JOY for the Seasons and Storms of Life

This has been a week full of pain for many. On Monday the funeral and burial of a mother and her son, Dana and Caleb and then that same afternoon Chris Stewart was found unresponsive sitting in an easy chair at his parents’ home. It was a long day, a painful day and the next day I sat down to work on the message on joy. My mind was taken back to December 16, 2012 when Julie Reagle shared her testimony for me on another third Sunday of Advent.

TESTIMONY of Julie Reagle (as read by Susan Murphy)

“I asked God to increase my faith. I had no idea that the way He does that is to allow me to experience some pretty painful moments, and, while I highly recommend that everyone ask God for the same thing, I also highly recommend that you brace yourself if you do.

Before the month was up I lost a baby.

And then a week later I lost my grandma.

During that year my then-husband lost his job. And then I lost an 11-year marriage. With the loss of the marriage came a loss of my home, the loss of my role as a stay-at-home mom, loss of financial security, loss of a life-journey companion, loss of free time, and even the loss of some friendships.

I can remember feeling scared and uncertain. Desperate about how I would provide for my two children. Fear that I might be alone for the rest of my life. There were moments throughout that year when it was all I could do to get out of bed. Get dressed. Show up…

My faith grew. All throughout that year God showed up in little and big ways. There is a song by Barlow Girl called Never Alone that has these lyrics in it…

I cried out with no reply…and I can’t feel You by my side…So I’ll hold tight to what I know…You’re here and I’m never alone….And though I cannot see You…and I can’t explain why….Such a deep, deep reassurance…You’ve placed in my life…We cannot separate…’Cause You’re part of me…and though You’re invisible…I’ll trust the unseen.

We often talk in church circles about God being the master potter. That we are His clay. That He molds us into what He wants us to be. I think we like to imagine that He makes us into these beautiful little pots, so pretty, so perfect. And that if we submit to His will, then He will create gorgeous masterpieces.

And we are wrong.

God IS the master potter. We ARE His clay. We are pretty little pots, which quickly, through our own sin, through the sin of those around us, through the brokenness that is the world, become broken shards of pottery.

We make decisions based on anger, fear, pride…and pieces of our pot break off.

An unexpected death. There goes another piece.

Loss of a marriage. Another piece.

All of the different ways that life has of causing storms, and our pot teeters and falls.

And we take those broken pieces, and hold them up to God, asking Him to fix it. And He does. Only, not in the way we expect. We expect a perfect, pretty little pot to be returned to us.

And we get back a pot with holes, and scars, and cracks still showing. A pot glued together with His love and grace. And definitely not perfect.

How can God use this pot? Why would God use such a pot?

The answer lies in this. A perfect, pretty pot is a lovely thing to look at. But place such a pot over a candle and what happens? It blocks the light.

An imperfect pot, cracked and with holes…placed over a candle…shines the light in a unique way. In a way that only that pot can. It is a beacon that lets the light shine in a unique and beautiful way.

What I learned that year is that my brokenness, my sinfulness, my pain, my loss, everything which hurt within me is useful to God.

He doesn’t waste a hurt. He allows beauty to rise up from ashes.

What does all of this have to do with joy? After praying for God to refine my faith, the next year I asked God to give me joy. And He did. Overflowing, abundant, exuberant joy.

God has blessed me…I am now married to Brian Reagle and together we have six children to love. I am finishing a master’s degree in counseling which is pointing me in a direction where God can use more of my broken pieces.

PASTOR: What a powerful word for us. Julie finished her testimony with Psalm 126:5-6

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow,

 will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.

Life is full of painful moments. But God promises that those who sow with tears, those who cry out to the Lord God Almighty in the midst of their pain will reap songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seeds of grief, loss, pain to God in prayer will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves, carrying the harvest that their tears have produced. God takes our pain and produces joy

When I remembered Julie’s story a verse came to my mind

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith…may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1: 6, 7.

Julie’s sufferings, losses, and tough times refined her faith so that her faith would bring praise, glory and honor to Jesus Christ. May it be so in our lives; may our trials be refined so they bring forth praise, glory and honor to Jesus and help someone to see Jesus in us.

How many would agree with Julie’s assessment that everything that happened in her was useful to God?

Be careful that is a tricky question for if you affirm that everything that happened in her life was useful to God in perfecting her faith then you might have to say that the hurts in your life are also helpful to God for the perfecting of your faith.

Listen to the context of the verse I just shared 1 Peter 1:3-9,

3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice…” 1Peter 1:3-6

-We have been given a new birth, a spiritual birth, a new start, a living hope.

-It comes through the resurrection of Jesus, without the birth, life and death of Jesus,                      there’s no life nor hope.

-We have an inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade…it’s being kept for us.

-In the meantime, we who have faith in Jesus Christ are shielded by God’s power until Jesus comes for you. You are protected, not from a physical or relational attacks, but from anything that would separate you from the love and salvation of God.

 “In all this you greatly rejoice” almost wish the text stopped there with the part that you are protected so we could live in a bubble (remember the Truman Show, movie of a guy who lived in a bubble). You could always be protected but the verse goes on.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 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, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:6-9

-“Now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. Sounds like what Jesus said,” In this world you’ll have trouble…” Sounds like what we have been going through

-But these have come so that your faith may be refined and proved genuine…

-That your faith “may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

-The END RESULT: Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him <times when we can’t see his hand or feel his presence, yet believe> THEN we are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Out of a relationship with Jesus Christ, in midst of the changing seasons and storms of life, comes an inexpressible and glorious joy. A joy that is not tied to our circumstances but is beyond them.

If there is a single word that describes what Christmas is all about, it’s the little word “joy.”

