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Joy

Joy


Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the lands. 


Those are the opening words of Psalm 100, which is the first of four passages we will consider in today’s message. A message about joy. Spiritual joy. 


Say the whole Psalm with me, please.


Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the lands. Serve the LORD with gladness. Come into His presence with singing. Know that the LORD is God. It is He that made us, and we are His. We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the LORD is good. His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.


Joy. That is the theme of today’s message, so I suppose we ought to begin with a definition of joy. That seems important because it is so easy to think of joy as being great happiness. Joy can so easily be thought of as the wonderfully positive feeling we get when everything is going our way.


However, happiness and the positive feeling we get when all goes well are not the definitions of joy. Joy - spiritual joy - Christian joy - is knowing things will be fine no matter what happens. It is knowing things will be fine because of Jesus. That He will help us, not only celebrate good things and easy days, but will also help us survive bad things and difficult days, which is better than happiness because joy results in a steady faith all the time.


Psalm 100 begins with the challenge to make a joyful noise to the LORD. The challenge is for all the lands - all the world - to do that, but it can start with each of us individually. You and I are to make a joyful noise. You and I are to make our joy known to God and to others.


How can we do that?


We can, according to Psalm 100, display our joy by serving the LORD, doing so with gladness. Of course, there may be things the LORD asks us to do that are difficult. Things that get us out of our comfort zones. But even then, we are to be glad the LORD chooses to allow us to serve Him. What a privilege it is to serve the LORD.


In addition, we can sing our joy. We have probably all heard the joke that even bad singers should sing because even if what they produce is just noise, at least, as long as it is songs in praise of God, it is joyful noise.


Make a joyful noise to the LORD. That is what we are to do. We are to express our joy by serving the Lord and singing to Him and for Him.

Then the Psalm lists a number of reasons why the LORD is worthy of joyful noise.


First, He is God. 

Second, He made us. We did not create ourselves. God did that.


Third, we are His. That was true for those who first read Psalm 100. God formed a people for Himself. That is even more true for those of us who are Christians now. Jesus died for us so whosoever believes in Him will have everlasting life. That is certainly a reason to be joyful in both good and difficult times.

Fourth, we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. We know what a good shepherd does. He provides for his sheep, making sure they are well-fed and have adequate water. A good shepherd protects his sheep from enemies. A good shepherd also is a companion for the sheep.


All that is what the LORD provides for His people. For those of us who are Christians. That should make us joyful, knowing He is with us even when we are faced with difficult circumstances.

Next, the LORD is good, His steadfast love endures forever, and He is faithful to all generations of His people. Those are also reasons for us to be joyful.


Therefore, enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him. Bless His name.


Again, may each of us make a joyful noise to the LORD. He is worthy of us having joy in Him. That is the challenge in Psalm 100.


How often should we be joyful. For that, let’s move to chapter 4 of the New Testament Book of Philippians. 


How often should we be joyful. In verse 4 of Philippians 4 is the answer. “Rejoice [feel, show, express joy] in the Lord always.” To make sure we understand the point, Paul, the author of Philippians, wrote, “Again I will say, rejoice.”


It needs to be remembered that when Paul wrote those words he was in a very uncomfortable circumstance. He was in prison because of his faith in Jesus. Before that, he had often been confronted and argued against and threatened and sometimes attacked.


Of course Paul had some good times. Some successful times. But his life many other times was not easy. Yet he had joy. Even when in prison he encouraged others to have spiritual, Christian joy. To have joy in the Lord always. 


And remember the definition of joy mentioned earlier. Christian joy is knowing things will be fine no matter what happens. It is knowing things will be fine because of Jesus. hat He will help us, not only celebrate good things and easy days, but will also help us survive bad things and difficult days.


What are the benefits of such joy? As mentioned in the next few verses of Philippians 4, we will be able to avoid anxiety. That is certainly easier said than done, but joy makes it possible to at least ease and hopefully eliminate anxiety. With joy, it should be easier to let our requests be made known to God.


Remember joy is knowing Jesus will help us through all times. Knowing that should make us willing to let our requests be made known to God.

In addition, there is peace available to us when we have joy in the Lord. Peace we can never gain on our own. Peace that provides help for our hearts and our minds.


The wording is that our hearts and minds will be “kept.” That is described another place as our hearts and minds being “guarded.” Guards keep bad things out and keep good things in. That is what will happen with joy. Anything that is bad will be kept out of what we feel and think. With that, the Lord will remain in what we feel and think. That is necessary for us to have and keep joy.


Make a joyful noise to the LORD. Be joyful. Have joy in the Lord. How often? Rejoice in the Lord always. What important challenges. 


As at least hinted at so far, having joy is not necessarily easy, but it is something we are to work on with the Lord’s help, with the strength that comes when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and, as we move to the next passage for this message, with the assistance of other Christians. 

I Thessalonians 5. We will begin with verse 11, which begins a list of many things Christians are to do for one another. Joy is at the center of one item on the list, but there are other things, all of which work together.


I Thessalonians 5:11. “Therefore…” That relates to what comes right before verse 11. Right before it is the call for Christians to be serious about their trust in Jesus. To be sure they - we - are taking advantage of the protection offered to us by our faith and by the love of Jesus. That our hope is based on salvation from our sins. Salvation through Jesus.


“Therefore [to help trust in Jesus to grow, not only for ourselves individually, but for others as well] encourage one another and build one another up.”


