Strengthened… Unto JOYFULNESS
1. Paul is praying for the Colossian believers. He prays that they might walk worthy of the Lord.
2. The worthy walk is characterized by divine strength… divine empowerment…
3. The believer who walks by faith is strengthened with ALL MIGHT… omnipotence is made available to us… the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead enables us to walk in newness of life.
4. This strength is given to us not in accordance with OUR need, but rather in accordance with HIS glorious power.
5. We also noted last week that the expression “according to His glorious power” literally reads, “according to the power of His glory.” His glory has a strengthening and transforming effect on those who behold it… focus on it…”
6. And we also looked at the PURPOSE of divine strength: God strengthens us UNTO patience and longsuffering… endurance through difficult circumstances… and endurance with difficult people…endurance without succumbing… and endurance without retaliation… that takes POWER.
7. This morning we want to look at what is arguably the greatest demonstration of divine power: joyfulness.
1. Defined: xara = joy; gladness
a. Joy is not happiness… happiness is dependent upon favorable happenings… JOY is the fruit of the Spirit… and is not related to circumstances.
b. JOY is a deep, settling, stable, contentment, and an inner sense of well being that comes to us by means of the power of God and is based on faith in the knowledge of God…
2. Joy is often misunderstood as bubbliness.
a. This has caused many unnecessary heartaches to well meaning, but misinformed, believers.
b. A misunderstanding of the meaning of joy could easily result in discouragement, disillusionment, and even hypocrisy.
c. It can even cause a believer to question his salvation!
d. Here’s how:
» Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit of God is controlling us, His fruit will be evident…
» If we are not filled with the Spirit and we are walking in the flesh, then we will NOT experience the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
» The fruit of the Spirit should be manifested in our lives ALL the time… 24-7… day in and day out… that’s the norm for the Christian—to be filled with the Spirit.
» It is a command. If we are NOT filled with the Spirit, then we are not walking in obedience. We are living in sin.
e. You can see the case I’m building here.
» Many new believers have thought through this issue this way.
» They know a few facts from the Bible… and what it says about joy… as a fruit of the Spirit…
» Someone quoted him Jas. 1:2 – Count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations and trials… and he assumes that when bad things happen to him, God expects him to be happy and joyous.
» Someone else quoted Phil. 4:4 – rejoice in the Lord always!
» They realize they are commanded to be filled with the Spirit… and they know that the manifestation of that filling is JOY… then they also know that God expects them to be JOYOUS all the time…
» Now if you have a wrong definition of joy… you can draw some terribly wrong and hurtful conclusions!
» If one assumes that the joy of the Lord is equal to the world’s concept of joy… that can be devastating to a young Christian’s life!
» If a person believes that God demands that we be bubbly, upbeat, and happy… even giddy… 24-7…all year long… then we are in big trouble.
» Before too long that new believer is going to be questioning whether he IS walking with the Lord when he discovers that he’s not always bubbly and giddy…
» He may question his salvation…
» He may question whether Christianity really works… if God has let him down… or whether he has let the Lord down…
» He is going to feel like a failure… he will not only be sad by the event which brought on the sadness… but on top of that he heaps upon himself GUILT… thinking that he has let the Lord down…
» And then to help alleviate some of that guilt, he will take it a step further… and begin to FAKE it… to PRETEND that he’s happy and bubbly… and put on a phony smile… and say things he doesn’t really mean… even lie!
» Then after living a lie for so long… he may quit trying… and walk away… considering himself a failure… thinking that Christianity is too hard…
f. And what a shame when a believer begins to live a lie… a phony kind of life…
» I have seen believers FAKE joy… because of peer pressure… and because of a lack of understanding, and it is a pitiful sight.
» Especially when tragedy strikes… and the pastor comes to visit… some have assumed that God expected them to be HAPPY… even during very sad events!
» God doesn’t expect us to be HAPPY when sad things happen. He doesn’t expect us to put on a phony smile when your son is in an awful car accident… or when you have been diagnosed with cancer… to try to look spiritual.
» It doesn’t look spiritual. It looks abnormal. It looks phony.
