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Finding Your Joy

02.16.20 Nathaniel Wall

  1. Hope for the Restless
    03.29.20 32m 54s
  2. An Attitude of Gratitude
    03.22.20 36m 12s
  3. Worship in Uncertainty
    03.15.20 21m 23s
  4. Fight, Flight, or Faith
    03.01.20 34m 16s
  5. Worship in Hardship
    02.23.20 41m 40s
  6. Finding Your Joy
    02.16.20 34m 05s

Finding Your Joy

02.16.20 Nathaniel Wall Revive Series

We’re going to jump into our new series together called Revive. We’re diving into the Psalms during this time. And this time of year, I love to jump into the Psalms. And the reason I love to jump into the Psalms, is the Psalms are different than all the other books of the Bible. The Psalms are books of worship, which I think the Bible is a book of worship, but rather than it being God communicating himself to us, the Psalms are man’s response back to God.

And one of the reasons I think that that is important for us, especially this time of year, is because we go through I think more emotional adversity in this season of a calendar year than any other. It’s something about this winter months, you get to the end, you’re like, “Hurry up spring! I’m sick of being in the house. I wanted to get warm again, I want life again.” You get past the holidays and sometimes the holidays are hard for us.

And learning how to walk in faith in these times of life that are difficult. It’s not always easy, but the Psalms give us a beautiful way in which the authors express worship especially in adversity. How our souls can respond. Romans 8:22 says all of creation groans. And what’s interesting about that is we are included as a part of all of creation. And that verse, Romans 8:22 is confessing the normal state of our being is one of groaning. But when you read about what the Lord does in our life, the Lord is one of joy.

And that’s exactly where I want to start this Psalm 33 today as we talk through different aspects of what we face in our adversity together, I want to focus on this idea of joy.

When you study about the Lord and you learn all kinds of theology, sometimes there is this disconnect between what scripture proclaims to be true about the Lord and how we feel in light of that. And learning to align those two is important. And I think one of the highlight pieces that we can start this human experience that we have as we live in this life is talking about joy. Now, sometimes when I say joy, I know some of us, we like to pretend to be tough and we think joy is such a wimpy word, “I can’t believe we’re going to spend today talking about joy.” But let me just tell you why joy is important. It’s important because it’s a fruit of the Spirit. The Bible says the Spirit is about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness. It’s a fruit of the Spirit. It should be an important part of our lives.

And yet in walking in this world and the adversity we experienced, sometimes our joy wanes. And so when we know the truth of who God is and it connects to our lives properly, the product of that, the fruit of that should be joy, but we don’t always feel that way.

I’ve known for weeks that today I was going to talk about joy. If I’m just being honest over my last few weeks, it has not been easy. I know a lot of you have had sicknesses your family’s battled. My family has had the worst sicknesses I think we have ever had in between my wife and I since we’ve been married. To the point where my wife ended up catching pneumonia and it’s just been a struggle. I’ll watch her do some things and it just totally wipes her out. And trying to balance between, for me picking up the responsibilities with kids and work. I think the Lord knew I was going to talk about joy and so He just might’ve permitted some circumstances in my life. I’ll see what you did there, God. Stand before people today and talk about joy.

To the point where even last night, like I have this ritual as a pastor, you’ll know this now, but between an eight o’clock when I put my kids to bed and about midnight before every Sunday, I always just spend time with the Lord. And even last night trying to do that, my computer decided it wanted to not work again. If you could see a picture of me yesterday, it would be me pulling my hair out while I’m talking about joy. When I think about joy, one of the great things I know of is I’m not perfected yet and I don’t think any of us ever have enough of it, right?

But if there is a way to experience it, I want to know it. And what does God say for us as it relates to this idea of joy? Well, Psalm 33 starts off. The very basis of this Psalm starts off with this idea. It says, sing for joy. And I don’t feel like it. Sing, sing for joy. This opening phrase is important for us to consider because from this point on, if we don’t put ourselves on the right track for how God communicates joy, we will completely miss where God wants us to end up. If you miss this, you will miss joy because joy is not an end in itself. So I think sometimes in our lives, this is what we think, I want to be happy. So I want joy. What’s gonna make me joyful? And we go look for things that bring us joy.