In some cases, the encouragement might come through rebuke or warnings, but I think it much more often building up in positive ways.


I looked up the word “encourage.” It means to support, to give confidence to, to help. And this. To encourage is to give courage to.


That is what we are to do for each other. We are to give each other courage. We are to build one another up for the purpose of making each of us more and more spiritual so we can each have greater and greater joy.


Paul, also the author of this passage, gave his audience some encouragement himself. He wrote, “Encourage one another and build one another up, just as you doing.”


The congregation in Thessalonica was already encouraging one another. I hope - I know - the same can be reported about us. But keep it up. That was the message for the Thessalonian Christians. It is a message for us as well.


There are other things on the list of what we are to do together. Since they are grouped together with being joyful, let’s consider them. 


We are to respect those who labor among us and are over us in the Lord and admonish us. That is a call to respect spiritual leaders.


I certainly feel respected. It is one of the things that makes this congregation so special. 


At the same time, I hope I show respect to other leaders in this congregation. At the same time, I am to show respect for those who are regional and national leaders.


Paul continues that we are to esteem leaders. To esteem means to respect, doing so in love. Why? It is because of their work, which is spiritual leadership. What spiritual - Christian - leaders do is very important, affecting both life here and now and preparing people for the rest of eternity in Heaven. Because of the importance of that work, they are to be respected.


I would be quick to add it is understood that a spiritual leader must be dedicated to following God’s will and way, but assuming that to be the case, the call is for believers in Jesus to esteem their spiritual leaders. To respect them very highly. 


In addition, wrote Paul to be at peace among yourselves.


I am so thankful that, by and large, that has been the case throughout the history of this congregation. It is one of the things that makes it such a privilege to serve here. There are different opinions about various things. That is inherent in any group of people. But lack of peace refers to differing opinions growing into arguing and dissension, which have, by and large, been avoided. We have had been a few problems over the years and there have been some unhappy people, but serious problems have been few and far between. How good that is.


Encourage others, respect and esteem leaders, be at peace. Those are things Christian congregations are to do. In addition, Paul added there are other things Christians are to do to help each other so we can continue to grow together.  


We are to admonish the idlers. “Idlers" refers to those who are Christians who step away from their faith. They need to be admonished - warned about the dangers of stepping away from Jesus and persuaded to return to the Lord. 


We are to encourage the fainthearted. Those who are fearful about current difficulties or about what might happen in the future. Of course, there are many of both present and future problems, but God has promised to be with us in every circumstance. That promise is what we can use to encourage or, as some translations have it, comfort those who are fearful.


We are to help the weak. Help can come through prayer or maybe finances or perhaps lending a listening ear. 


Be patient with them all. That is important. I mean, when I have a problem, I really do not want to hear, “Get over it.” We are to help, encourage, and admonish one another, as Paul continued, seeking to do good to one another and to all. “Seeking” refers to asking for and searching for ways to do good.


That can include praying, which we are to do for and with one another, but once again on the topic for today of rejoicing, Paul added, just as he did in Philippians, “Rejoice always.”


Can we do that naturally? No. There are, in each life, many problems that at least can be discouraging. We might not be happy about any of the problems we have. But that is where the definition of joy comes in. 


Remember. Joy is knowing things will be fine no matter what happens. It is knowing things will be fine because of Jesus. That He will help us, not only as we celebrate good things and easy days, but will also help us survive bad things and difficult days.


Rejoice in the Lord always, in every circumstance. That is what we who are Christians - those of us who are filled with the Holy Spirit - are to do, which will help us esteem leaders, be at peace, admonish idlers, encourage those who are fainthearted, help the weak, seek to do good, pray, and encourage and build one another up.


One more passage for this message. A very quick one. Psalm 5:11. We can do all that we have talked about - we can be joyful at all times and help others to be joyful - when we “take refuge in the LORD.” When we put ourselves in the fellowship and love of God and His people. 


What a wonderful place to be. As also mentioned in Psalm 100, being in the fellowship and love of God and His people should cause to always sing for joy. 


And one more time, lest we forget. Joy is knowing things will be fine no matter what happens. It is knowing things will be fine because of Jesus. That He will help us, not only celebrate good things easy good days, but will also help us survive bad things and difficult days. 


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Here is a story I found. It dates back to the days of Napoleon.


During one of the war times, one of Napoleon’s generals suddenly appeared with 18,000 soldiers on the outskirts of an Austrian town which had no means of defense.


The town council had nearly decided to surrender when the old dean of the church reminded them it was Easter and begged them to hold services as usual and leave the trouble in God's hands.


That is what they did, and soon the church’s bells started ringing. It is a joyful sound bells make. The French soldiers, hearing the church bells ringing joyfully, concluded the Austrian army must have come to defend the town. With that, the French soldiers  quickly broke camp. Before the bells stopped ringing, all the Frenchmen had vanished.


What  happened back then in the 1800’s can happen even now in a spiritual sense. Joy can ring in the face of pain or sickness or poverty or fear or loneliness or any other trial. When we have joy, whatever enemies we have can be conquered.


Let’s pray. Lord, help us to have joy. If we have some happiness as well, that will be great, but help us to know things will be fine, no matter what happens, when we rely on You. Yes, help us to have joy. Help us to assist others in being joyful. Thank You. Amen.