Episode 1. Why is Joy So Elusive?
Joy. It’s such a simple word. Three letters. Just one syllable. So why is joy so elusive? We try so hard to find it –but, you know…
Join Berni Dymet, on Christianityworks as he opens God’s Word and takes a look at God’s plan for joy in our lives.
It’s such a simple word. Three letters. Just one syllable. So why is joy so elusive? We try so hard to find it – but, you know…
Why is Joy in Such Short Supply?
Well, it’s great to be with you again this week and we are starting a new series on the programme called, “It’s Time to Start Enjoying My Life”. I really am looking forward to this series because “joy” is such a big issue in life. It’s such a simple little word – just three letters, one syllable – “joy” and yet it seems in such short supply; it’s more precious than gold or silver. Think about it, how many of the people that you know, would say, if asked, “I’m really enjoying my life?” And if I ask you, how much, on a scale of zero to ten, are you enjoying your life, right now? How would you answer?
Most people hover somewhere around the middle or bottom half of that “zero to ten” scale. Why is it though that joy seems to be in such a short supply in this world? There’s not one person that I know if I asked them, “Would you like to experience joy in your life?” I don’t know anyone that would say, “Aw no, no, I don’t think I need joy in my life.”
Joy is such a wonderful thing, it’s such an important thing. Now I’ve travelled to lots of parts of this planet; places where people are really wealthy, I mean mega wealthy; places where people are moderately well off and places where people live in abject poverty. I know people who are rich and people who are poor, tall and short, black and white, thick and thin, but you know something? None of those distinctions seem to have much to do with whether they are enjoying their lives or not.
Those external things, at the end of the day, that’s not really where it’s at. You can have everything that money can buy – the latest plasma screen, the biggest new car, the finest clothes, jewellery, all those things and more; a wonderful husband or wife and great kids – you can have all of those things and still not really be enjoying your life.
I heard a well known, really wealthy business man on TV the other night and he can have anything he wants. You could tell though, as he spoke and you looked at him, you could tell that he had an unsettled life; he was looking for something. See so often, when it comes to joy and the levels of joy that we experience, they’re so low and we blame those things on the outside. “Well, I’d enjoy my life if I had more money.” “I’d enjoy my life if I had a better job.” “I’d enjoy my life if other people weren’t so difficult; if it wasn’t for the politics at work or the tension at home, or my loneliness or … You name it, we can blame it – then I’d enjoy my life.”
You know what I am talking about; blame, blame, blame. But you know why I know that it’s not the things on the outside that give us joy? Because I used to be one of the people that thought that it was. I could holiday in five star resorts, I did. Had gold plated taps in the en suite – you name it, I could have it and I had no joy. I actually felt desperately miserable.
You see, there’s a big swindle going on in society and I don’t care whether you live in a wealthy country or whether you live in a poor country. Maybe you have heard me talk about it before perhaps and I take aim at the advertising industry. It’s not really their fault because it’s a symptom of a greedy society.
See, they flash up on television and in the media and on radio, seductive images of success and they link them to the product that they are trying to sell us and the message is, “If you buy this product you will be happy.” So you do – you buy that product; you spend your hard earned cash and you discover that there is just no joy in it. And so we watch the next ad and we buy the next thing and it still doesn’t satisfy and we do the next thing and it still doesn’t satisfy. “Oh, when I’m happily married, then I’ll enjoy my life.” But you know something? Another person can’t make you happy!
I have a wonderful wife – truly. Jacqui is my absolute favourite person on planet earth but I can easily still feel empty and hollow and unhappy, even though I have her; even though I have a comfortable home to live in. See, we live in a world based on greed. Companies know that so they trade on our dissatisfaction; they trade on our lack of joy; they trade on our desire to discover joy as the basis for earning more money to fill people’s pockets to make them happy but it never does. That’s the swindle!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not against capitalism; I’m not against free enterprise; I’m not against people working hard – those things on their own though just don’t bring you joy. And yet, over and over and over again, we go looking for joy in all the wrong places. “Ah, if I am entertained, I’ll enjoy myself then.” Sure for a short time, some entertainment might make us feel good but that’s not what I am talking about. I’m talking about a deep, abiding contentment; a deep joy that never goes away – right through the highs and the lows and the ups and the downs and the good times and the bad times – a joy that’s deep inside somewhere, that words can’t describe. That’s what I’m talking about. Joy; real, abiding joy!
Now you might say to me, “Berni, is that what life’s all about? Aren’t you being unrealistic? Are you being a Christian hedonist – you know, the whole point of knowing God is that so you feel good?” Well, let me tell you something – one of God’s greatest promises is the promise of joy when we have a relationship with Him – it’s not an optional extra. He talks about it literally hundreds of times through the Bible. We are going to look at some of those over the coming weeks. Psalm 126, verse 5 says:
Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.
Jesus said … you can read it in John chapter 16, verse 24. By the way, if you have a Bible grab it, we are going to need it today. John chapter 16, verse 24:
“Until now,” He said “you have not ask for anything in My name. Ask and you will receive and your joy will be complete.”
