Charles Stanley - Triumphant Joy
When you are going through difficulties and disappointments and trying times in your life, how do you respond? What's the difference in your conduct, in your temperament, even in your facial expressions. When you're going through a hard time or when things are just suite you fine. What's the difference? Do you let the hard times get you down? Do you find yourself being less friendly? Do you find yourself having a hard time making decisions? What upsets you? Now, you say that you've trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. And your name is written in The Lamb's Book of Life and you are a happy person. But when things are not going your way and you've suffered real disappointments or hurt or physical pain, how do you respond? Does it absolutely wipe you out? Does your disposition change to the point that people say, well, what happened to you? I thought he was a Christian. What's all this about? Are you the same person when things are going right and when things are going wrong? When you find yourself disappointed and you want to hang it up and walk away. Whatever happened to your faith? Whatever happened to your relationship with Christ? That relationship doesn't change. Maybe the way you express it changes a little bit. But, that's because, maybe, you've never distinguished between happiness and joy. What's the difference?
Well, when Paul wrote the book of Philippians, only four chapters, it's interesting what you find. In these four chapters, over and over again. In fact, one out of every seven verses, Paul speaks of joy or he speaks of joyful. So, I want you turn to Philippians, if you will. And I want us to just read these first few verses here, in the fourth chapter, to get us started. He says, "Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. I urge," and he names a couple of persons here, "Euodia and Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed," he says, "true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life".
So, he goes on with that and then he says, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say to you, rejoice"! In the Lord. What does it take for you to have joy in your life? And when I think about where Paul was, he had all the reason in the world to be miserably unhappy. In a Roman prison, probably cold in the winter, and very hot in the summer. Knowing that more than likely, his future had already been determined. That he'd probably lose his life. But somehow, he writes in those conditions, this joyous epistle that continually talks about joy and about the relationship with the Lord that doesn't fit his environment.
And so, we'd have to ask ourselves the question. Well, now, if I were in that situation, how would I feel? Would I be happy? Would I have joy in my heart? Would I be content? Would I be talking about all the good things that God had done? Or would I be complaining? The Apostle Paul knew how to handle his circumstances. And when I think about that, I think about he didn't just have joy, he had triumphant joy. Joy that overcomes the difficulties, the hardships, and disappointments in life. And so, as we think about that, let's think about distinguishing between joy and happiness. A lot of people say, well I just want to be happy in life. Well, happiness depends upon circumstances. Happiness depends upon maybe what you have; maybe what has you; and who you are; and all the rest. But joy has something to do with the inner person.
Here's the difference: my happiness depends upon my circumstances; my joy depends upon a relationship. That relationship with Jesus Christ can sustain me in any difficulty, hardship, and trial, happiness cannot. There is a strong difference between happiness and the sense of joy that the Apostle Paul had. And, as I think about it, I think about joy is a God feeling. Happiness is just a light-hearted, worldly feeling. Lot of things make people happy and unhappy. But when you've trusted Jesus Christ as your savior, and the Holy Spirit seals you once and for all as a child of God. And you know that can never change. It doesn't make any difference what we face, what valleys we walk through. Deep down inside, there's an overwhelming sense of joy, contentment, that we can't even describe.
And when Paul wrote this epistle, that's what he was experiencing. His future looked very, very dim. In fact, it looked deadly dim. So, he could not look around and say, I'm happy for this reason, or I'm sad for that. But he didn't have his mind on his circumstances. And I think, oftentimes, we who are believers, we allow circumstances to determine our disposition: how we look; whether we smile; do not smile. And we get trapped by circumstances. Godly people do not live by their circumstances, they live by their relationship with Jesus Christ. Sealed forever as a child of God and nobody can break that. A person may get in prison or out of prison. And Paul knew that where he, watch this; Paul knew that where he was, was not going to determine where he was going to be. He was going to be in the presence of the living God. And until then, the joy of the Lord, he intended to express.
So, when you think about peace in your life and joy in your life, what do you think the source of it is? And isn't it interesting that people can go through just a little bit of trauma, a little bit of heartache, and they just get all out of shape. And there are people who can go through the most trying difficult times but there's an undergirding, there's a sense of foundation, there's something that's immovable on the inside, and Paul knew exactly what that was. But I want you to notice something that's missing in this passage of Scripture. There's something in these four chapters. Something is missing. You think, Well, did Paul forget something? No, but there's something missing. What's missing? No mention of his sorrow over being there. No mention on how bad the circumstances were and no complaining about his surroundings.
