Part 3: Joy To The World

Introduction:
Joy to the World is one of several Christmas songs that has this idea of joy at its core. Joy is a little like the abominable snowman, you never see the thing itself, only the footprints. When you see a person that has real joy, you’re not sure what is going on, but you want to know their secret. No wonder, because joy is hard to hide. When we choose to grow closer to God, resting in His character and provision, joy spills over into our lives so that others can’t help but notice. The question is do you want to be a person of joy? Silly question, isn’t it? Who wouldn’t love to live above their circumstances? Or have a great attitude. Or laugh a lot. Or to have strong, vibrant relationships. So how do we find real joy?

Something To Talk About:
First, joy is the fruit of God’s Spirit. More than a great attitude or an indomitable spirit, joy comes from God (see Galatians 5:22). Our joy increases in direct proportion to our relationship with Christ. “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:12).

Second, joy doesn’t depend on circumstances. In our last teaching series we discussed how Paul wrote Philippians—often called “the book of joy”—from a jail cell. He was criticized, tired, and misunderstood. But, instead of allowing his horrible circumstances to choke out God’s Word and God’s Spirit, Paul chose to concentrate on the joy of knowing Christ, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.” (Philippians 2:17).

Third, Joy is a choice. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” (James 1:2). Here’s the reality, and please don’t miss this. Life’s painful trials are not joyous in themselves, but when we walk through them, we should be filled with joy. Why? Because of the good God is developing in us and in the situation. We can know real joy while in the scariest storm when we make the choice to trust God completely.

Fourth, make praise and gratitude a habit. Has God met a need? Have your challenges given you greater opportunities to see Him work? Take the time to thank Him and to praise Him for His grace. Joy flows from a grateful and responsive heart. Make gratitude a habit, and watch your joy grow.

Questions:
1. What is the difference between joy and happiness?
2. How well do we take responsibility/harness the emotions that could be limiting our joy?
3. Do you appreciate the life God has given you? Is wanting more or better limiting your joy?
4. Are you a Christian curmudgeon? Do you find little to be positive about? What is the root cause of any negativity? Would it be difficult to say something positive in every conversation?
5. How often do you thank God or show gratitude to Him? How often should we?

Take One Thing Home With You:
You need to take the long view when it comes to joy. Financial planners regularly advise their clients not to worry about the daily ups and downs of the stock market. Because what really matters is what happens over the long haul, or when you actually sell your shares. Yes, life presents challenges on a daily basis. And yes, sometimes your reserves to deal with these challenges are at a low. Regardless, it is best to take a longer view. Remember that God remains in charge of your days and will faithfully develop His character in you. When you trust Christ with the details of your life, you experience His life in wonderful excess, and it can’t help but give you reason to smile. All of what is happening today will matter little when your joy is complete and you spend eternity with God.