Everyday Joy 1

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Let’s see if we can go from overwhelmed to overjoyed. Joy. It’s not the same thing as happiness but it’s not completely different either. Lot’s of baby girls have been named Joy—makes sense to me. When my baby girl was born, that was one of the most joyful moments of my life. I was overcome with joy. Joy happens in those “mountaintop” moments. Birth of a child. Christmas morning. Vacations to the Grand Canyon or Disney. That moment when the father hugs the bride at a wedding. 

Joy is also the name of a dish soap. Which seems right, too if you think about it. The simple joys of the mundane, everyday joy. When we make things clean, put them back to the way they’re supposed to be. 

Thinking about joy for this message today, I kept remembering when I was a teenager and I’d go out the front door to walk to school—on those days when the sky was blue and the air felt nice—it’d put a bounce in my step, I’d take a deep breath and just kinda feel happy. Illinois being the land of the cold grey sky, those days were rare. 

It’s important to understand the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness just happens—it’s kinda right there in the word. Happiness happens. But other things happen, too—Forrest Gump came up with a bumper sticker about it and everything. Stuff happens. We don’t have any control over it. It’s great when it does, we all want it, I mean the more the better, but we can’t make happiness happen. 

Joy is different. Joy happens when we remember the things that make us happy—when we’re thankful. When we re-joy. Rejoice. Joy is like taking a to-go-box of those mountaintop moments for the journey—something to carry with us in those long stretches of cold grey valleys between the bright blue mountaintops. Joy is what happens when we hold onto those happy places no matter where we are.

Joy also tends to be focused outward instead of inward. When we try to make other people happy, or when we’re able to be happy for other people. Joy is a combination of being thankful and humble and generous and hopeful. We all need more joy. We need to know the true source of joy, and we need to know how we can practice, how to tap into it. Every day.

Prayer: Father in heaven, teach us how to rejoice. Remind us of Your love, Your grace, Your mercy—so we can stop searching for empty happiness and live in the fullness of real joy. Show us this in Jesus’ name. AMEN

This message series is going to be focused on taking a deep look into the New Testament book that a lot of people have called “the letter of joy”—the book of Philippians. It’s a letter that St Paul wrote to one of the churches he planted on his missionary journeys. I made a five minute video about St Paul and how he got to be so smart—you can watch it later on our website, or YouTube or Facebook. I’m making a series of these videos to help us really dive into Philippians and understand why it’s so important if we want to experience joy. The videos are so we can dive deeper without making the sermons longer—so make my joy complete by actually watching them. And let me know about it—don’t leave me hanging. And if you like them, share them with other people that you think might enjoy them. You guys have access to all kinds of people that I don’t, help me reach them with the Gospel.

Philippians. Today’s text is the heart of the book of Philippians—it’s the key to understanding everything else. It’s a little poem in chapter two about Jesus. Most people think it’s part of a hymn that the early Christians sang in worship—something they all knew by heart. It would be a good idea for all of us to know it by heart, too. 

Just before the poem, Paul is talking about how it would “complete his joy” if they would stop being selfish and stop looking to their own interests but start looking to the interests of others instead. Then he referenced this little worship song about Jesus that they all knew—Paul says they need to approach everything the way Jesus did:

Philippians 2:3-11

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. (and here’s the song)

    Though he was God, 

      he did not think of equality with God 

      as something to cling to. 

    Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; 

      he took the humble position of a slave 

      and was born as a human being. 

    When he appeared in human form, 

      he humbled himself in obedience to God 

      and died a criminal’s death on a cross. 

    Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor 

      and gave him the name above all other names, 

    that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, 

      in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 

    and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, 

      to the glory of God the Father. 

This is the Word of the Lord—Thanks be to God.

