Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sunday Sermon on Joy

Posting my sermon notes for the upcoming Sunday so that you can review them - there's a lot in here, easy to miss something or forget.

Life is Hard, Then You Die – Not!

Product packaging warning – this is an intense, packed with scripture & thoughts, but joyful message.

Life is Hard

How many of you remember the children’s book, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”? He wakes up with gum in his hair, doesn’t get a prize in his cereal (unlike his two brothers), his teacher doesn’t like his drawing of an invisible castle, he loses his yo-yo, there is no dessert in his lunch, the dentist tells him he has a cavity, there is kissing on TV and he has to wear his hated railroad train pajamas. His conclusion – he wants to move to Australia!

“Life is hard. Then you die. Then they throw dirt in your face. Then the worms eat you. Be grateful it happens in that order.” David Gerrold

Or the 1993 song (I don’t claim this is all truth, but it is a reflection of this life philosophy):

Charlie turned to Sam and said I hate to burst your bubble
But you ain't the only one in this world who's seen trouble
You been going on 'bout how your life is in a rut
Well good buddy I sure hate to disappoint you but

Life is hard then you die
It don't matter how you carve up that old existential pie
It ain't always cherry filling' in between the crust and sky
Life is hard then you die

He said Sam don't get me wrong it's not that I ain't sympathetic
But you don't gotta go on like your life is so pathetic
In between the tears you got to find a way to laugh
You've already lost more than some folks will ever have

Life is hard then you die
And though I'll admit there's prob'ly more to it than meetsthe eye
It'll take a better man than me to try and tell you why
Life is hard then you die

Philosophers, theologians, folksingers and bums
All got their own slant on what inevitably comes
I think God's a jazz man and eternity's a riff
And every day above the ground's a pure and precious gift

Life is hard then you die
In the blinking of a cosmic eye
There'll be tears for all those who deny
Life is hard then you die

Sam said Charlie thank you for those words of consolation
You've been like a beacon in my fog of desperation
Just when I was thinking that at least things couldn't be
Any worse than they are right now you've reminded me...

Life is hard then you die
It don't matter how you carve up that old existential pie
It ain't always cherry filling' in between the crust and sky
Life is hard then you die
© 1993 Flying Stone Music

Life is hard, as Solomon attests in Ecclesiastes (book about man’s best wisdom):

- “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (1:2)
- “All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again.” (1:8-9)
- “What a heavy burden God has laid on men! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (1:13b-14)
- “Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath, man has no advantage over the animal! Everything is meaningless!”
- Happy little book!

Jesus concurs, “In this world you will have trouble.” However, He then says, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)


Psalm 23 captures the tension between our troubles & our joys well:

- Read verses 1-6
- David faces the evil, the valley of the shadow of death, the enemies
- But he rejoices in his relationship with the Lord (shepherd)
- He rejoices in God’s activity in his life (leading, guiding, restoring, correcting, preparing, anointing
- His conclusion? “Surely goodness and love (not necessarily happy circumstances) will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

We Shall Have Joy

There are 242 references in scripture to joy, 156 to rejoicing, 38 to laughing. Joy is part of the package of the Christian life. Romans 14 states that the kingdom of God is about righteousness, peace and joy. One of the fruits of the Spirit is joy. I Thessalonians 5:16 states we can be joyful always.

There is the joy of circumstances. Numerous times in scripture followers of God are encouraged to be joyful at their holiday feasts and special occasions, whether it’s the Old Testament Passover or the joy of Christ’s birth (Luke 2:10) and resurrection (Matthew 28:8). Scripture speaks of the joy of success, of a good harvest, of rebuilding the house of God, of winning a battle and many others. There is the joy that came from winning the two softball championships this week! There is the joy of hearing about the Brazil Team’s blessings. We often draw a distinction between happiness and joy, but I don’t find this distinction in scripture. As mature believers, we need to realize this joy is temporary, but nevertheless it is a gift from God.

There is the joy of seeing God at work. God called creation very good, and “the morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). The parting of the Red Sea led to dancing, Jehoshaphat’s “no shots fired” victory was a source of national joy, Jesus experienced full joy over God’s work through His disciples (Luke 10:21), a whole city in Samaria experienced joy over God’s work there (Acts 8:8). Little down in the mouth? Depressed? Remind yourself – as the psalms often do during trials – about what God has done.

There is the joy of salvation. David prays, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:12) Isaiah writes, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (12:3) The Philippian jailer experienced great joy when he came to the Lord (Acts 16:34). Think for a moment – you were an enemy of God, a rebel, a sinner. You had no hope. Jesus died on the cross not only for the world but for you, to take away the guilt and penalty of your sins. You have been set free. What’s not to rejoice about?

There is the joy of on-going relationship with the Lord. “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11) “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90:14) “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.” (Jeremiah 15:16) This includes our obedience, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love…I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:10-11, selected)

There is even the joy of adversity. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus could endure the cross because of the joy of its impact, particularly on believers. James tells us we can consider trials to be pure joy because of the impact they will have on our lives. ‘Life is hard” can actually be a source of joy.

Let me conclude with Steven Curtis Chapman’s son, “More to This Life”:

Today I watched in silence as people passed me by,
And I strained to see if there wassomething hidden in their eyes;
But they all looked at me as if to say
Life just goes on.

The old familiar story told in different ways,
Make the most of your own journeyfrom the cradle to the grave;
Dream your dreams tomorrow because today
Life must go on.


But there's more to this life than living and dying,
More than just trying to make it through the day;
More to this life, more than these eyes alone can see,
And there's more than this life alone can be.

Tonight he lies in silence staring into space,
And looks for ways to make tomorrow better than today,
But in the morning light it looks the same;
Life just goes on.

He takes care of his family, he takes care of his work,
And every Sunday morning he takes his place at the church;
And somehow he still feels a need to search,

But life just goes on.


So where do we start to find every part
Of what makes this life complete;
If we turn our eyes to Jesus we'll find
Life's true beginning is there atthe cross where He died.
He died to bring us . . . (more to this life, part of which is joy)


Qtpies7 said...

Does this mean that I get the joy of sleeping in on Sunday since I already have the sermon??

Just kidding!

Canoearoo said...

That was a great sermon by the way!