Joy is not some optional extra in our relationship with God. It’s an integral part of God’s plan for our lives. So often God says He is going to do this or do that so that our joy would be complete. See, He wants complete joy for us – a joy that never fades; a sweet calm delight in our hearts – no matter what life throws at us. And it’s a joy – a joy that comes from Him. Problem is so many people are trying to chase down this elusive thing called “joy”, just looking in the wrong places.
Whose Idea is Joy Anyway?
There is something awesome about being around a person who has a deep sense of joy. Maybe you know one or two people like that. Often they are not sort of over the top, really out going people; sometimes they are quiet and gentle but you just know that there is something inside them that you want. They seem to cope so well with the curved balls that life throws at them. They seem to have so much to give. They have like…like a quiet, understated kind of gentle confidence – maybe confidence isn’t the right word, maybe contentment is the word I am looking for – and that person’s joy kind of invades our heart space. We just want to be around them. It feels good because they’re safe and encouraging and they are just great to be around.
Most of us only know one or two people like that but what we know is that we want to be around them because it does us a whole bunch of good. My hunch is we kind of all relate to that. Joy is a commodity that seems to be in such short supply.
The advertising industry, as I said earlier, tells us “Buy this product and you will experience joy” – it never happens. It’s a symptom of a greedy world – me, me, me, more, more, more. But the more that we chase after this precious commodity that we call “joy”, the more … well, the more elusive it becomes.
For much of my life I truly subscribed to the philosophy that if all my needs were met – all my desires – I would experience joy. I had the big house, I had the latest car, I had gadgets galore but they never brought me the joy and the contentment I was looking for.
So where do you get it? Christians sometimes get a little bit uncomfortable with the fact that we are talking about “joy” because it appears to be self-centred that we would be chasing after “joy”. When Jesus came to this planet, He came proclaiming … what? The Kingdom of God; the reign of God in our lives and people got confused. They saw the Roman occupation in first century Israel and they thought, “Here is this Messiah to set us free from that kingdom of oppression and re-establish God’s Kingdom in Israel; like when David was King – back to the good old days.”
Now, that’s not what He was talking about at all. He was talking about something that happens in our hearts. In Luke chapter 17, verse 20:
The Pharisees asked Him about the Kingdom of God and they said when would it come? And Jesus replied “The Kingdom of God isn’t coming in a way that you can see. People won’t say “Here it is” or “There it is” because the Kingdom of God is within you.
People thought it was a physical kingdom; God had another plan. The Apostle Paul – he puts it really well in Romans chapter 14, verse 17 – he’s talking about religious rules here. But he says:
The Kingdom of God is not a matter of food or drink but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Isn’t that interesting? The Kingdom of God isn’t about these physical things; not rules and regulations about what to eat and drink, it’s about three things – righteousness which is what we have when we believe in Jesus and we experience His forgiveness; a right standing with God through our faith in Jesus Christ; getting our lives back on tract. And through that we then get a peace and a joy – these are the things that the Kingdom of God is all about.
And they come to us not through buying the latest gadget or extending the house or renovating the bathroom. No, they come to us through the Holy Spirit. And it’s not a peace and a joy that the world offers – it’s not something you can buy off the rack in the store, not that at all – it’s a gift from God and it’s something that Jesus talked about over and over and over again.
Flip your Bible across from Luke to John chapter 15, verse 11. Jesus disciples were afraid; Jesus is about to be crucified. Everything they have believed and seen over the last three and a half years is falling in a screaming heap and look at what Jesus talks about:
I have said these things to you so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” “I have said these things to you so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
Jesus is about giving us God’s joy even in those incredibly difficult times and in fact, especially in those times, and making our joy complete. Let me share something really interesting and profound with you. The Greek word – remember the New Testament was written in Greek – the Greek word for “joy” used right through the New Testament, is closely related to the word for “free gift” and the word for “grace”.
You see, God’s joy is this thing that He wants to lavish on us freely – it’s part of His grace; it’s an integral part of who He is and what He has done through Jesus Christ. And over and over and over again, what we see is that the joy that Jesus talks about isn’t the joy from the world. It’s the joy that comes from God.
It’s not some joy we conjure up for ourselves; it’s not something we experience because something good happened to us today or we bought some new clothes or something. No! God is a God of joy. Now, I challenge you – no we are not going to go there today – but I challenge you to read just one chapter in the Bible, its Luke chapter 15. Jesus tells three parables: one is about a shepherd who loses a sheep; one is about a widow who loses a coin and one is of a father who loses his son. And in each case these people regain what they had lost.
Jesus told these stories to explain to us what God is like. The point of it is the joy in God’s heart when He gets us back. The father of the prodigal son responds with such joy, he just lavishes it on his son who once was lost but now is found – he throws a party.
