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Building God’s House
“Building a Joyful Life”
You can listen to this sermon at https://mega.nz/#!3dtiECzJ!Ts9z_AMtZvfgM7m9veVtEbT5n9YKmwHKHWTCFepqjts
Whenever it comes to this topic of finding joy in the midst of life’s difficult circumstances, which is why we need to build up God’s house within us as a joyful or a joy-filled house, the story of a small little bird comes to mind, one that lives in some really harsh country in the northern U.S., and Canada. It’s the Chickadee.
Picture, if you would, that winter is coming and the migratory birds are long gone, and animals are either in hibernation or burrowed deep as they sense the coming of winter’s first storm.
The temperature begins to drop. Gray clouds fill the sky, and the winds begin to howl. But in the distance you hear a sound. It’s faint to start with, but it becomes louder. The sound, however, isn’t coming from the wind; rather it’s a joyful sound, and it’s coming from these small little Chickadees.
They fly from tree to tree, and your heart immediately go’s out to them. You want to shout at them of the coming danger. Why aren’t they flying away? Are they lost, dazed, confused? But what’s totally bizarre is that as they fly they’re singing, and their song fills the air with a joyful sound. It’s like they know the storm is coming, but they could care less.
Well, the inevitable comes, and it’s a huge blizzard. The next morning snow is everywhere and you wonder if these little birds survived the onslaught. As you make your way outside, not only are they there, but their cheerful melody fills the air.
In fact, they seem happier than ever as they flutter in the snow. It’s as if the countryside looks forward to these little birds and their cheerful songs, even though outward conditions would discourage such displays of joy. That’s why the Chickadee is known as the bird of the merry heart.
We see a similar story in today’s text
Read Acts 16:16-40
Paul and Silas have been falsely accused, denied a fair trial, illegally beaten, and unlawfully imprisoned. Their backs are severely bruised and bleeding, their ankles in stocks, and they are tired, hungry, and separated from their friends.
I think it’s safe to say that this is not a joyful picture.
But instead of lamenting their condition, they’re openly praising God, and as they were praising Him an earthquake rocked the prison, opening prison doors and loosing prison chains. It was this open display of joy in the most dire of circumstances that God moved saving not only the jailer, but his entire family as well.
Paul and Silas were able to produce godly joy in the lives of others, because they were able to rejoice even in the cruelest circumstances.
King David knew the same thing; that even in his darkest days despairing of life itself, he knew God was by his side. This is why he could write and sing, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You (Lord) are with me” (Psalm 23:4 NKJV).
David also said, “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us … Then the waters would have overwhelmed us, the stream would have gone over our soul” (Psalm 124: 2, 4 NKJV).
To begin this part of our study on discipleship, or building up the House of God within us, there are Three Things To Having A Joyful Heart
1. God is With Us
The first thing to having a joyful heart is realizing that we don’t go through this life alone, and that’s because the Lord is with us, and because of this, the trouble we face will not destroy us. The waters may get high, but they’ll never overflow our lives, and while the fires may get hot, they’ll never burn.
David said, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” (Psalm 34 19 NKJV)
To Joshua as he is about to lead the children of Israel into the Promise Land, a land whose people are hostile towards them, the Lord said, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 3:16 NKJV)
When trouble surrounds us, we can be assured that the Lord is with us, and like David we can say, “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11 NKJV)
Even as Paul and Silas had been beaten within an inch of their lives, their hearts were filled with joy because they were in the presence of the Lord, and so they worshipped the Lord, and God rocked the house.
2. God Has A Plan
“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:15 NKJV)
God is not only with us, but He has a plan. He knows what we’re going through, in fact He saw it coming, but allowed it anyway, because He has a plan to use it in our lives and in the lives of others.
To the Corinthian Church, Paul said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, (Why? Here is the plan)that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NKJV)
God knows what happens in our lives, and will work them out for our good and according to His plan (Romans 8:28). And through it all God desires us to call upon Him and glorify His name.
God had a purpose and plan for what Paul and Silas went through and suffered. And it was though their joyful worship of Him that we see not only the jailor and his family being saved, but also the small church in Philippi was now safe from persecution and able to grow.
We need to understand that God has a plan for each of us. Therefore, we can rejoice in whatever we’re facing and glorify God in the midst of it all.
3. God Will Help
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 43:5 NIV)
It’s God’s desire to help us in our distress. When we call on the Lord for deliverance, and for victory over the sin that has bound us up, God will hear and deliver.