You know, the reason we say “this is the Word of the Lord” after Scripture is read is because we want to point out that something special has happened when we read God’s Word out loud in worship. God says that His Word never returns void, it always does exactly what He spoke it forth to do. We believe reading Scripture in public is how God creates faith in us. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ. God creates through His Word, just like in Genesis when He said “Let there be light.” He creates faith in us when we hear the Word of the Lord. Every time it’s like “let there be faith.” So we want to draw attention to it and be thankful.

    “Though he was God, 

      he did not think of equality with God 

      as something to cling to.”

Even though Jesus was God the whole time He was walking around in the ancient Middle-East Roman empire, He didn’t think it was a good idea to brag about it—to exploit it. 

Did you ever see that show Undercover Boss? A show about when the CEO of a giant corporation shows up as one of the companies lowliest workers? It’s one of those reality TV shows—which I hardly ever do. I only saw this one episode, it was some kind of a waste management company or something. The CEO worked at a local office for a day—took abuse from some of the middle-management wanna-bees, saw how hard some people worked and how lazy other people were. The show ended with the CEO revealing who he was to the other workers, firing one of the jerk managers and giving this amazing promotion to a lowly secretary who had been kind to him and was obviously holding that regional office together—it was pretty cool, it changed the woman’s life.

The Gospel is like the ultimate example of Undercover Boss. 

“[Jesus] gave up his divine privileges; 

      he took the humble position of a slave 

      and was born as a human being.”

And that’s the attitude St Paul says we all need to have. Instead of thinking the world owes us something. Instead of trying to go first, get the best seat, the nicest cut of meat, the biggest slice of cake—instead of trying to impress people with how smart we are, or prove how stupid people are when they don’t agree with our opinions, or correct people’s grammar, or their stories, or whatever we do to make ourselves feel like we’re better than other people. By the way, you might be right, everyone else might actually be wrong. That doesn’t change anything. Listen to what St Paul says again: Jesus gave up His divine privileges. He humbled Himself. 

He was always right. He was still God. All the way to the cross. We might be right about whatever it is, too. We might want to rub it in someone’s face—have this attitude instead: be humble. Humility is the only path to joy.

Might not look like joy in the moment, though. 

     When he appeared in human form, 

      he humbled himself in obedience to God 

      and died a criminal’s death on a cross. 

That’s the Jesus way. And if we’re following Him, that’s gonna be our way, too. Meaning, we’re gonna hear what He did for us—we’re gonna hear the Gospel, the promise of eternal life and salvation and glory—that’s our hope. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life. The day you hear that and believe it is a joyful day. That’s a mountaintop day. 

But you’re not always gonna feel it. You can’t just stay on the mountaintop. You gotta go home to your family. Gotta go to work or school. So, you’re gonna need to get that joy to go. Because life on earth is gonna have a lot of valleys and  cold grey skies. You’re gonna need to keep that joy in a safe place so you can take it out and remember it—rejoice in it—you’re gonna need to remember where your joy comes from. 

Joy is what happens when we rejoice in the promises of Jesus. We don’t make our own joy, our joy comes from the Lord, from what He’s done for us and in us—but the way we can have that joy everyday is by remembering everything He did for us. One of the best ways to remind ourselves of where our joy comes from is by having the same attitude Jesus had while He was doing it for us. We humble ourselves and serve each other like He humbled Himself and served us—that’s the path to joy. When we remember what He’s done for us and rejoice in everything He promised us, that’s when joy is gonna give us strength to make it through hard times.

And it’s a particular kind of humbling ourselves that we Christians are supposed to do, though. It’s not the kind of humble that doesn’t expect anything good to ever happen. It’s not a “woe is me, everyone else deserves good things except for me.” We’re not Eyeore. We’re not pessimistic. The goal isn’t clinical depression. The secret to joy isn’t to carry our own little dark cloud around with us everywhere we go. The real secret to having joy is to carry our hope with us—our hope based on the promises that Jesus has given to us.