3. Joy is NOT happiness (or bubbliness or giddiness)
a. Joy is not happiness… happiness is dependent upon favorable happenings…
» If a person is surrounded by favorable circumstances, he is going to be happy. The sun is shining; he feels good; he just got a promotion; his son just graduated tops in his class; your doctor gave you clean bill of health; the Red Sox just won the World Series…
» If a person is surrounded by unfavorable circumstances, he is NOT going to be happy. If a man gets laid off at work; if the washing machine breaks down; bad news from the doctor; family problems; car breaks down; bills pile up…
» When bad things happen, and we pretend to be happy and giddy… it could be lots of things, but it is NOT the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is not normal behavior.
» One of the definitions of insanity is when our words and actions do not properly correspond to reality… and what is happening around us.
b. JOY is not happiness; it is the fruit of the Spirit and is not related to circumstances… whether they be favorable or not.
» Hab. 3:18 – Though no fruit on the vine…
· Things seemed pretty bleak…
· Habakkuk was not happy with his circumstances, but he did have JOY.
» II Cor. 8:2 – joy with affliction and poverty…
· Nobody in their right mind would be happy about affliction and poverty.
· But you CAN have joy in the midst of it all.
» II Cor. 6:10 – sorrowful, yet rejoicing.
· Paul saw nothing inconsistent from being sorrowful and joyous at the same time.
· “O joy that seekest me through pain.”
· Our Savior never stopped rejoicing in the Lord. He always had the joy of the Lord in His heart… and yet, He was also called a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief.
» Phil. 4:4 – rejoice in the Lord always.
· Paul wrote this from prison! Circumstances were not favorable for him!
· If we are expected to rejoice always, then we are expected to rejoice in times of favorable AND unfavorable circumstances… ALL circumstances!
» Grief and sorrow… trial and tragedy might bring an end to our happiness, but it need NOT bring an end to our joy!
· Joy—the fruit of the Spirit—is unrelated to circumstances.
· We can and should have JOY and rejoice in the Lord always—whether there is fruit on the vine or not.
JOY is Related to Knowledge
1. Joy is a deep, abiding, contentment and sense of well being… that comes from knowledge…
2. Paul prayed that the Colossians would be filled with the KNOWLEDGE of God’s will… in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.
a. A lack of wisdom and a lack of spiritual understanding can bring lots of unnecessary grief in the life of a Christian.
b. But on the other hand, a wise application of God’s Word… with spiritual understanding and discernment can prevent a lot of heartaches too.
3. I think of that well meaning, but ignorant believer, who just bought a new house, and now gets a pink slip at work—laid off… and his well meaning but untaught friend… who tries to cheer him up with a Bible verse: Count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations!
a. When something terrible happens, are we expected to focus on the terrible event and REJOICE over it?
b. Is the man who just got laid off to count all joy because he got laid off?
c. Is the woman who is diagnosed with cancer supposed to count her cancer all joy?
d. Is the father who answers a knock on his door only to hear that his son was killed in Iraq to count the death of his son all joy?
e. Do you think God wants these folks to be happy? To be joyous about the awful circumstances they face?
f. Hardly. Remember—true joy is UNRELATED to circumstances, whether they be favorable or unfavorable.
g. It’s ok for those folks to be sad… to experience grief… to cry. In fact, that’s pretty normal and natural!
h. Jas. 1:2 does NOT command the believer to count his trial all joy. That’s quite near insanity!
4. James 1:2 – count it all joy… but what does the IT refer to?
a. The “it” of verse 2 does not refer to the trial. We are not commanded to count the trial all joy.
b. When you quote a verse—and stop a sentence in the middle, we may unintentionally alter the meaning…
c. It always helps to finish the sentence!
d. James isn’t saying that we should count the trial all joy. Rather, he is saying that we should count the OUTCOME of the trial all joy…
e. The joy is not found in the cancer, or the flat tire, or the pink slip. The joy is found in KNOWING how God will use the trial… to perfect our faith… and produce patience… and ultimately bring us to maturity (vs. 4)
5. There are several Bible passages where this error could easily be made…
a. Rom. 5:3 – we glory in tribulations, KNOWING the end.
b. I Pet. 4:12-14 – when persecuted, we can rejoice NOT because of the suffering, but because when we do suffer with Christ… we can KNOW that when Christ returns, we will be richly rewarded!
c. I Pet. 1:5-7 – we rejoice in our salvation (future tense)…
» We can rejoice because we KNOW that the trying of our faith will be found unto praise and honor at the appearing of Christ… future rewards!
» Though in the meantime, we are in HEAVINESS! Sorrow… grief… anguish… not giddiness!