Now, most of us, that would've been our conversation, I don't know why I'm in here. I wish He'd get me out of here. And Paul is thanking God that the next Roman soldier comes in to be his partner for a session, he's thanking God for his opportunity to sit in the cold Roman prison or a hot one 'pending on the weather, and share the truth of the gospel. Just think about what those men walked away with. Now, they were lost and didn't believe anything, but by the time the Apostle Paul had three or four sessions with them, how could they not believe because there was no human explanation for Paul writing this awesome epistle, all these verses, talks about joy and rejoicing in the Lord. Because he knew something. But listen to this carefully. He knew the same thing that you and I know and we have it all written down.
Paul was listening to God speak to him. We have it all written down. And so, we know why, and what, and what went before, and what went afterwards. And somehow he had this unshakeable sense of joy. And in this particular epistle, and he wrote many epistles, this is the one that talks about joy, confidence, and assurance above all the rest. But you don't see any complaining but rather an explanation of his awesome sense of joy. So, what's the source of it? Here's what it is. The source of his joy was his personal intimate relationship with Jesus. Can't be anything else. Now watch this. You have the same privilege the Apostle Paul had a couple of thousand years ago. You have the same privilege. Jesus hasn't changed. And it's his plan that wherever you and I are He wants to be in the process of being in us which He is through the Holy Spirit but being through us to other people. That's what the Apostle Paul was doing. He was, he was sharing himself with them. And when you think about his joy was unshakeable. He was still rejoicing in the Lord and praising him while he was in prison.
So, let me ask you. When things get really tough for you, do you go to prayer and tell God about them and tell Him why things ought to get better, and claim a few answers to prayer. Do you ever rejoice in the Lord? I have to admit it: it took me a long time to get that out of the pages into my heart to rejoice in the Lord and to thank God when things aren't going well. Listen. These are the times we grow the most. These are the situations and circumstances that grow us up. This is where get a glimpse of what the Christian life is all about. Christian life is not all about everything going our way and people being kind and nice to us and being sure we have everything we want, and this, that, and the other.
The Christian life is all about the Lord God being what we need when He's the only one that can meet our need. And when He said count it all joy that's exactly what we meant. Now, the choir can sing all about that. They do a fantastic job of singing all about the joy of Jesus, and the power, and all the rest. And we love to hear it. But can you honestly say that you have the joy of the Lord in your heart? You say, Well, I'm happy about things. No, that's not the same thing as joy. Happiness comes and goes. Joy that's of God becomes the foundation of our life every single day that no matter what happens, listen, that foundation doesn't move.
And I want to say to people who believe you're saved today and you can be lost next week and next month. And this is taught by some pastors and some of them still teaching it. It's just pure error. How can I have confidence and joy in my heart when I could lose my salvation? You say, But people sin against God and you mean that even if they sin against God they don't lose their salvation? Let me ask you a question. Have you sinned since you were saved? Yes. You haven't lost your salvation What do you call that? G-R-A-C-E, grace. That is God's awesome grace to us. And so, when you think about this kind of joy, this kind of joy is a spiritual gift. The fruit of the spirit is what? Love, joy, peace, goodness, and all the rest. That's the gift of the Holy Spirit.
When you were saved the Spirit of God came into your life to seal you and indwell you and to do what? Here's what he began to do. He began to overflow through you who He is: love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, and on we go with the gifts of the Spirit. You have the fountain of the Spirit of God within you overflowing constantly no matter what you're facing in life; He's there. And we talk about the Holy Spirit but think about Him as a fountain ever flowing.
Now, here's what happens. When you sin against God, ummm. And what happens? Watch this. He doesn't leave you, but you can't experience the joy of the Spirit of God living in sin. And so, you have the fountain on the inside. That's the Holy Spirit. So, somebody says, Are you happy? You're better than that. You're filled with the Spirit of God and He's living within you, working through you every day. And I wonder how often we stop to just thank you. Thank you, Lord, thank you, thank you, thank you dear Jesus for living in me, living though me and doing what you promised to do.
And so, here's the promise of God based on His Word, not my feelings. There'll be feelings in your life that you think, God, You must be a thousand miles away. No, He's right where He's always been living on the inside of you. But we're the ones who forget. We allow feelings to overshadow, overcome this awesome reality of God living inside of you, living through you in order to express who He... watch this. In other words, when you look at the moon, for example, you can think about God being the Creator of the moon and how beautiful it is and so forth or the sun or whatever it might be. You can look around. But what's the most important thing? It isn't what God's created, it's who God is. When you think about this, God ordained and chose to live within us to manifest Himself, His power, and His joy. Love, joy, peace, goodness, and on we go. And that's what God wants within each and every one of us.