But when the Bible talks about joy, joy isn’t an end in itself. But rather it is the fruit of a source. And that source is God. And so what I’m saying is if you want joy in your life, the way you go find joy isn’t to start the journey by saying, I want joy, what makes me happy, let me go find joy. Because if all you’re pursuing is joy as the end of itself. And whatever you look for to find that joy in ultimately, unless it’s God, it will fade away.

So what I’m saying is all of the things apart from God in this world, if you find your source of joy in it, and evidently it will disappoint you and you will wane in your joy experience. So how can we find a joy that endures, especially when we consider it as a fruit of the Spirit? Well, Psalm 33 starts off, sing for joy in the Lord. That’s what he’s identifying for us is that the idea of joy isn’t just about having joy. I’m not telling you this morning, fabricate, just being happy, because Christians are supposed to be happy. In fact, we shouldn’t say happy because happiness is an emotion, and emotions come and go.

Experiences come and go, but joy. Joy is intended to sustain. Sing for joy and he gives us the reason why this can happen. The source for which we find it, it’s not the fruit that we pursue. It is the root and the root of joy is the Lord. The Lord is joy.

So sing for joy in the Lord, Oh, you righteous ones. Praise is becoming to the upright. Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre. Sing praises to him with a harp of ten strings. Sing to him a new song. Play skillfully with a shout of joy.

And so what he’s describing for us in these first three verses is something that God wants for you and something that God wants from you. Now, God doesn’t want this from you because God is lacking in his life. And I think that’s important to see as he relates to being the source of joy. Because if God is saying this because he lacks something in his life, he might not ever be adequate enough to supply what he’s demanding of you in this passage.

If God isn’t sufficient enough to sustain within himself and he’s looking for you to make him happy, then how in the world is he ever going to provide the joy that he proclaims he has for you? But rather what he’s saying is he wants this from you and he wants this for you because he understands himself to be the source that is unending in all of it. And so what he’s proclaiming this is, look, we can sing for joy in this. In fact, what God’s going to ultimately do for us and in this is give us a new song to sing because he knows the reality of the world that we walk in wanes in the joyful experience.

Don’t you want your soul to refresh in a new song? You get to these winter months and you think, my soul needs a new song to sing. I need something different, something greater, something better. And this idea of joy is rooted in that. Now, here’s what I think is important when we think about joy and consider what it means in the life of the Christian. Joy isn’t about turning a blind eye to pain. I think sometimes as people we get uncomfortable with the thought of pain and seeing people in pain. And sometimes when we step into a life of someone going through difficult circumstance, I found sometimes we say really stupid stuff to sort of disregard pain.

I wish I could provide just 30 seconds of wisdom to people when they visit someone, when someone they’ve loved has passed away. Like some of the worst things I think are said to people. I know the intentions are usually good. We want to say things to try to fix stuff for people, but sometimes you just can’t fix things. And say things like, well, you know, God just took him because they were stronger. Are you kidding me? Like out of all of the things you could say right now to someone going through hardship, like that’s not it.

The Bible tells us when we go through hardship, weep with those who weep. There are circumstances that we go through in life that aren’t easy. And it’s okay. It’s okay to acknowledge those circumstances because it doesn’t rob us of joy. One of the reasons I think we struggle with joy is because we see joy and suffering as fundamentally unable to be experienced simultaneously. And that’s not true. We can go through hardship and still have joy. We can have pain and still have joy. Because pain is circumstantial. Joy endures.

Emotional experience of humanity is circumstantial, but there is a way in which joy transcends it all because it’s rooted in God. And He gets the victory over all of it. And when I think about that, there’s a verse by the Apostle Paul who illustrates this beautiful. He says, in all our affliction, circumstances, in all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. Why? His hope is sustained? Our feelings are based on circumstances. Our joy is based on what is secure.