» Peter acknowledges that joy can co-exist with heaviness and grief…
d. Heb. 10:34 – the Hebrew believers lost all their earthly goods… and they counted it all joy… KNOWING that they have in heaven a more enduring substance!
e. Matt. 5:11-12 – Jesus told His disciples to rejoice when they were persecuted FOR great is your reward in heaven! We can KNOW that our present suffering will be greatly rewarded in glory.
6. Don’t ever PRETEND. Don’t try to FAKE the fruit of the Spirit.
a. It’s okay to be sad when sad things occur. It’s okay to grieve in times of sorrow.
b. And yet through it all, there should also be genuine JOY… KNOWING that God can use even those trials and times of great sorrow to produce good… to produce patience and maturity in us… to make us more like His Son… and to glorify His holy name.
c. Count THAT joy… the joy does not come because of the trial or trouble. The joy comes when we KNOW the outcome of it all.
JOY is Related to Faith
1. Joy comes through knowing… knowing is essential. However, BELIEVING is equally as essential.
a. It is quite possible to be TAUGHT these truths and know the facts… have the data stored away in your gray matter somewhere.
b. But the level of joy experienced is going to be directly connected to our FAITH. Do you really BELIEVE those things?
c. Rom. 8:18 – you may have memorized this verse and know it well. But do you BELIEVE it? Are you resting in it?
d. This doesn’t mean that the sufferings become “pleasant.” But it does mean that we can have joy in the midst of those sufferings.
e. But if you don’t believe it… if you are not operating on the basis of faith… and heavenly things seem too distant… and eternal rewards are doubtful… then that knowledge is not going to bring any joy to our hearts.
f. This joy is based upon knowledge… but more importantly, on faith… and our faith is based upon God’s Word.
» Jer. 15:16 – Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name.”
» Ps. 19:8 – “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.”
» Ps. 119:111 – “Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart.”
» Does God’s Word bring joy to your heart? When our heart is in tune with God it will…
2. Joy… in believing… (Rom. 15:13)
a. “In believing” = literally, “in the believing,” interpreted, “in the sphere of the act of habitually believing.”
b. This joy and peace that passes understanding is ours only “in the sphere of habitually believing.”
c. Step out of that sphere of faith—and the peace and joy evaporate into thin air.
d. But, AS WE WALK IN FAITH… trusting in the Lord… we experience this joy and peace… God FILLS us with it… and it is THROUGH the Holy Spirit.
e. Our job is to walk by faith… trusting in God through thick and thin… and as we lean upon the Lord and not our own understanding, we are FILLED with the Holy Spirit… and FILLED with the fruit of the Spirit… joy… and peace… and hope…
f. I Pet. 1:8 – BELIEVING, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory!
» If this is all true (an inheritance that fadeth not away; kept by the power of God; the soon appearing of Christ)—and we believe it—then we REALLY have something to glory in!
» If it’s not true, then we are of all men most miserable, if we sacrifice in this life for a future with Christ that will never come to fruition… we are fools!
» But since it is true, and since we believe it—then we have an unending source of JOY! Unspeakable joy!
» The reason our joy and peace fluctuates wildly from week to week or day to day speaks not of our fluctuating circumstances so much as it speaks of the frailty of our faith!
» To experience this peace and joy, it is not necessary for our outward circumstances to change… it is necessary for our hearts to change… from trusting in self to trusting, leaning, resting, and relying upon the Lord!
» BELIEVING ye rejoice with joy unspeakable!
g. Acts 16:32 – the Philippian jailor “rejoiced… believing in God.”
Joy is Related to God
1. Phil. 3:1, 3 – Joy is related to knowing God’s plan. Joy is related to believing the promises God has given. Joy is related to God Himself!
a. Paul commands the believers to rejoice IN THE LORD. (vs. 1)
b. He states that as believers, we are they who worship God in spirit and rejoice IN CHRIST. (vs. 3) Christ is the basis of our joy. To know Him is to have cause for joy.
c. We are not to rejoice in our health; or in our financial well being; or in our family; or in our possessions; or in our country; or in our position at the office; or in our popularity; or in our talents; or in our intellect, or in our accomplishments. That is the essence of worldliness – glorying in such things.
d. We are to rejoice in the Lord! HE is the cause of our joy…
e. Jer. 9:23 – let not the wise man… the rich man… the mighty man glory… “but let him that glorieth, glory in this, that He understandeth and knoweth ME, that I am the Lord!” (glory is used as a synonym for rejoice)
2. Phil. 4:4 – once again Paul commands the believers to rejoice IN THE LORD.
a. Vs. 6-7 – don’t let worry and anxiety rob you of your joy in the Lord!
b. Come to Him in prayer… believing… resting…trusting… and leave your anxieties with Him… and He will replace them with an indescribable peace… and a joy that no man taketh from you!
