The Pursuit of Joy
January 1, 2010 § Leave a comment
I preached the weekend after Christmas at my in-laws church. I preached on the pursuit of joy, the beginning of the manuscript is posted here:
“Pursuit of Joy”
I have decided on this title because we are all on this pursuit. We are all chasing after happiness. I think that it is particularly fitting to preach this type of message two days after Christmas. I think that most of us find ourselves in a depressed state of mind after Christmas, or a gloomy state of mind. It’s like watching the “train pull away from the train tracks, while you are standing on the dock still” state of mind. Or maybe it hasn’t hit you yet, but it will. Maybe it will come when the grandkids leave tomorrow. Maybe it will come when you go to put the tree and other decorations away. But I think that for us to be in that place yesterday and today puts us in a good place to be taught. Because if this gloomy, sort of, “that’s it”, feeling is present than it tells us something about ourselves. It tells us that the holidays have not ultimately satisfied us. For if the holidays had left you satisfied, we would not be feeling this way today. But we do, so it’s worth looking at.
Circumstances cannot be our primary source of joy. I was particularly reflecting on this in the past few days as we have been celebrating Christmas. We have had the privilege of spending the Christmas season with my in-laws, Dennis and Misty Griffin, at their home in Ocean Shores for the past four years. Every year it a wonderful time of eating, relaxing, and celebrating, and this year was not an exception. We have had a wonderful time. But at our dinner table on Christmas Eve I posed a question to the group, I asked, “What makes the joy at this table different than a family in India who are much poorer and find themselves in a vastly different economic situation?” We were able to name several things that we different, things like size of home, quality of home, type of clothing, quality of clothing, type of food, and quality of food. But is the joy really different?
Let’s compare for a moment family in a much different economic situation to most of our families.
I am able to buy a car, they may not be. I live in a house with a heater, they may not. I live in a house that doesn’t leak very often at all. I rarely, if ever, find myself hungry. There legitimately are God-fearing, Christ-loving people in this world right now that definitely can’t say yes to all these things. In fact there are many that would say that they can’t have any of the luxuries I just mentioned. But the same Lord is sovereign over all. He loves all of his people infinitely more than we could ever fathom. So what gives then? Why do we get this and they get that? Here’s why, to show, through circumstances, that circumstances are not our joy. The Christ-loving hypothetical family I was just talking about, can be just as happy as we. They can experience the same joy at their Christmas dinner table without a car in the driveway, without a leak-free roof, without a heater, and with lower quality food.
The reason is, because our joy can only come from God himself. Not in the circumstances that he gives us, but actually in all God is for us in Jesus Christ. Circumstances are only designed to satisfy us for a while. They are temporary satisfiers. That’s why we feel the way we do in the days after Christmas.
If our joys are found in things that are fleeting, what do we do when they go away? Earlier this year my second daughter, Alatheia Hope, was sitting in the living room and began to have a seizure. Her eyes are rolled back in her head, her lips are blue, and she is constantly convulsing. 30 seconds went by, one minute went by, two minutes went by, three minutes went by, four minutes went by, 5 minutes went by and she is still seizing on the ground. We call 911 and the ambulance is dispatched. There is nothing we can do by cry-out to God. The ambulance arrives as she begins to come out of her seizure, but she still is unresponsive and breathing erratically. My wife gets into the amblulance and I get in my car with my two other kids, my brother, and sister-in-law. As we are following the ambulance to the hospital, I can see my wife through the rear window of the ambulance, she is crying and looks extremely frightened. I am haunted with the thought that when we get to the hospital, Alatheia Hope is going to be dead. At that moment I am struck with the realization that I have to say something to my passengers and I am going to have to comfort my wife when we arrive at the hospital. I have nothing to offer them, what I am I going to say, “If she does its alright, we still have another one?” That’s absurd, that doesn’t comfort anyone. I quote Psalm 73:25-26 to them, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. Our daughter, our sister, our niece, our granddaughter, may fail, but God is the strength of our heart and our portion forever.” I must point these people (and myself) to a joy that cannot, does not, and will never fade or die.
The pursuit of joy ends when it finds Christ. Everything else is made to fail in ultimately satisfying your soul. Everything is made to point you to the person that can satisfy your soul. We are were or are hell-bound sinners. Our rebellion showed itself in our pursuit of joy in a source other than God himself. God is jealous for his glory. He alone is the one of the universe to be praised and adored. When we find our joy in a place other than in the person of Jesus, we are elevating something above the one who is worthy.
That is the place we must find our joy. We must find our joy in the person and work of Jesus Christ.