And one of the my favorite passages of scripture, I think I use this portion of scripture within the last few weeks talking about the Holy Spirit. But when Jesus goes into the upper room with his disciples from John 13-17, teaching, I think some of the most intimate things he could say to his disciples. He’s teaching his disciples in some of the greatest struggle they’re about to experience as their leader goes to the cross. He’s about to die. All that they hoped for, all they looked for in life. This Messiah has finally come. And he pronounces to them that he’s about to die.

And Jesus gives us these statements in the book of John. He says, look in verse 15 he says this, verse 1,1 these things I have spoken to you, knowing he’s going to die. He says these things I’ve spoken to you so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.

John 17:13, but now I come to you and these things I speak in the world so that they may have my joy made full in themselves. John 16:24, until now you have asked for nothing in my name, asking you to receive so that your joy may be made full.

And so Jesus in this passage is rooting this idea of joy in His name, which means his authority. It’s based on the identity of who he is, not circumstances. And when you think about the idea of joy, and we could argue, yeah, you don’t know what I’ve gone through. So how could you possibly know that I could have joy? And the kind of life I have, there is no way I can have joy. We can make that sort of argument.

But let me just say this, I’m pretty sure Psalm 33 when the author is writing this about joy, he recognizes that people in life are going to go through hardships. And whatever circumstances we’ve gone through in life. At least we can relate it to what Jesus is saying in the book of John when he’s about to die and his disciples are going to be threatened and they’re going to end up with their own lives becoming martyrs for Jesus.

And yet in knowing all of that, Jesus talks about joy. I’m not saying this needs to undermine our pain, but really it puts it into perspective. Because with Jesus there’s always hope. And when there’s hope, joy can be found. It’s not diminishing your problem. It’s elevating the authority of your God. Don’t tell your God how big your problems are. Tell your problem how big your God is. That’s where Jesus is going here with these disciples. My joy in you. You know why? Circumstances change. But in me you win.

And so as you think about this premise that he sits up in Psalm verses one to three, this idea of singing this new song and what could possibly ever give me joy, especially in my circumstance? His answer is the answer to joy is bigger than circumstance. It’s based in what is secure. It’s based in certainty.

And so he then gives us a couple of verses to build on an idea. He says, for the Word of the Lord is upright. What he’s saying is it’s true. So what God has spoken over you, you need to allow to speak into your life because this is true. And this is the basis for everything. And all of his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice. The earth is full of the loving kindness of the Lord.

What God is saying is he is for his people in this passage. And he highlights this idea that His work is done in faithfulness,

Happiness based on circumstances. Joy based on what’s secure. And what does it say about God in this passage? He is faithful. Faithfulness. That’s where our joy can be secure. He is faithful. Everything is promised to us, holds true because his word is upright and he is faithful.

Some have said it like this, sometimes we think too much of ourselves and not enough of God. And the reality as we’ve given God a thousand reasons or more not to love us and yet He has never changed His mind. He is faithful.

So you look at what God wants for you. This verse one to three, this singing of a song of joy. Then you see in verse four and five why we can have that. It’s not based on us, it’s based on him, his faithfulness, his uprightness. That is where the security lies. Not on circumstances, but what is secure. And in him, he is secure. And since this is his promise that we have through him, we can rest in this.

And so if you skeptically just think about this, how do I know then that I can rest in this joy? Like what experientially can I look back up on? What we find in these next few verses where really he just spends the rest of the time in this Psalm, it’s that joy isn’t about where you put your feeling. Joy honestly is about where you put your focus.