3. This is the joy of the Lord… and no man can take it from us because it is completely unrelated to circumstances.
a. A joy that is related to circumstances CAN be taken from us.
b. People can rob our possessions; kill our loved ones; overtake our country; inflict physical pain upon us; they can bind us up; take away our freedom; they can make earthly circumstances miserable.
c. But our joy is in the Lord. No man can take the Lord from us—and hence, IF our joy really is in the Lord—it is unshakable.
d. Happiness is directly linked to happenstance… circumstances. But the JOY of the Lord is not.
» II Cor. 7:4 – I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation.
» II Cor. 8:2 – great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded.
» II Cor. 6:10 – As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.
» I Pet. 4:13 – But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings.
» Acts 13:52 – And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost (after having been persecuted and expelled from the countryside! Vss. 49-51—joy because the word was preached—regardless of the response!)
e. Hab. 3:18 – Even with no fruit on the vine—the prophet could still rejoice—because his joy truly was in the Lord.
» The Lord, high and lifted up, seated in the heavenlies, is completely unaffected by the affairs down here on earth.
» God isn’t affected by the stock market; the economy; an outbreak of disease; the issues of war and peace; life and death.
» Our God—our source of joy—is immutable—a solid Rock! I am the Lord—I change not!
» This is a hard lesson to learn—but one that is exceptionally profitable… to be reduced to nothing… to be brought to the place where all we have left is the Lord… and then to discover that He is all we need!
» And to think that as a Christian, regardless of how bleak things look from an earthly perspective, we need to focus on our glorious position in Christ—raised up into heavenly places; blessed with all spiritual blessings; complete in Christ; forgiven; accepted in the Beloved.
» No man can rob us; no circumstances of life can take away our glorious position and our joyous relationship to our blessed Savior.
» And as long as we have a single eye for Christ—our whole body will be full of light and joy…
» When we rejoice in the Lord… and delight ourselves in the Lord… sooner or later the light will dawn upon us: eureka! “I already HAVE that which I delight in! I HAVE that which is the constant source of JOY! My joy IS the Lord… and He will never leave me nor forsake me!”
Joy is Related to Divine Power (Col. 1:11)
1. God’s infinite power is made available to us as believers through faith UNTO all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.
a. It takes divine power to enable us to endure difficult situations and difficult people.
b. But it REALLY takes divine power to enable us to do so with JOYFULNESS!
c. If vs. 11 stopped with the word “longsuffering” one might conclude that Paul was promoting a harsh Stoicism… that God’s power would enable us to grind our teeth, bite the bullet, and bear it…
d. The British Isles are known for this quality… keeping a stiff upper lip… not showing any emotion… just grind your teeth and bear it!
e. Stoics pride themselves in their sheer grit to endure… to plow though difficulties… but knew nothing of doing so with JOY.
f. Christianity takes endurance to a whole new level…
7. We have a great illustration of patience and longsuffering WITH JOY!
a. Acts 16:22-25 – Paul and Silas illustrate for us endurance, longsuffering WITH JOYFULNESS… as they sang in prison… beaten, bound, bleeding, but buoyant with joy!
b. This is the ultimate example of the power of God operating in the life of a trusting believer… JOY!
c. And what a testimony that was… what power displayed! How different from what people are accustomed to seeing… and what an impact it can have on the lives of others… consider the Philippian jailor!
d. Consider the Hebrew believers: The Hebrew believers took joyfully the spoiling of their goods… knowing they have a better and enduring substance in heaven. (Heb. 10:34)
e. When trials come, we are not told to grind our teeth and bear it. We are told to “count it all JOY!” That takes the power of God…
f. It is not a phony kind of joy—it is not pretending to be happy. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in the believer. Fruit! It is not pretending to be happy—
g. Joy is not happiness… happiness is dependent upon favorable happenings… trials are just the opposite of favorable happenings.
h. JOY is the fruit of the Spirit… and is not related to circumstances.
