Matt Hagee - The Joy of Thanksgiving
Whether or not you have joy is your fault. You are the reason you are or you are not joyful. And I can tell by the looks that I'm getting back from you that there's a lot of you that that just really blessed right now. "What do you mean I'm not joyful"? Here's how Jesus said it: he said, "Let no man take your joy from you". So if someone takes your joy, and Jesus said, "Don't let them take it," the only way they got it is you gave it to them. You're upset, and God goes, "What are you upset about"? And you're like a little kid going, "I don't know". "Well how long have you been upset"? "I can't remember". "Well how long are you going to stay upset"? "I don't know". "Let no man take your joy from you".
The joy of the Lord is joy you can count on, because the joy of the Lord is not a feeling: the joy of the Lord is a fact. And one of the problems that people have when it comes to joy is they have emotional confusion. We confuse the emotion of happiness with the fact of joy. Happiness is a feeling. Happiness is something that happens to your senses. And your senses are very fickle things. Your senses will betray you. Your senses can be manipulated. Your senses can be stimulated. And whenever you allow your senses to drive how you emotionally feel, you start to believe that unless everything happens to be right, you cannot be happy. That's why happiness is a fickle feeling, but joy is a fact you can count on. Why? Because joy doesn't come from the circumstances that are surrounding you.
Joy comes from the God who's watching over you. Joy is a fact that you can count on. Joy, in the Bible, is a mathematical equation. James said it to the New Testament church this way: he said, "Count it all joy". Say that with me. "Count it all joy". He said, whenever you begin to balance the books on your life, you look at all of the blessings that God has given you, and you can consider where you'd be if God had not been for you. Consider how lost you'd be if he hadn't redeemed you. Consider how eternally you'd suffer if he hadn't given you path to heaven above. Consider how he's blessed you with provision. Consider how he's healed you from sickness. Consider how he's worked miracles that you can't explain. Consider how he's opened the windows of heaven. Consider how he's brought you through battles. Consider how he's made a way where there seemed to be no way.
Consider all of that, and then add it to where you'd be if God did not heal you, if God did not redeem you, if God did not set you free, if God did not make a way, if God did not answer prayer. And when you look at it in that context, you'd say, "God, I count it all joy, because you've been so good to me"! Joy is a fact. Happiness is a feeling. And the fact is, when you're thankful to God, his joy becomes your strength. Listen to what David says. "You will show me the path of life". Who is showing David the path of life? God. How many of you know that, at times, the path of life can get tough? If you're walking on the path of life, sooner or later, you're going to face a trial. And a trial does not mean that God doesn't love you. A trial just means you're breathing. It doesn't matter what you try to do in this world: if it's worth having, it's going to take struggle to get it.
Right now, there's a generation that's being raised in this world that believes that success comes without struggle. That's a lie. If it's worth having, it's going to take struggle to get it. Every business that's a good business took struggle. Every church that's a great church took struggle. Every marriage that is a happy marriage, it took struggle. You say, "No, no, no. I just want it to be easy". Easy? No! Struggle? Yes! Why? Because struggle is where you get the strength to keep it. If you don't struggle, you don't get stronger. If you don't get stronger, when the winds of life blow, it'll take it right out of your hands. Struggle is where you gain the power to hold onto what God has promised you. Everything in life that's worth having took struggle. Financially, every fortune took struggle. Spiritually, every victory took struggle.
The Bible says, "Work out your own salvation". If somebody tells you this is a stress-free workout, they're lying. Physical bodies are not shaped by ease. Physical bodies are shaped by struggle. Nobody got a six pack of abdominal muscles, sitting on the couch. You can have a lot of six packs on the couch, but you can't have a six pack of abs on the couch. And if what you're looking for in this life is happiness, the second that struggle begins, your happiness will leave. But if you do what the Bible says, and "Count it all joy", say that with me, again, "Count it all joy". Then it doesn't matter what the trial is: it will always lead to you receiving the joy of the Lord for your strength. This is what James said in James 1: he said, "Count it all joy when you fall into various trials". "Various trials" means that there's more than one kind of trial. So guess what? If you've just come through a trial, you're getting ready for the next one, because the second you're done having trials is the day you die.
