This Sunday’s sermon is entitled “Living With Joy in a Painful World” and is taken from Hebrews 10:32-39. The Christmas season is supposed to be a joyous time, indeed it is one of the dominant themes of the season. Many, however, struggle to experience joy during the holiday season because of stress, grief or broken relationships. For a Christian, joy is not optional. As John Piper says, “Indifference to joy is indifference to the glory of God and that is sin.” Joy is a spiritual indicator…it’s absence reflects a problem in our spiritual lives. Joy is not something we can manufacture, rather it is something that only God can give. This does not mean, however that we cannot fight for it, pursue it, pray for it and foster its growth in our lives.
It may help if we start with a good biblical definition of joy. I believe that we can define joy as a delight in God and his provision that transcends circumstances. Anyone in the world can be joyous when things are going well but only the Christian has reason to be joyous in the face of adversity. This only becomes possible when we view the relationship between joy and suffering from God’s perspective. Consider these words,
There is no greater sin than to hate and kill the Son of God. There was no greater suffering nor any greater innocence than the suffering and innocence of Christ. Yet God was in it all. “It was the will of the Lord to crush him” (Isaiah 53:10). His aim, through evil and suffering, was to destroy evil and suffering (emphasis mine).“With his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Is not then the suffering of Jesus Christ meant by God to show the world that there is no sin and no evil too great that God, in Christ, cannot bring from it everlasting righteousness and joy? The very suffering that we caused became the hope of our salvation. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
John Piper, For Your Joy, p. 26.
Think on these things this week as we prepare to Sunday to examine how we can have joy in a painful world. If you’re interested you can read the whole booklet here.