OUR FAVORITE CAROLS MENTION JOY:

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King.”

“O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,”

“Shepherds, why this jubilee, why your joyous strains prolong?”

“Joyful all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies, with angelic host proclaim, ‘Christ is born in Bethlehem.’”

Why all the joy? Because joy is at the center of the Christmas story.

JOY IN THE CHRISTMAS STORY: Look at Elizabeth who had John the Baptist in her womb jumping in joy in the presence of Mary and her unborn son. The angels caught a glimpse of God’s glorious plan of salvation and announced, “Glad tidings of great joy.” The shepherds seeing the baby just as the angels had told them left overwhelmed with joy and told everyone what they saw. The magi who had followed a star and found the one that the prophets had spoken of…the result was joy, glorious joy! JOY IN THE BIBLE: 650 times (joy, rejoice, rejoicing, glad, gladness, delight) • Psalm 5:11 – God wants us to rejoice, shout for joy, and be joyful! • Job 8:21 (5x!) – He will fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. • Acts 13:52 – The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit • Galatians 5:22 – Joy is a fruit of the Spirit WHAT IS JOY? • OT = dance, leap or spin around in pleasure/intense motion; NT = celebration • Joy is not based on our circumstances but flows from our relationship with Jesus Christ.  Ills: new job makes you happy; joy comes even in the midst of the storms of life. • Nowhere in the Bible do you see it say God wants His people depressed!

Watched Winnie the Pooh this past week and too many Christians are like Eeyore:I shouldn’t be surprised if it hails a good deal tomorrow. Blizzards and what not. Being fine today doesn’t mean anything” Christians should be more like Tigger – full of joy! Or at the least like Winnie – content with a pot of honey – that being for us the presence of God! •God’s promise, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5 Christmas is about declaring, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.” God’s desire is that we who live in relationship to His Son and would be full of joy and spread a little joy, too.

HOW CAN WE EXPERIENCE THE JOY: 1. SPEND TIME IN GOD’S PRESENCE That’s what Psalmist says, “In Your presence is fullness of joy.” Psalm 16:11

Joy comes from entering into God’s presence. Whatever it takes for you to enter into God’s presence, climb a mountain, enter a prayer closet, kneel and bow….When we enter into God’s presence, humbling ourselves before him, worshipping the King of Kings, we come into His presence, where there is JOY!

STOP TRYING TO HIDESUBMIT TO JESUS The angel told Joseph, “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21). Just as sin robes us of hope and peace, sin robes us of joy. But Jesus came to die for our sin and save us from sin. “Oh, what joy for those whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of sin, whose lives are lived in complete honesty. When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long… Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them… And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone… So rejoice in the LORD and be glad, all you who obey him! Shout for joy…” Psalm 32:1-3, 5, 11
David stopped trying to hide, submitted by confessing his sin….and God forgave him, set him free from the debilitating effects of guilt…and joy once again began to flow. We need to stop trying to hide and submit to Jesus – to confess our sin and turn from it – if we want to experience the joy of the Kingdom! 3. STAY CONNECTED TO JESUSI am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing… If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you… These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:5,7,11). As we abide in Christ, the Spirit produces in us the fruit of the Spirit. When we spend time with Jesus and allow his words to lead us, we experience His joy. Jesus wants to speak into our lives that His joy would remain in us, that our joy would be complete.

4. SHARE WITH OTHERS, JUST LIKE JESUS

You want joy, follow Jesus’ example.” I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:15 Jesus had just taken the place of the servant and served them by washing their feet. Dirty feet were the need that was present. There are needs that are present all around us…mobility for some, warmth for another, hunger for some, encouragement for a lot of folks…The list is endless and Jesus’ word is still the same, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” He also said, “In as much as you’ve done it to one of the least of these you have done it to me.” Jesus ministered to people’s needs! You want joy, follow Jesus’ example and meet needs. You want joy find someone with a need, bless them, help meet their need and experience the joy of Jesus.

JOY – IT’S A LIFE CHOICE! “Rejoice in the Lord always.” (Philippians 4:4).

Make the choice to be full and overflowing, not with sentimental thoughts, but a deep seated joy that flows from your time spent in God’s presence, flows from your submitting to Jesus and staying connected to Jesus, and flows from serving others. Cross references:

 https://vimeo.com/56017915

1 Peter 1:3 : Tit 3:5

  1. 1 Peter 1:3 : ver 23; S Jn 1:13
  2. 1 Peter 1:3 : ver 13, 21; S Heb 3:6
  3. 1 Peter 1:3 : 1Co 15:20; 1Pe 3:21
  4. 1 Peter 1:4 : S Ac 20:32; S Ro 8:17
  5. 1 Peter 1:4 : 1Pe 5:4
  6. 1 Peter 1:4 : Col 1:5; 2Ti 4:8
  7. 1 Peter 1:5 : 1Sa 2:9; Jn 10:28
  8. 1 Peter 1:5 : S Ro 11:14
  9. 1 Peter 1:5 : S Ro 8:18
  10. 1 Peter 1:6 : Ro 5:2
  11. 1 Peter 1:6 : 1Pe 5:10
  12. 1 Peter 1:6 : Jas 1:2; 1Pe 4:12
  13. 1 Peter 1:7 : Jas 1:3
  14. 1 Peter 1:7 : Job 23:10; Ps 66:10; Pr 17:3; Isa 48:10
  15. 1 Peter 1:7 : 2Co 4:17
  16. 1 Peter 1:7 : ver 13; S 1Th 2:19; 1Pe 4:13
  17. 1 Peter 1:8 : Jn 20:29
  18. 1 Peter 1:9 : Ro 6:22

2017

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