God knows our cry, and He knows when we’re sincere and sorry, but He also knows when we’re not. How does He know the difference? When our cry is merely a pretense because all we want is to get out of the problem, then it’s not really sincere. But our cry is sincere when we’re willing to change our ways, which is what got us in our problem to begin with.
So the key to having a joyful and joy-filled heart is knowing that God is with us, that He has a plan for our lives, and that He will help us in our time of need.
When I think of the trials we go through, and how we suffer and come out on the other side, the story of Chippie the Parakeet comes to mind.
Chippie got his name because he would sing and enjoy himself all the time. He never thought trouble would come his way, and therefore never saw it coming.
One day his owner decided to clean his cage with a vacuum cleaner. He would just suck up all the seeds, feathers, and other stuff. No muss, no fuss.
But as he started the phone rang. Instinctively he picked up the phone, but as he did they heard a loud “swoop.” The vacuum cleaner sucked up Chippie. Immediately Chippie’s owner dropped the phone and ran to the cage. He turned off the vacuum cleaner and opened it up to find Chippie still alive, but stunned and covered with soot.
Being a conscientious owner, he grabbed Chippie and rushed him to the bathtub. He stuck Chippie under the faucet and turned it on. To us it may be nothing, but to a parakeet it’s like standing under a waterfall, and Chippie was flattened.
Stunned, wet, and shivering, Chippie’s owner turned on the hair dryer to dry him off and warm him up, but instead it just fluffed him out.
Chippie had been sucked-in, washed-over, and blown-out. Needless to say Chippie no longer lives up to his name.
In much the same way, due to the trials we face in life, we feel like we’ve been sucked-in, washed-over, and blown-out and no longer living up to our potential as our joy has gone away.
With this in mind, I’d like to take a look then at What Robs Us Of Joy?
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1 NIV)
What robs us of joy is our own selfish desires, wanting what we want the way we want it. It’s been said that the root of all relational problems is a power struggle between two selfish self-centered individuals.
I think it is safe to say, however, that we’re all self-centered. If you doubt that, whose the first person you look at when you’re in a picture with others? It’s you. Also, you judge how good the picture is based upon how good you look, not how good the other people look. If you don’t look good, then the picture is bad.
“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15 NIV)
Resentment doesn’t hurt anyone except the person doing the resenting. If we’re resentful and bitter, then we’re only hurting ourselves. Do we really think the person we’re resenting is home upset, unable to eat, and pining away because we’re upset with them? Chances are they don’t even know we’re upset, and therefore, they’re out having a good time while we’re stuck at home upset, unable to eat, and pining away.
We’ve all been hurt by others, but time spent with God heals the wounds. Resentment, on the other hand, continues to pick at these wounds making them worse. They become infected putting our ability to heal in jeopardy.
Resentment is like grasping a hot coal intending to throw it at the person who hurt us, only to find we’re the ones getting burned.
“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.” (Proverbs 12:25 NKJV)
Fear literally brings a person down. Fear causes us to build walls instead of bridges. Fear says, “I’m never going to let myself get hurt again.” Fear isolates us and makes us miserable.
When fear comes in, joy flies right out the window.
Have you ever noticed how you never hear about the joy of flying, but rather it’s always the fear of flying. I believe the airline industry is at blame.
Besides these three top joy robbers, there are also three Joy Busters.
1. Unsatisfied Expectations
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12 NKJV)
Many of us are discontent, unhappy with the way life this life has turned out, and how our hopes, expectations, and dreams didn’t work out the way we thought or wanted. This leads to an overall spirit of discontentment.
The cure is learning to be content no matter what the circumstances may be. Now, the passage we’re about to look at was written by Paul to the church in Philippi, the very place where he was imprisoned, and severally beaten.
“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” (Philippians 4:12 NLT)
Joy comes when we learn to be content in both the good and bad times. To say this another way, joy doesn’t come when we have everything, rather, joy comes when we have the Lord in everything.
2. Unresolved Conflict
To allow conflict to continue without bringing resolution robs us of our joy, and allows bitterness to take over.
“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.” (Hebrews 12:14-15 NKJV)
When peace is not pursued and the problem goes unresolved, a root of bitterness begins to grow causing trouble, defiling everyone that is around us. In warfare it’s called “Collateral Damage.”
3. Unconfessed Sin
When we don’t deal with our sins, guilt and shame take over chasing joy right out of our lives. King David understood this better than most.
“Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” (Psalm 32:2 NKJV)
David goes on to say, “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5 NKJV)
The end of the Psalm says that David rejoiced and was glad (Psalm 32:11).