If the key to joy was simply to humble ourselves with no hope or promise—then this next part wouldn’t make any sense:

    Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor 

      and gave him the name above all other names, 

That doesn’t sound very humble. Also it says, “Therefore.” Not in spite of humbling Himself all the way to the cross. “Therefore.” Because he did.

    God elevated him to the place of highest honor 

      and gave him the name above all other names,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, 

      in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 

    and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, 

      to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus humbled Himself but He never for one minute lost sight of where it was all going. He was born in a barn in complete poverty, He died in complete humiliation and painful torture—but He knew that wasn’t going to be the end of it. Through everything He suffered, He carried the joy of where His story was going. We have to do the same thing.

We have to have the same attitude that Jesus had, He humbled himself and served others, knowing that even though it was going to be hard it was all going somewhere great. You need to do the same thing—be humble, no matter what happens, knowing that God is taking you somewhere amazing. 

Jesus was given the name above every name. He was crowned King of kings and Lord of lords. The only name by which people can be saved. And when it says that “every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,” that  means there’s gonna come a day when it’s gonna be obvious to everyone. Jesus is Lord. Might not be obvious to everyone right now, but the day is coming when it will be.

On that day, there will be some—people, demons, devils, unbelievers—there will be those who are gonna confess that Jesus is Lord to their shame and condemnation. It’ll be obvious to them but it’s not gonna fill them with joy. 

But for those of us who believe. Those of us who have put all our trust and hope in the Gospel—we’re gonna joyfully and gladly bow to Jesus and celebrate that He is Lord, and God, and King of everything. 

Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. That’s the Gospel. Believe that Jesus is the divine Son of God who died for you, rose from the dead for you, and ascended to the right hand of God the Father—all for you. Through your baptism and connection to Jesus, you have the same access to God the Father that He does. You have the same hope of resurrection and eternal life. Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. That ought to spark a little joy in you.

So take a page out of Jesus’ playbook. Do whatever you gotta do in this life—but do it with humility, knowing that God’s taking you someplace good. 

Joy is what happens when we rejoice in what Jesus has promised us.

You’ve probably seen the J.O.Y. acronym. Jesus, others, you. It’s a simple little childlike reminder to always put Jesus first, and consider others more significant than ourselves. Jesus. Others. You. St Paul wrote this letter of joy to the church in Philippi and at the center of his message is this beautiful poem about the Gospel—Jesus humbling Himself all the way to the cross, and then God raising and exalting Him all the way to heaven. Paul says that’s the key to us having the same attitude that Jesus did. To “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility” to consider each other more important than ourselves. Jesus. Others. You. There’s always joy to be found in serving the people we love—but there is also joy in learning to be humble even with people we don’t really like. Not that Christians have to always be pushovers. Humility isn’t just letting people walk all over you—humility is allowing Jesus to love people through you. We serve Jesus by continuing His work of serving the people He came to save.

The night before Jesus was arrested and taken to be crucified, He has this long speech that He said this to the disciples:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:9–13

It’s the same thing St Paul’s telling us in Philippians. What’s the key to joy? Jesus said this knowing what was about to happen to Him: The key to joy is to abide in His love. Rejoice in His love. Remember the mountaintop of His love—because you’re gonna need it. He told us these things so His joy could be in us and our joy would be full. If you want joy, He says you gotta keep His commandments. What’s His commandment? He said, “Love each other as I have loved you.” How did He love us? 

He loved us like this—Let’s say this together:

    Though he was God, 

      he did not think of equality with God 

      as something to cling to. 

    Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; 

      he took the humble position of a slave 

      and was born as a human being. 

    When he appeared in human form, 

      he humbled himself in obedience to God 

      and died a criminal’s death on a cross. 

    Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor 

      and gave him the name above all other names, 

    that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, 

      in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 

    and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, 

      to the glory of God the Father. 

This is the Word of the Lord—Thanks be to God.

That’s the beginning of everyday joy. AMEN





donna schulzComment