Last time I spoke, I gave you a choice of four sermons. You voted for the sermon on a life of unspeakable joy. Good call! Today’s sermon is on a life of unspeakable joy.
And who wouldn’t want that? Not just a happy life, not just a satisfactory life, not just a life that isn’t that bad, not just a life that we can’t complain about but a life of unspeakable joy. Inexpressible joy. Unutterable and exalted joy.
Is there really such a thing? Yes, there is!
What do we need to live a life of unspeakable joy?
Firstly, let’s look at what we don’t need: money, comfort, good health, romance, qualifications, success, popularity…
These things may make us happy, and they may also be good things, but they don’t bring us unspeakable joy.
And often they are just cheap substitutes for the unspeakable joy that is missing in our lives.
Joy has little or nothing to do with our circumstances. It doesn’t come from anything the world can give us. It doesn’t even come from the gifts that God gives us, although those are rather wonderful.
Let’s look at Paul’s example.
He had been physically beaten (nearly to death), 5 times whipped (39 lashes), stoned, shipwrecked, hungry, thirsty, cold, exposed, sleepless, imprisoned. (2 Cor 11), Yet this same man said, “In all our troubles, my joy knows no bounds.” (2 Cor 7:4) (The whole theme of Philippians 1 is the joy of ministry.)
Is this an unrealistic, exceptional example from a masochist? Or is this the true Christian experience?
How about this more modern quote from a sufferer:
“Joy in God has been my strength. At times I have so much joy that I feel guilty being thought of and treated as a sufferer. I feel melodramatic saying this but the reality is I’m actually holding back for fear of sounding silly and unbelievable. Let me go on freely, truthfully. There are many times here in the hospital, and here in the home when my heart is all thrill, pure delight and deep joy. My heart bubbles with gladness and my mouth is full of songs of praise. And when I examine my heart to see the essence of my happy condition and it’s source, I see and know that it is none other than the unspeakable joy of the Holy Spirit. It’s God’s gift to me and to all who call on His name – sufferers and non-sufferers alike – and this unspeakable joy is untainted and undiminished by suffering because it is rooted and established in God, and cannot be affected by circumstances.”
That’s my own quote. I wrote that while undergoing treatment last year. Unspeakable joy is not just for super apostles. It is for the common Christian. It is to be a common experience.
The only thing we need to live a life of unspeakable joy – in fact the only thing that can give us a life of unspeakable joy – is having the fullness of God in our hearts.
Joy is the fruit of an intimate relationship with God and by extension it is also a fruit of the relationships that God gives us.
Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Joy is always associated with the presence and fullness of the Holy Spirit.
Look at the correlation in Scripture between joy and the Holy Spirit.
Luke 10:21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father…”
Acts 13:52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 1:6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
And perhaps the most pertinent verse for today’s message is this:
1 Peter 1:8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. (KJV “unspeakable joy”.)
Like the fullness of the Spirit, joy is not a one-time infusion that stays forever. We can lose our joy, just as we can lose the fullness of the Spirit within us.
What can take away our joy? (Open question)
Whatever comes between us and God will take away our joy. Whatever stops us from being filled with the Spirit will take away our joy:
Sin. Envy. Bitterness. Doubt. Ugliness. Anger. Self-righteousness. Exhaustion.
Water demonstration showing how these sins or hurts can displace the joy in our lives. And how we can get the joy back.
green – envy, yellow – bitterness, red – anger, clear – self-righteousness, brown – ugliness, amber/beer – doubt/impaired judgement, flat Coke – exhaustion
It’s not the removing of sins, as such, that will restore joy to us.
It’s not living righteously that will restore joy to us.
It’s the filling of the Holy Spirit that will restore joy to us.
In practical terms, how do we receive this filling? How do we get this unspeakable joy?
It’s fine to talk about it and it’s great to demonstrate it like that but how do I receive the fullness of the Spirit and the unspeakable joy that comes with that fullness, in my life?
1. Submit to God/ Humble yourself
Gladly and decisively make God the Lord and Master of your life. It’s not a 50/50 cut. We don’t divvy up days or environments. (“God you can have Sunday through to Wednesday; I’ll have Thursday, though to Saturday.”) We fully submit to God. We submit to His Word, His Ways, His Desires.
2. Listen to God by meditating on His Word and by patiently waiting on Him in prayer. (I spoke about this in this week’s church mail.) Take time to be still and listen.
3. Ask. Ask God to fill you with His Spirit. He is not reluctant to do this. He is keen to do it. Even so you must persevere in asking. Do this together with other believers. Know that if there is unrepentant sin in your life, God will not listen to you. But if you humbly ask with a repentant heart, God will hear your request.
Be filled with the unspeakable joy of the Holy Spirit.
Pray for this.