Now the thing you need to understand about a trial is that a trial is different than a problem. A trial is something that you find on the path of life. David said, "You will show me the path of life". James is in agreement with David. He says, "When you fall into various trials". James is describing somebody who is walking on the path of life and they fall into a trap, they fall into something that they didn't see coming. That's a trial. So the first thing that you need to ask yourself in a season of struggle is this: did I create this struggle? Because if you created the struggle, it's not a trial: it's a problem. And if it's a problem, the only way you can get out of the problem is repent of the problem.
There are a lot of people, who have problems that they've labeled as trials. And the truth is they're not trials: they're problems that you caused. I'm in a financial trial, pastor. What's the problem? I've got $150.000 of credit card debt. That's not a trial: that's a problem you created. I'm in a trial with my marriage, pastor. What's the problem? My wife is leaving me. Why is she leaving you? She's leaving me because I've been unfaithful. That's not a trial: that's a problem you created. And the only way that you can solve a problem is, first, you've got to admit it: and second, you've got to quit it. Admission is what the Bible calls confession. And quitting is what the Bible calls repentance.
And the Bible says in 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins and we repent of our sins, then he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness". So today, if you have a problem, I've got good news for you. You can confess and you can repent, and God will be faithful and just to forgive. And Peter told the New Testament church, "Whenever you have repentance, showers of joy come into your life". Why? Because as long as you're living in sin, God will not live in your presence. And when you're not in his presence, you have no joy! But when his presence comes back, here comes the joy of the Lord that makes rich and adds no sorrow. Give the Lord a handclap of praise.
So if you've got a problem, repent. But if you're in a trial, rejoice. Why? Because a trial is one of three things. One, it is the devil holding you back. He recognizes the favor and the power of God in your life. And he says, I don't know what God has for his future. I don't know what God has for her future. I don't know what God has in store for them, but I don't want it to happen. I'm here to rob, to steal, and to destroy. And I see God all over them, so I want to take it from them. He's holding you back. That's one reason for a trial. The second reason for a trial is God is setting you up.
How many of you've ever asked God for more? How many of you know what the word "More" means? Everybody's asked God for more. God, more strength. God, more power. God, more resources. That's a wonderful thing to pray, but be careful what you ask for, because when you ask for it, he'll give it to you. How many people do we know who have prayed that prayer of Jabez, "Oh, that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory," then God says, "You want a bigger territory? Let me spread your tent pegs". And you go, "Ow"! Then God said, you wanted to get bigger. You want more? You're going to have to get bigger capacity. You want more resources? You're going to have to get more humble. You want more power? You're going to have to have more patience. You want more wisdom? You're going to need more strength.
Whenever you begin to ask God for things, and he starts moving things around in your life, that's not a trial where the devil's setting you back: that's a trial where God is setting you up. You've just checked into God's school of training. And God trains through trial. The third reason that there's trials is sometimes it's just the results of a fallen world. Since Genesis, this world has been fallen. It lives under the curse of sin. And it must be redeemed. And God, through Jesus Christ, has a plan of redemption. Through Jesus Christ, he brought you to salvation. But in the end of all things, he will redeem this world when he purges it with fire.
Why there are trials. But you are not the reason there are trials. The reason you go through a trial is you've got a heartbeat. So whenever you come into a trial, count it all joy. Why? Because it doesn't matter the trial you're in: the God that you serve has the ability to save you from it. "Count it all joy". This is how Job survived his day of trial. This is how Job got through a tragedy and a storm that would have ended most of us. Right now, there's this move that's taking place in the country where people are becoming very aware of mental illness, and they're starting to discuss it, and they're starting to discuss the causes of suicide. And they're starting to discuss reasons why people take their own lives.