My experience is I tried to get joy hits in so many different places before I met Jesus. I had the money to spend, so I did. I spent a fortune trying to capture joy and get it in my heart, but I never did until one day I encountered Jesus Christ. His presence; His Spirit is what flooded my heart with joy. It overflows out of me into the lives of other people – not perfectly – but in a way that words can’t describe. Peter the Apostle, puts it this way in First Peter chapter 1, verse 8:
Even though you haven’t seen Him with your own eyes, you love Him and even though you don’t see Him now, you believe in Him and you are filled with an unspeakable and glorious joy because you are receiving the goal of your faith, salvation of your souls.
I didn’t realise it at first but as my relationship with Jesus began to grow, that unspeakable and glorious joy; a joy that – I’m good with words, but I can’t find words to describe because it’s unspeakable and glorious. That wondrous joy filled my heart. It’s not something you and I can conjure up. It’s God’s joy and He pours it into our hearts, through His Holy Spirit as we experience His forgiveness and start to live in His goodness and ditch the rubbish we used to think and speak and do.
That’s why Paul wrote God’s Kingdom isn’t about rules and regulations and physical things. It’s about righteousness and peace and joy – God’s righteousness, God’s peace and God’s joy that are given to us through the Holy Spirit. It’s totally out of this world. Jesus was talking about His peace – He said:
My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I don’t give it to you the way the world does so don’t let your hearts be troubled and don’t let them be afraid,
He says in John chapter 14, verse 27.
See until we experience it we just don’t understand it. Even when we do, it’s impossible to find words to describe the wondrous reality of the joy and the peace Jesus Christ brings. They’re not from this world; they come from Him. And we can look in as many holes and under as many logs as we like but it’s not until we put our trust in Him, completely in Him, that we experience His joy. We dwell in His presence, we pray, we are filled with such a wonder and such an awe and such a joy unspeakable.
Entering the Gates of Joy
We have been talking about the fact that God’s plan is to fill us with joy but sometimes people look at God from a distance and they say, “Well, you know, I don’t believe that that joy is for me. I don’t know.”
Let me share a story with you. I visited a barber’s shop recently to have my hair cut and as Bert the barber went to work we began to talk. We talked about … well, all sorts of things – sport, as you do in a barber’s shop, politics, interest rates. Eventually we ended up on the subject of God. Bert says to me, “You know Berni, I don’t believe that God exists.” “That’s interesting,” I said, “Why do you say that?” Here’s what he said: “Well you just have to go out onto the street to realise that God doesn’t exist. Tell me, if God existed, would there be so many sick people? Would there be so many abandoned children? If God existed would there be pain and suffering? I can’t imagine a loving God would allow these things to happen.”
I thought about it but I didn’t want to get into an argument with him so, when my haircut was done, I just paid and headed out the door. But just outside the door there was a man in the street, with long stringy, dirty hair and an untrimmed beard. He looked dirty and unkempt so I turned around and headed straight back into the barber’s shop and I said to Bert, “You know what Bert, barbers don’t exist.” He was a bit taken aback. He said, “How can you say that? I’m here, I’m a barber, I just worked on you.” “No”, I said, “Barbers don’t exist because if they did there wouldn’t be any people with dirty, long hair and untrimmed beards like that guy outside.”
But Bert was sharp as a tack. He said, “Ah, but barbers do exist – that’s what happens when people don’t come to me.” “Exactly, that’s the point – God does exist too but all that stuff you were talking about – that’s what happens when people don’t go to Him.” End of discussion! You get my point? People want to criticise God from a distance but you can’t do that.
We are talking this week about joy – God’s joy and if we want to enjoy our lives we have to enter into that joy. We can’t stand at a distance and complain about God and can’t say He’s not real and criticise Him. If we want to have that joy we have to enter into the joy.
I love poetry, always have. There’s a beauty and wonder in taking something profound and expressing it in poetry. And the Book of Psalms; Psalm 100, verse 3 says this:
Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us and we are His. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name for the Lord is good and His love endures for ever. His faithfulness continues through to all generations.
God has a heart full; a God sized heart full of joy that He wants to pour into our hearts. That’s what we have been looking at on the programme today. Jesus said it over and over again. He said:
I have said these things to you so that My joy might be in you and that your joy might be complete.
And where we kind of sit back at a distance, either totally scornful of God, as I used to be, or maybe kind of believing in Him at a distance; believing that … well, He’s God but never, never really believing that … “He would want to fill me – me – with His joy.”
Come on, wake up! God’s joy – a joy that we can’t find anywhere else in this world; a joy that words can’t express; a joy unspeakable – is an integral part of His plan for our lives. But we have to walk through the door; we have to enter into that joy, to “enjoy”. That’s what “enjoy” means, to enter into the joy.
We need to ask and thirst and spend time with Him and pray and beat His door down and don’t leave Him alone until He does what He said He would do – to give us His joy and so make our joy complete. It’s a joy that fills us in the good times and the bad times.
Ask, search, knock! Whoever asks receives! Whoever searches finds! Whoever knocks, well, to that person the door will be opened!
If we as parents, evil as we are, give our children good gifts, how much more do you think our Father in heaven will give us good gifts when we ask?
I have said these things to you so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.