When we look for joy in our lives, we’re not looking for it because joy has been lost. Really I think it’s been drowned out by the things in this world around us. And so what you see in Psalm 33:6, he goes on to explain how do we build this basis of joy in our lives. If Jesus is that source, what can I look to within the Lord to fill my soul, to rejoice in this joy that God provides. In Psalm 33:6, he says, by the word of the Lord, the heavens were made and by the breath of his mouth, all their hosts, he gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap. He lays up the deep in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord, let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spoke and it was done. He commanded and it stood fast.

What does the author do? The author goes to the past. When you think about rooting yourself in joy, he sets the past as a precedent to trust in the promises in the future. The past becomes a precedent to the promises of God made known in our lives. And so he starts with the past. How do you know that this can be true for your life? Well look at the hand of God and everything that he’s done. He’s created all of this and for what purpose? So that your soul can delight in a God who is secure. So you can see this world around you and see that the creative hand of God cares for you. And recognize that God made you as the crown of his creation. So that when you look at the past precedent of God and his creative work, you can trust him in the future.

It’s like this in our life, anytime you ever want to make a an expensive purchase, you try to become the expert in whatever you’re buying, even though you may not be that great of an expert. You want to buy a car? How do you know that car is going to make it, and it’s not a lemon? You want, you want to buy a house? You do your due diligence. You want to make an investment? How do you determine whether or not it’s secure? You want to get an education or pay for an education for your kids? On what basis?

If anytime in my life I wish I had a crystal ball, it would be during those times. I cannot predict the future. How do I know that my future is going to work out here? But you do your due diligence. And what do you do it on? The character of an individual you might have to trust him for the purchase and the past precedent of what you’re trusting towards.

So you go through the home and you’ll look underneath of it’s foundation on all it’s built. You look at the investment of the individuals you might be investing in the plan. You want to look at the past precedent and everything that’s set up as a foundation so that way you know your future is secure.

The same is true with God. How do I know I can root my joy here? How do I know this will be secure? How do I know my hope will not fade? Well it’s based on the character of who he is and the foundation on which he builds it. When you look at the evidence of creation, you see a God who is good. The heavens declare the glory of God. Mountains are incredible. What a great God and that he would care specifically for me by becoming flesh in this world. And not only that he is faithful. If anything is secure, God is secure. And when your past is covering, your present is enjoyed. You can rest in that.

Verse 10 he starts off with the idea of the present. He says, the Lord nullifies the council of the nations. He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever. The plans of his heart from generation to generation. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen for his own inheritance. The Lord looks from heaven. He sees all the sons of men from his dwelling place. He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth. He who fashions the heart of them all. He who understands all their works.

What’s the psalms saying? That God is here, even in these moments. And sometimes in our lives, we get concerned with how nations are going on around us, but it’s telling us no, God is in control of all. God is in control of all of it. All of the nations, even at the point of the fashioning of your own heart, the detail of your life. God holds it all in his hand. And so not only do you see the goodness of God made known in the past, but the psalmist declares the goodness of God here in these moments.

It’s if to say joy can’t be lost, because God’s presence is always made known. But the reality is, even though we know the precedent that God has set, and that God’s presence can be with us even in these moments, we are often people that quickly give our joy away. How do we do that? By putting our security in things that were never intended to be?

Verse 16 and 17 that’s where the psalmist goes. He says, look, God wants this for you and this is how you see it. Verse four and five and this is where you build it on the past and God being with you in the present, he’s always with you. If you put your hope in things that will not endure, your joy will wane because those things were never intended to hold your joy. But if you put your hope in the Lord, your joy will always be there. But how often we are given to give our joy away.

And in verse 16 and 17 he comes up with these examples for us. He says, the King is not saved by a mighty army. A warrior is not delivered by great strength. How foolish it is that when we think about our joy and how we relinquish it, that we often put our joy and and the importance of it in the power of man, rather than the plans of God. What he identifies is power fades.

Now, I don’t want to get specifically political here, but let me be generally political for us. It is amazing how every four years when election cycle goes around, people’s hope goes up or down. And you know what that tells you? Where is your joy? When your hope is based on that, where is your joy? Like I know politics are important and I don’t want to undermine politics, so please don’t hear me say that. But Jesus has already won.

