" experiences.
      2. We cannot really know each other if all we do together is come to worship assemblies.
      3. That is one thing the churches I knew fifty years did really well--they shared their lives, and they knew each other.
    2. Observation two: Christians must respect and trust each other if they are to meaningfully share their joy.
      1. We do not trust and respect each other because "we are supposed to."
      2. We trust and respect each other because we know each other.
      3. The joy produced by that trust and respect comes from the fact that we know each other.
    3. Observation three: Christians must associate in relaxed times to be joyful in distressed times.
      1. You never get to know me if the only time you spend with me is when I am stressed, "uptight," or "on guard," and I never get to know you if the only time I spend with you is when you are stressed, "uptight," or "on guard."
      2. We get to know each other when we are relaxed and laughing.
      3. We share more about ourselves and "open more windows" into our lives when we are relaxed and laughing than we ever share in other circumstances.
    4. Observation four: if we are to discover and share our joy, we must spend some "down time" together.
      1. We need to laugh together as godly people laugh.
      2. We need to have godly fun together.
      3. We need to relax together.
      4. We need to know each other to be able to care about each other.
      5. That takes association.

This congregation works to create "being together" opportunities. I appreciate each one of those opportunities and all those who make those opportunities possible. May we accept two challenges. The first challenge is to increase such opportunities. The second challenge is to do all we can to encourage friendships.

It is in our friendship with God, Christ, and each other that we will find our greatest, enduring joy. And Christian joy has great power. It has the power of eternal relationships.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 28 January 2001

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