Now, the only thing clogs that up is sin. Unbelief, for example, or disobeying God just sorta, it doesn't do away with it but it sort of clogs it up. You can't live in sin and have the joy of Jesus. It doesn't work. And every once in a while, I'll meet somebody who says, Well, yes, I'm a Christian. And then the longer we talk and I hear about what they're into and up to and who they're with and I think, Um-mm, no. You may have a little bit of happiness coming and going but you don't have the joy of Jesus or you wouldn't be living this kind of life. That's who He is. He's living within us to do what? To establish us, to make us immovable in difficult trying times, to protect our faith, to give us guidance and leadership, to answer our prayers, to show us the right way; Almighty God living within us through His Holy Spirit.
And so, the Spirit of God enables us to live through anything and everything triumphantly. Doesn't mean you won't have tears. Doesn't mean we won't be in the valley at times. Doesn't mean we'll always do the right thing but He'll bring us through it. So, when we say the fruit of the Spirit, that is the overflow of the Holy Spirit within us, it's not only love but there's joy. And when that joy is in your heart, no matter what you're facing, That's the joy of the Lord. Not the joy of our abilities and talents and skills but the joy of the Lord God Himself. And Paul writing this to encourage them, to help them understand that no matter what they're facing that this joy is realistic even in times of suffering.
You see here's the difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is based on my condition or my desires, or my environment, or my friends, or many things. Joy is based on relationship. So, if you're going to write something down, you write it down. Happiness is based on conditions, whatever it might be. Joy is based on relationship. My conditions and situations, and circumstances change; every day they change. My relationship with Him does not change. It is an eternal relationship because we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of the Living God. So, Paul could sit there with those Roman soldiers and he had a relationship with God that no matter what happened he would one day be released from that. It was his relationship. It wasn't his surroundings. Everything surrounding him would have brought him to despair and a dismal existence. But even in a Roman prison there was this awesome sense of confidence and assurance.
Did he like his circumstances? Certainly not. But you see, watch this. Our relationship with God is not dependent upon our circumstances. It's dependent upon an intimate personal relationship that started in your life when you trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior even when you were a little boy, a little girl, or an adult. So that it's not our condition or our situation or our circumstances but rather our relationship. Don't forget that. Your relationship to God supersedes everything else. Your circumstances may change and will change but not your relationship to Him. And I think he was thanking God for that and he was thanking also God for the privilege of suffering. And just because we go through hardship and pain, and suffering and trial, watch this. Doesn't mean that God has moved one inch. Sealed by the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption.
And when I think about that, how can we rejoice when we're hurting because of physical pain and so forth? Well, several reasons, we can rejoice because we have Him to walk through it with us. We're not walking it by ourselves. He says, I'll never leave you nor forsake you. A second reason, listen. He's in control of your circumstances. That is a major issue. He is in control of your circumstances no matter who thinks they are. He is in control of your circumstances. Thirdly, He'll cause these times to turn out for our good no matter what. When we understand what real joy is like, we understand why difficulty, hardship, and pain are only temporary. And then there's nothing that can separate us from His love. And when you think about all these things and I hope you're jotting them down and we can thank God for what He's doing in us.
And I want to read a passage of Scripture in first Peter. This is not Paul's writing; this is Peter. But I love this passage and I love because Peter also suffered. But in first Peter beginning in verse three the first chapter, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead". Period. He could have stopped there but he didn't. In order that we might "obtain an inheritance which is imperishable," we can't lose it, "undefiled," it's perfect, "and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who," speaking of us, "are protected by the power of God through faith for our salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you've been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ".
What an awesome Word. "And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of joy". That is an awesome passage of Scripture of promise after promise after promise. And there're all God's promises to us that you and I can claim. "The proof of your faith being more precious than gold". Now, most folks wouldn't agree with that. Look at that. "The proof of your faith, being much more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor to coming of the Lord". Do you have joy in your heart? Doesn't sound like it. Doesn't sound like it. The joy of the Lord Jesus Christ. That isn't just a feeling; it's an awesome assurance and confidence. Overflowing within us because of who we are in Christ Jesus.
Now, if you've never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior everything you heard it's just sort of, pass you by. And I want to invite you today to say, I made a mess of my life. And I want to get saved. I want God to change my life. I want to be able to claim what Paul and Peter talked about in those two books of the Bible. I want God to change me. Will He do it? Yes, He will. Yes, He will. And I want to encourage you as a follower of Jesus. Notice I didn't say just a church member, follower of Jesus. That's who you claim to be. That you allow God's Word to captivate you, fill you up, overflow in you that no matter what you're walking through these verses and these truths absolutely never change and they're applicable to every single person no matter what the circumstance if you're willing to believe them. Amen?
Father, we thank You that You don't give up on us. Thank you for the Apostle Paul, knowing in his heart what he was going through. But what he didn't know that two thousand years later, we will have learned so much by what he suffered so much for in discovering who You are and writing to tell us about it. We bless You and praise You this morning and rejoice over Your goodness, love, mercy, pain, suffering, hurt, heartache, but joy in Jesus's name, amen.