Let me end this section of our teaching on joy robbers and joy busters by pointing out that having joy in the midst of difficult circumstances is a matter of perspective.
A first year college student wrote her parents the following letter.
“I’m sorry I didn’t write sooner, but unfortunately all my stationary was destroyed when our dorm caught fire during the demonstration. I’m out of the hospital now and the doctors say my eyesight should return to normal soon. The boy who rescued me has allowed me to stay with him until the dorm is rebuilt. He comes from a good family so I’m sure you’ll like him as your new son-in-law. In fact, knowing how much you want to be grandparents, you’ll be excited to know I’m expecting, and the baby is due mid-summer.”
In her postscript she said, “Please disregard the above. There was no fire, I haven’t been in the hospital, and I’m not pregnant. But I did get a “D” in French, and an “F” in Chemistry, and I wanted to make sure you received this news in the proper perspective.”
The right perspective makes all the difference in the world as to whether or not we’re going to be filled with joy, or if we’re going to be miserable. It’s all about what we choose to focus upon.
Three Things To Focus Upon For Joy
1. Giving Rather Than Receiving
“You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35b NLT)
When our focus is on giving rather than receiving, we start loving others with the love of God. The Bible tells us that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights, in whom there is no variation or turning (James 1:17). That’s why when we give to others our souls are filled with joy, because that’s how God made us.
2. Healing Rather Than Hurting
In every relationship there’s going to be hurts. Our problem is that instead of allowing the Lord to heal them, we hold onto our hurts and revel in them.
D.L. Moody, evangelist, and founder of Moody Church, Moody Bible Institute, and Moody Publications, said, “A great many people seem to embalm their troubles. I always feel like running away when I see them coming. They bring out their old mummy, and tell you in a sad voice, ‘You don’t know the troubles I have.’”
Moody goes on to say, “My friends, if you go to the Lord with your troubles, He will take them away. Would you not rather be with the Lord and rid of your troubles, than be with your troubles and without God?”
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13 NIV)
The way of healing is the way of forgiveness. It’s not enough to put up with the other person. It’s not enough to refuse to retaliate against them. We must forgive them, and if this seems too difficult, then recall what Jesus did for us as He died upon the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, bringing us eternal life.
3. God’s Power Rather Than Our Problems
“Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:8 NKJV)
God is in control, and He can help us. When it doesn’t look like there’s any hope, let’s place our trust in God. When we focus on His power rather than our problems, then His joy will fill our hearts.
To build up God’s House within as a house of joy, we’ve looked at what brings joy and what takes it away, and what we need to focus upon. This leaves one last area to consider, and that is what helps us build joy, or Joy Builders
1. Recognize God as Joyful
God is not some terrible taskmaster cracking His whip; rather He delights and rejoices over us. Such recognition goes a long way in building joy-filled lives. Look at this incredible verse
“The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17 NKJV)
God takes such great delight in us that He breaks out in song over us and about us. I particularly like the way the Living Bible paraphrases this last part. “Is that a joyous choir I hear? No, it is the Lord himself exulting over you in happy song.”
It is with this recognition that we can say, “The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
2. Rehearse God’s Attributes
God takes great delight and joys in His creation, and for us to continue this process of building God’s joy in our lives; we need to rehearse God’s attributes in our worship of Him.
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” (Psalm 28:7 NIV)
Whatever David was going through, he would always remember and rehearse the wonders of God in his songs, and as he did, his heart would literally leap for joy.
3. Obedience to Christ
The only way we can experience fullness of joy in this wonderful relationship we have with Jesus is through obedience.
Jesus said, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love … These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:10-11 NKJV)
We need to stay close to Jesus and obey Him, and when we do, not only will our joy be full, but also it will be complete.
If God can raise Jesus from the dead, and He did, then He can bring life, love, and joy into whatever seems dead to us, and in the process give us a brand new start, not to mention an abundant life.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4 NKJV)
Did you know that Paul was in prison when he wrote these words? Not only was Paul remembering his time in Philippi’s prison where he was so severely beaten, but now he is in prison in Rome awaiting his death, and he writes these words to rejoice always in the Lord! Further, in this letter to the Philippian church he wrote the words ‘joy’ and ‘rejoice’ 19 times.
Joy isn’t something that can be worked up or manufactured; rather it is a by-product of our relationship with Jesus Christ. So open up your heart, open up your life to Jesus Christ and ask Him to put into your heart and life His love and His joy.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study