» JOY is a deep, settling, stable, contentment, and an inner sense of well being that comes to us by means of the power of God and is based on faith in the knowledge of God…
» We can KNOW that God uses these awful situations for our eternal good… and we can KNOW that God will never leave us… we can KNOW that God will provide the grace and strength to endure… and we can KNOW that it will work together for good…
» Hence, we can have a deep, inner sense of well being… KNOWING we are in the hands of our heavenly Father who loves us with an everlasting love… and is shaping us into the image of His dear Son!
» We can JOY, not because God promises to make the trial go away, but because He promises His presence and His power to endure through it all!
» This is a joy that is traced back to God’s power: it is the joy of the Lord!
8. God’s power produces joy in adversity; and at the same time, the joy of the Lord has a strengthening effect on us! The joy of the Lord is our strength! (Neh. 8:10)
a. By God’s power, He fills us with JOY. We are strengthened unto JOY… by the power of God working in us.
b. And even in the worst of circumstances, God’s power is available us to… ALL MIGHT…
c. God gives us JOY in the midst of pain… and that JOY enables us to endure… to patiently persevere… and to be longsuffering… with JOYFULNESS!
d. “Oh JOY that seekest me through pain…I cannot close my heart to thee!”
» God’s power isn’t seen today in the tongues movement, or in the phony faith healers… or in supposed miracles.
» God’s power is seen in your average Joe Christian who faces the difficulties of life with patience… with longsuffering toward difficult people… and does so with JOY… a supernatural joy that is completely unrelated to circumstances.
» Even when there’s no fruit on the vine, “yet will I rejoice; I will joy in the God of my salvation!”
» Even when Paul & and Silas were unjustly beaten, bound, and imprisoned, they made a joyful noise to the Lord in that cell.
» When the city walls were finished, and the people then looked at the overwhelming task that lay before them—rebuilding the city of Jerusalem—Nehemiah said, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” That joy will enable you to continue.
» There isn’t any more powerful demonstration of God’s power… there isn’t any more powerful witness on earth… than the simple believer who trusts God through all the trials of life… and does so with joy—and a peace that defies understanding!
» That’s real power… that effect demonstrated in the life of the believer is strengthened in accord with the POWER of the GLORY of God!
» The one whose heart is gripped by the glory of God—like Paul and Silas in prison—will demonstrate patience and longsuffering WITH joyfulness…
9. If we are going to continue to run the race with patience… if we are going to finish our course and be faithful to the end, then we NEED the joy of the Lord.
a. This joy is our strength.
b. This joy is needed to overcome discouragements and disappointments that lay ahead.
c. Ps. 119:92 – “Unless the law had been my DELIGHTS, I should then have perished in mine affliction.”
» In times of affliction, we NEED something to delight in… we NEED a source of joy.
» The Lord is our joy and our strength.
» We need to know how to come to Him… seek His face through His Word… and allow the Word of God to BE our delight…
» If not, we too will perish—be overtaken in our afflictions.
» The human spirit can only take so much pain before it wilts… afflictions without an inner joy can ruin us… what Solomon calls “a wounded spirit.” “A wounded spirit, who can bear?
» The joy of the Lord is NEEDED to enable us to deal with affliction… and to endure…
d. This joy is needed if we are going to be able to justify in our own mind and heart living a sacrificial life… and giving up everything in order to follow Christ…
e. This joy is needed if we are going to live outside the camp… if we are going to pick up a cross to follow Christ…
f. Heb. 12:2 – it was the joy set before Him that enabled Christ to endure the cross.
» Endurance is related to joy. No joy—no endurance.
» If your Christian life is nothing but the suffering of the cross, you won’t make it—not without the JOY of resurrection and the resurrection life!
» A runner needs to keep focused on the JOY of crossing that finish line… and so do we.
» Christ set the JOY of being with His heavenly Father before His eye… and that enabled Him to endure the ultimate suffering of the cross.
» A heavenly focus will also fill our minds and hearts with joy—and the joy of the Lord will be the strength we need to keep on running till Jesus comes.
10. Let’s pray as Paul did for the Colossians—that we too would be strengthened with all might… UNTO patience and longsuffering WITH joyfulness!
IF YOU DO NOT KNOW CHRIST AS YOUR SAVIOR…
» You can have this kind of power and joy in your life too…
» But first you must come to Christ in faith—and as Paul said to the Philippian jailor who asked “What must I do to be saved?—BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved!”