And here's what I want you to know: I don't have all of the answers for all of those causes, but I know who does. And I know this: God doesn't want anybody to take their life, because it is God who gives life. And if you take your life, you are taking a permanent solution to a very temporary problem. And some people might be offended by that, and they say, "What can you call a temporary problem"? I'm not calling it a temporary problem. I just want you to look at it from Job's perspective. Because if I was going to make a case for the most suicidal human being that ever drew a breath, I'd say it was Job. You know a lot of times people fall into bouts of depression and they want to take their life because they've lost their business.
Well guess what? Job lost his entire business. He had a great business. He had 7.000 sheep. He had 3.000 camels. He had 500 oxen. He had 500 donkeys. And he used all of these resources to become one of the wealthiest men in all of the world. And in a day, his business was gone. That's enough to make you think about ending it all. But at the end of that day, he still had his family: didn't he? No. Not only did he lose his business in a day, but he had seven sons, and he had three daughters. And while he's getting the economic report of his fortune going up in flames, all of a sudden somebody runs from his house, and he says, Job, I don't know how to tell you this, Job. He said, but they were all in one place, and a wind came. And it knocked the house down, and all of your kids are. You say, well maybe he still had his health and maybe he still had his wife: right? Because sometimes people use personal tragedy as a reason why you might want to end up taking your life.
Well, Job went through a financial tragedy, and he went through a personal tragedy, but at least he still had his wife. The next day, Job wakes up sick. His health is now gone. And what does his wife tell him to do? His wife walks by, and she says, "Why don't you curse God and die"? Now if you can tell me somebody, who has more of a reason to take his life than Job, I'm ready to listen. But this man didn't lose a little bit: he lost all of it. And when the only person he had left, gave him permission to die, did he pick a permanent solution to a temporary problem? No. He got an eternal perspective. And here's what he said: he said, "Lord, you give. I don't know why you give, but you give. I don't know how you gave me seven sons. I don't know how you gave me three daughters. I don't know how you helped me build this business. I don't know how you gave me the resources. I don't know how you gave me my health. I don't know how you gave me my strength. All I know is that, God, you give, and God, you take away".
I don't know how you gave it, and I don't know why you took it. I don't know why I buried seven sons and three daughters. I don't know why 7.000 of my camels and 3.000 of my oxen, and 500 of my donkeys, and 500 of my sheep: I don't know why they're gone! But Lord, you give, and Lord, you take away. That's what you do. Now let me tell you what I'm here to do. I'm here to say, no matter if you give or take away, blessed, "Blessed be the name of the Lord. Blessed be the name of the Lord! Blessed be the name of the Lord"! And suddenly, in the midst of this absolute tragedy, Job got an eternal perspective. He said this is not about today. It's not about my pain. It's not about my offense. It's not about my problem. It's about the fact that I serve a God, who can do the impossible. I serve a God who has been faithful, and he will be faithful to me again. I serve a God who is able to deliver, who is mighty to save, who can make a way where there seems to be no way. So Lord, I don't know how you gave it, and Lord, I don't know why you took it away, but blessed be the name of the Lord!
The Bible tells us, in Job 42, that the latter days of Job's life were twice as blessed as his previous days. And when you do the math, here's how it looks. He had 7.000 sheep. God gave him 14.000 sheep. He had 3.000 camels. God gave him six. He had 500 oxen. God gave him a thousand. He had 500 donkeys. God gave him a thousand. He doubled everything that was temporal. Job couldn't take all of the livestock with him to heaven, so God doubled it here on earth. But then God gave him seven more sons here on earth and three more daughters.
