Page 94 had an early start as I headed to the church to check the walks and make sure everything was cleaned and ready for the morning. With the snow coming down heavy off and on all day Saturday, I knew I would need to check on things Sunday morning so I didn’t end up going in Saturday night. Once everything was ready at Deer Run, I headed home to get cleaned up and head to Dowagiac, Michigan where I shared the morning message out of Philippians chapter two. After preaching for the North Wayne Mennonite Church, we went out to lunch then stopped by the house to pack a few things for a quick family get-a-way. We made it to our destination by 4:30 and went for a short hike before dinner, then a longer, more rugged hike after dinner. There was a lot of beauty to be seen and a couple deer who hadn’t gotten the message from my deer friends back home that I was coming down to see them. 🙂
The morning message was titled “A LIFE of Joy”. We looked at the foundation of love required for true joy. Both a love for God and a love for one another are necessary if we wish to have the abiding joy that is part of the fruit of God’s Spirit within us. It is in Philippians two that Paul describes the kind of love necessary for the joy that most of us want. This love is personified in Jesus who “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the likeness of a man.” Scripture teaches that there is no great love than to lay down our life for our friends . . . and that is what Jesus willingly did even while we were enemies with Him and the friendship was only from His perspective.
We also looked at the instruction given for joy. While the instruction began with the example given of Jesus being obedient to death — even death on a cross, the more practical instruction for us on a day to day basis is the command to “do everything without complaining or arguing.” Doing this will put a joy within us that causes us to shine in a culture that is constantly yelling about their rights and their way. The more we find ourselves complaining and arguing, the less we will find ourselves living with a joy that attracts people to Jesus. Christians are often known for fighting about things that don’t really matter rather than uniting on the things that do.
As we begin to live the love and follow the instruction given for godly joy, we discover a necessary element of faith to have a life of joy. Faith creates joy because it causes us to trust God even when our circumstances make trust difficult. Most of the New Testament writings that we have from Paul were written while he was under some type of confinement. Some of them while under house arrest and others while in prison. Even in the midst of such circumstances, he wrote about his joy being made complete by God working in the lives of those who would read his letters. When hard and unfair times come, and they will, it is our faith that God knows and still loves and cares for us that enables us to live with joy.
The final point in the “LIFE of Joy” message was to recognize the eternal element that is the culmination of our joy. The writer of Hebrews tells us that “for the joy set before Him, [Jesus] endured the cross.” A quick read of the crucifixion story should convince anyone that the joy wasn’t in the mocking, the spitting, the scourging, the beating, the nails through the hands and feet, or any of the crucifixion process. I believe the joy was at least two-fold. One, a joy of satisfaction that His work was finished. The price that only He could pay for the sin of mankind had been paid and His purpose on earth — His death, burial, and resurrection — was complete. Secondly, and I think more importantly, there was the joy of knowing He was headed home! When we base our joy on an eternal perspective with our eyes fixed on going home, our endurance of the “junk” of this world should increase.
Why is a life of joy so important? Because people are watching! They may not appear to be watching, you may not even notice they are watching, but they are! I pray that you and I live a life of joy as we live each day for Christ.