Episode 1. Why Are People Leading Joyless Lives?
Okay, we’re kicking off a new week, so here’s a new question for you to consider: on a scale of zero to ten, how much are you enjoying your life? No, really, I’m serious! How much are YOU …
Okay, we’re starting a new week, so here’s a new question for you to consider: on a scale of zero to ten, how much are you enjoying your life? No, really, I’m serious! How much are YOU enjoying, YOUR life on a scale from zero … to ten?
It’s a bit of a landmark for me this week because I’ve just come back from a couple of weeks of vacation. As much as I love doing what I do, man it’s nice to get away and just rest and sleep and enjoy things with my wife. We travelled a bit to one of my favourite countries in the world, New Zealand.
Now as an Aussie I don’t like telling the Kiwi’s that too often but gee it’s a beautiful place. It was just so special to be able to relax, you know what I mean. I have to tell you though that getting back into the harness of work wasn’t easy for the first few days, my body was kind of objecting to this notion of having to get up early in the morning and stumping up to work.
No doubt you’ve been there too, those first few days back at work. No matter how much you happen to enjoy your job they’re not easy. It’s like a severe dose of Mondayitis. Its funny isn’t it how our feelings and our responses to our environment go up and down and how much we’re influenced by the externalities of what’s going on in our lives.
It’s pretty easy to enjoy life when you’re kicking back and taking a break but when the pressures of life come crowding back, well it gets harder and harder. We all have pressures, I do and you do. They come in all different shapes and sizes. Of course there’s always some amount of pressure associated with work, relationships are a big source of pressure.
I was just praying with a man on the phone the other day for healing in his relationships with his wife and with his daughter. Our own perceptions of things, the way we see things; that in itself can cause pressure, a sense of insecurity or inadequacy. Perhaps someone’s marriage isn’t going particularly well or they’re feeling as though no one needs them or people need them too much.
It’s a pretty long list and in the middle of all that many people end up feeling like battery hens, just churning it out, grinding it out, day after day without much of a sense of meaning or purpose or achievement. I’m not saying everyone’s life is like that but there’s something about the modern-day human condition, the pace of life; the demands of life, the pressure’s of life that drain the joy out of our lives.
And that, I think, is why so many people are living joyless lives. I wonder if I were able to get a show of hands from all the people from around the world who are listening to this message today, how many would consider their lives; their hearts to be full of joy, overflowing with joy. I wonder how many people would put their hands up in the air to that one. You know what I suspect; a few hands would go up, a few but not all that many.
The words ‘joy‘ and ‘rejoice‘ and all their various derivatives together appear around three hundred and seventy times in the Bible. Now that’s rather a lot, that makes it rather a big and important subject and as I read my Bible what I discover is that joy is something that God wants us to have. Let me say it more specifically, joy is something God wants you to have.
Not just in those happy times in life but during the difficult times of life as well. James chapter 1 verses 2 to 4:
My brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of any kind consider it nothing but pure joy because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance and let endurance have its full effect so that you may be mature and complete lacking in nothing.
Philippians chapter 4, verse 4 written by the Apostle Paul on death row in a Roman dungeon strapped to his guard:
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say rejoice.
If I were to give you a choice between a life that is full to overflowing with joy and one that isn’t its pretty obvious which one you would choose right? And so you have to ask yourself, given all that He’s put about the subject in His living Word the Bible; why is it that so many people, people who believe in Jesus with all their hearts even are living such joyless lives? Why is that?
Is it because God’s joy isn’t available to us? No, that’s not it because the Bible says, Romans chapter 14 verse 17:
The Kingdom of God isn’t a matter of food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
So it can’t be that. Clearly God wants us to experience His joy in an abundant measure when we enter into and live in the Kingdom of God. In fact one of the equal shortest verses in the whole Bible is 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, verse 16. It says this:
You know I travel a lot around the world in my role meeting with Church leaders, visiting Churches, speaking at Churches, participating in worship services, so as far as having a representative cross-section of Gods Kingdom, a statistically valid sample if you will, well I have a pretty good one.
And even taking into account the enormous cultural differences in the expressions of worship in different countries from say a Ghanaian service where they’re dancing in a conga line down the aisle of the Church to a more conservative service in a place say like India where in many Churches men sit on one side of the Church and women sit on the other, taking all that into account I am so struck by the absence of joy in so many places, in so many Churches, in so many of the Christians that I’ve met and with whom I’ve interacted.
I remember just recently being asked to speak at a rather large Church on an important occasion for that Church and sitting on the platform waiting to get up to speak, watching the leaders and the Bishops all dressed in their finery sitting across from me during the time of worship with this abject look of boredom on their faces. What’s the matter with us people? Why are we living such joyless lives? What’s going on in the Kingdom of God, hmm?
The title of this series that we’ve kicked off today with this program is that The Joy Of The Lord Is Your Strength. That’s a quote from the Old Testament Book of Nehemiah chapter 8 and we’re going to take a good close look at that story surrounding that quote a little later in this series but for the moment let’s just consider that Scripture at face value.
The ‘joy of the Lord is your strength’. So many people who love Jesus feel helpless and weak in situations of temptations in the middle of the pressures of life. You can feel like you’re being blown to and fro like a tiny little boat on an angry ocean, have you ever felt that and you wonder where am I going to get the strength to make it through this? Right?
The answer is that you get your strength from the joy of the Lord, from God’s very own joy because when you’re enjoying God, when you’re really, really enjoying your relationship with Jesus you know what happens? He fills you with such incredible strength, with such amazing power that you wonder, ‘Hang on, where did that come from?’
Clearly the Bible teaches that strength is a by-product of joy. Let me say that again. Clearly the Bible teaches that strength is a by-product of joy and if that’s true, if that’s really the case then having the joy of the Lord happening in you, it’s not some optional extra which is so nice to have, it’s not the icing on the cake. Not at all, it’s the very foundation of your whole life in the Kingdom of God.
So if maybe you’re not one of those people who is able to stick their hand in the air in response to the question, is the joy of the Lord filling you to overflowing? If you, right now, can’t answer a resounding ‘yes’ to that question then stick with me throughout this series The Joy Of The Lord Is Your Strength as we discover how to remove the road blocks to joy and how to be filled to overflowing with the joy of the Lord because I come back to it, right through the Bible it becomes very clear that God wants to fill you with His joy, the joy of the Lord.