You say, "Well why didn't he double the kids"? Because the first set were waiting on him when he walked through the gates, and the second set were coming after him whenever they get there. You have got to get an eternal perspective of how God blesses you. God does not bless you today. And God does not bless you tomorrow. And God just didn't bless you in the past. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And the God who blessed you then, he's blessing you now. And he's got more blessing in your future than you can ask, think, imagine, or contain. And when you breathe your last breath here, and you get to the other side, you're going to walk through the gates of glory. And he's going to show you blessings that the half have not entered into the minds of men. Do you know where Job is having Sunday brunch right now? He's having it in a mansion that's built by the architect of the ages. And sitting around his dinner table today, there are 14 sons and there are six daughters. Why? Because the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, but blessed be the name of the Lord!
Here's what Job said: he said, "I've heard of you with the hearing of the ear, but now I see you". What does that mean? He said, before my trial, I knew what my dad said about you. And before my trial, I knew what my grandfather had told me about you. And before my trial, I knew what the preacher had to say about you. But now that I've been through some trouble, I don't just have to hear what they say: I know who you are. I've been sick and I know you're a healer. I've been broken and I know you've mended me. I've been down and you've picked me up. I've been lost and you found me. I've been worried and you consoled me. I've been weak and you've strengthened me. Lord, I don't know why you use trial to teach me your glory. But what I know is before the trouble, I had only heard about you! Now that I've been through the trouble, I can see you! And what I see are houses I didn't build, wells I didn't dig, vineyards I didn't plant, battles I don't have to fight, mountains that you'll help me climb, victories that you're bringing me through! Give God the glory!
So whether or not you're joyful today, it has nothing to do with what you're going through. It has everything to do with what you're looking to. Are you looking to your strength to solve your problem? Or are you looking to a God, who is faithful, and giving him thanks because he is the answer to every problem? You say, "Preacher, I'm down to nothing". Well if he's all that you've got, he's all that you need. And I'm not sure when your trial ends. I'm not sure how God will pull you through. But what I know is this: if you're thankful unto him, he inhabits the praises of his people. And in his presence is the fullness of joy. So here's how I want to close this service today.
Would you stand to your feet. You say, pastor, I need the joy of the Lord to be my strength today. Some of you in this place, you don't have God's joy, because you have not received him as Savior. And the truth is you'll never know joy until you know him. Others of you do not have his joy, because you're more focused on your trial than you are your truth. Your trial is taking you someplace that God can use you. The truth is, "Count it all joy". So today, if you need God's joy in your life, I want you to raise your hand right where you are. This hand says, Lord, I confess. And then I want you to raise this hand, because this hand says, Lord, I believe. And now I want you to repeat this prayer with me:
Lord Jesus Christ, today I let go of everything that in any way is stealing my joy. I let go of the past and the offense. I let go of today and my fears. I let go of tomorrow and my concerns. And what I declare today is that you are my source of strength, and you are a God of all hope. And in your presence, is the fullness of joy.
So now I want you just to take some time and thank the Lord. I want you to open up your mouth and give him praise. I want you to thank him for how he's brought you through. And I want you to thank him for what he's brought you to. And I want you to thank him for where he's taking you in your tomorrows. If you've lost, I want you to say:
Lord, you give, and Lord, you take it away, but blessed be the name of the Lord. If you're broken, you say, Lord, I thank you because you can mend me in my broken seasons. If you're barren, you say, Lord, I thank you because you've blessed me in the barren places and you brought forth abundance in a time when there was desolation. If you're in need, you say, Lord, I thank you because I've never seen the righteous forsaken, nor their seed begging bread.
I want you to begin to thank God, because thankfulness will bring in a baptism of joy in your life. And it doesn't matter what you're walking through. It doesn't matter the mountain you're facing. It doesn't matter the problem you have. "In his presence, is the fullness of joy".
Father, today there are lives in this room that need burdens to be lifted. I'm asking you to lift them. There are hearts in this room that need chains to be broken. I'm asking you to break them. There are families in this room that simply need to be mended. I'm asking you to wrap your loving arms around them and bring them back into the fellowship and the joy of communion. But Lord, we do this, not because we know how, but we do this through your strength, because you are able. And we bless you. And we thank you. And we give you all of the praise and all of the glory and all of the honor for it, in Jesus' name.