One day you’re going to see God face to face. And you know who God’s not going to hold accountable for your life? The president of United States. God’s not going to be like, Oh, you know what? Hold on. I know who your president was. Forget it. Free card. That’s not how that’s going to go. Let me just say it like this.

God doesn’t call your president or any political leader to reach your neighbor. God calls you. God doesn’t call your president to teach values to your children and point them to him. God calls you. God doesn’t call your president to care for the widows and orphans. God calls you. And when we put that expectation on him, we pretend like all is lost. Whoever it is.

When we recognize what God has given us then from the joy of the hope that we have with him, we share that with other people.

How shameful in our lives. If Christians, who are to be the people of the greatest joy in this world, if other people know about more about our political positions than know about our care for Jesus, that’s ridiculous. But what it says to us, it’s saying where we put the root of our joy. Where is your hope?

And we’ve been doing it for years. Even the psalmist in Psalm 33 can say about people then and it’s just repeated itself throughout history. And then he gets to verse 17 he says, this a horse is a false hope. It’s like this. This is so funny to me. Okay, we struggle with where we put our joy. I can see this this week. And someone comes to me and say, pastor, I’m struggling with my joy. And I saying, are you putting your hope in a war horse again? This one doesn’t necessarily translate as well, but he says a horse is a false hope for victory, nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength. You know, when’s the last time you were there? Oh, it’s my horse. My hope is in you horse.

But what he’s saying is what we tend to do is we put our hope in possession, as if that’s going to make me content in life. I need more. And so we put our hope in that and what we ultimately find out, honestly, there are people in life that don’t have a lot and they’re happy. And there are people in life that have a lot and they’re not happy at all. And maybe your joy is not based on what you have. And if you believe it is, then maybe you’ve robbed yourself of the true joy God intends for you to find. And here’s why. Possessions fade. It would not be good to get to heaven and God’s like, what’s the greatest thing you’re known for? Having a lot of stuff. But rather finding my hope in You.

And so he’s looking at the idea of possessions here. We can even get this way as people by comparison. And when we find ourselves in life, when these things fade away, so goes our hope. And I think about a passage that might relate a little bit better to the idea of horses. When I read horses in the Bible, I started getting little spazzy. I love horses from a distance. I’ll love people that love horses and I am never getting on one. When I get to heaven, I read stories of heaven about Jesus riding on horses. And so there must be horses in heaven.

But I think about when God comes to me and is like, I’ve got a horse for you. I want to ask for a hog. I don’t even care, it could be a motorcycle hog or it can be a real hog. I don’t care. We’re going to name it Harley either way. And the way I look at it is that I’m either eating bacon or I’m riding with a breeze in my hair, no horse for me. They got too much ability to think on their own, they weigh 10 times as much as me and I don’t want get on one. But they are beautiful animals.

And so when I think about this verse, I’m like, I don’t want to put my trust in possessions or things or how that works in life. What is a better verse that just brings stillness to my soul when I think about how this relates. And for me, Luke chapter 10 is just an important verse when I think about where my joy is rooted or where my hope is rooted. If you know this passage, this is that Mary/Martha passage. Mary before Jesus, Martha busy and she does this comparison thing.

Quickest way to lose joy in your life is the comparison game. What they have, I need to have because apparently I think it makes them happy. So therefore I need to be happy. But there are plenty of people in this world that don’t have and they’re still joyful. And I think Martha struggling with this a little bit. So much so that I think she may even have found her identity in how busy she is. Because I’m busy that makes me important. And because I’m important and therefore I should be happy.

But then Jesus gives this statement in interaction he says, but the Lord answered and said to her, Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things, but only one thing is necessary. For Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Rather than see possessions as an end in itself, we do ourselves a better service when we see the things that we have as a gift that really doesn’t belong to us. That really it all belongs to God. And for whatever duration it passes through your hands, that’s the duration you get to enjoy whatever God has gifted your life with. Because he’s the source. I don’t think that to Martha, Jesus is necessarily saying, look, you need to get rid of everything that you’ve got. Maybe she does need to get rid of some things in her life. But rather what he’s saying is you need to put it in perspective.

For instance, in relationships that you have in this world, if you look to a person to be your source of joy, you’re never going to be happy. You’re only going to serve them in order to get something from them. But rather if you look at relationships as a gift that God has given you as he is the source of joy, then you live your lives to bless them because you find your contentment in God. God is the means by which all of this comes.

When you think about joy, here’s a good way to find out if your joy is in the Lord or not. What are you bitter about? What is it you won’t let go? What is it that upsets you because you don’t have it or you deserve it? What does it you need to speak into your soul that God is bigger than your problems? Or maybe the words of Martha. Mary has chosen the good part. Only one thing, only one thing is necessary. It’s not that joy is lost. It’s that joy gets clouded in the life of business with so many options around us that we forget where the source actually comes from. It’s Him.

We don’t seek joy as an end of itself, but we seek joy because he is joy itself. And he provides the hope that endures beyond all things. My joy wanes when I trust in something that was never intended to be trusted in. But when I trust in him, it’ll never disappoint. And that’s where the Psalm ends. It looks to the future. It says, behold, the eyes of the Lord is on those who fear him. On those who hope for his loving kindness to deliver their soul from death and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord. He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in him because we trust in His Holy name. Let your loving kindness O Lord be upon us according as we have to hope in You.

Notice these last two verses what he talks about here, He says in verse 21 trust, which is faith, right? And then he talks about hope. At the very end of verse 22 he talks about love. This idea of faith, hope and love. I would say for us, that is where joy is rooted. We want to know someone cares and that not only do they care, that they’re big enough to to hold us securely in them. To take care of what we’re facing in life. And when we see that secure, then we experienced joy. Faith, hope and love. Faith takes care of the past. It looks at the past, the precedent of God and sees that it’s possible. And love deals with us in the moment. That God is near and that he cares. He cares about the struggles that we have and he knows they will come and go.

Like I remember as a kid, seven years old, my great grandmother is still alive at the time she had a stroke. And before she had a stroke, I always remembers there was one phrase she always said. I didn’t really sit around and talk to a great grandma too much. I always ran outside and played. But there was one phrase she always said and even after the stroke, she always said it. And she was a believer. She said, this too shall pass.

This too shall pass. And what did that communicate without ever saying it? Her hope was always secure. And because her hope was secure, she had an eternal joy that outlived this world. This too shall pass. Emotions, happiness, sorrow. They’re important. And joy helps us put it into perspective. Though I’ll go through these moments, because of faith, hope and love, I am always secure in the joy of the Lord.

Nehemiah, let me close with this last verse. Nehemiah in going through the rebuilding of Israel, after Israel’s taken into Babylonian captivity. And they were brought out from the captivity after 70 years and they go to rebuild Jerusalem. And when they’re rebuilding Jerusalem, they have adversity. But Nehemiah 8:10, he says this phrase, it’s a resonating verse to just think about, he says, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Where does joy come from? It’s not an end in itself. It’s in the Lord. The joy of the Lord is your strength. And so what Nehemiah is leaning into is this idea of rather than seek our joy or happiness in other things, it’s to come to God and say, God, what is the delight of your heart? Because in the end, that’s what wins. And so therefore, how can I make my delight your delight? Because the joy of the Lord is my strength. And when our heart aligns with God’s heart, our joy becomes his joy and we delight in him. And because he is secure and faithful, our joy will never end because God is true to his word.

You know what this is guys, that is the gospel. That is exactly what Jesus shared with his disciples. In the midst of that struggle, do you know why he turned to his disciples and said, you can have joy? It’s because he knew he wins. And the gospel is always about hope. Which is why God’s people are joyful people.