Restoring Joy

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Robbers are on the loose. Your gifts and deliveries may make it out untouched, but what about your joy? Has your joy being stolen from you this Christmas?

This is a season of joy. The word Joy is mentioned 8 times in the Christmas story. It’s a celebration, a birthday. What comes to mind when you think of the word joy? Do you know joy is far more than just an emotion? Do you know the difference between happiness and joy?

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Happiness is not a bad thing, but joy is deeper. You can be joyful even in the middle of grief, even in the middle of a depressing situation.


 

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There are joy robbers. We protect our things, we must protect our joy as well. Now, if you want to restore joy, first thing you have to do is you have to know what steals it. So here are three things that want to steal your joy.


Three Choices That Will Restore Your Joy

The 1st Robber of Joy: Anxiety

You cannot be joyful and fearful at the same time.

The first Christmas was incredibly anxiety-producing for everyone involved. Mary was a teenager and she’s engaged to be married to Joseph. Then she has what’s called a “virgin birth.” How do you explain that to your family and friends? 

Then, just a few days before she gives birth, she has to take two or three-day trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census. Then, when she gets to Bethlehem, all the rooms are booked and she has to deliver with no midwife, no doctor. Here’s the choice Mary had to make.

  • When Mary was afraid, she chose to trust God and accept his plan.

In the first story of Christmas, the word afraid is used seven times. Every time an angel shows up, the first thing the angel has to say is, “Don’t be afraid.” Why? Because anxiety robs your joy.

“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.’ ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.’”  Luke 1:26-37

What are you anxious about this Christmas? No matter what you’re worried about, the antidote is trusting God and accepting His plan. Just take everything you’re worried about and you put it in God’s hands.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.”  Luke 1:38

Have you ever told God that you are willing and accept His plan? At some point in your life, you have to come and say, “I don’t get it all, but I’m going to trust God. He made me and loves me. I’m going to accept His plan even though I don’t understand it.” 

Until you do that, you’re not going to have lasting real joy in your life. What is the result of telling God you will trust Him completely? The result is always joy. After Mary got with Elizabeth, she sings this song of joy.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” Luke 1:46-47 NKJV

What are you magnifying today? Your worries or your king? Where does your spirit rejoice today?

The 2nd Robber of Joy: Resentment

Everyone has been wounded. Our rebellion and sin against God causes us to hurt each other and we hurt each other, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. As a result, we’re all wounded.

Regardless of how you’ve been hurt, you have control over your response. Have you ever considered how wounded Joseph was when he gets this news? They were planning their wedding and they haven’t slept together, but Joseph’s soon-to-be wife is now saying, “I’m pregnant.”

How would you feel? You’d feel just like Joseph. He felt betrayed. Many of you know this feeling. You know what it’s like to be betrayed. The second truth is a choice you’re going to have to make with the hurts in your life.

  • When Joseph was hurt, he chose to offer grace and let it go.

God could have saved Joseph all this pain by telling them both at the same time. But God didn’t do it that way intentionally. He just tells Mary. Joseph has to go through all of this agony, thinking his fiancé’s been unfaithful to him.

Mary is struggling with fear at the first Christmas and Joseph is struggling with anger. These happen today in marriage after marriage. One spouse is dealing with fear and the other is dealing with anger. Yet, Joesph offers grace.

“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” Matthew 1:18-19

Are you still hanging on to a hurt? Resentment will never change the past. Bitterness doesn’t make you feel better. It only makes you feel worse. We think that holding on to that hurt, somehow, we’re getting even with them. We’re getting revenge. We’re not hurting them at all. We only hurt ourselves with resentment.

Maybe you don’t think they deserve forgiveness. Nobody deserves forgiveness. You forgive people because you don’t want to hold on to the pain anymore. You don’t forgive for their sake, you forgive for your sake. Now, fortunately, with Joseph, God didn’t keep him in the dark forever.

“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’” Matthew 1:18-21

Because Joseph didn’t get bitter, God blessed him in an incredible way. He gets the blessing. He is given the privilege of raising the Son of God. Now, you’ve got to decide what you want in life. Do you want to be bitter or do you want to be blessed? Do you want to choose joy or choose resentment?

If you don’t think you have the strength to forgive, that’s why you need a Savior. That’s why you need the power of the cross. Because you can’t do this on your own.

The joy of the Lord can be your strength.

The 3rd Robber of Joy: Confusion

At the first Christmas, everybody is confused except the angels. Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the innkeeper, the wise men, King Herod and all of Jerusalem was confused. The wise men’s confusion had to deal with what direction to take. 

The Bible tells us that they had come from the east, but we don’t actually know where they came from. They’re following a star, they’re astronomers and scholars. So they just take off, following the light they’re given. When they got to Jerusalem, they had to ask for directions. They said, “Where is this king of the Jews to be born?” Here’s the choice.

  • When the wise men were confused, they chose to follow God’s light one step at a time.

They didn’t have it all mapped out in front of them. It was one step at a time. If they’re coming from Persia or India, this is not a day trip. It took them months. They had invested time, money and energy to find Jesus. What are you willing to invest in time, money and energy to get to know your Creator?

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’ When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.”  Matthew 2:1-3

When they showed up, it upset King Herod, because he thought he was the king of the Jews. This tells us that there’s a downside as well as the upside of seeking after Jesus. If you genuinely seek Jesus, somebody’s not going to like it. When some people try to get close to God, it makes other people very uncomfortable. Now, here’s how the story goes.

“King Herod sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’” Matthew 2:8

Herod’s not going to go worship this new Messiah. He’s going to go assassinate him. He doesn’t want any competition. The reason we know he wasn’t intending to go worship Jesus is because when the wise men did find Jesus, then in a dream they were warned not to go back through Jerusalem and not to go back to Herod, they went back another way.

Herod sent his army to Bethlehem and had every baby under two killed. He’s that paranoid. Now, Mary and Joseph had already been warned by God, and so they had already left and gone to Egypt. Jesus, in his early years, was in Egypt because of the attack on him. These wise men, they don’t give up in their search until they actually find Jesus. Don’t give up on your search either.

“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.”  Matthew 2:9-10

God didn’t give them a map. All he gave them was a guiding light and they eventually end up getting to where God wanted them to get. He gives you a compass and a guiding light too.

A compass just says, “Go that direction.” It doesn’t tell you all the things that are on the trail. What is the compass for your life? For Christians, it’s the Bible. The Bible gives you the direction to walk.

What’s the guiding light? God’s Spirit in your life. He’ll give you the nudges and guidance along the way.

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”  Matthew 2:11

The three gifts given to Jesus actually have symbolism relating to Jesus’ life and his death and his resurrection. The incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection. Without those three things, there’s no Christmas to celebrate.

The incarnation: That he lived a perfect life that you and I or no one else could ever life. 

The crucifixion: That he went to the cross as a perfect sacrifice, carried our sin. 

The resurrection: That he proved he was who he said he was, he conquered death and the grave, he’s victorious and holds the keys to our future now.

If Jesus doesn’t nail those three things, the whole world isn’t celebrating Christmas. The wise men finally meet Jesus. Have you ever met Jesus? It’s not just in knowing about him or believing Jesus is the Son of God, it’s meeting Him personally.

How do you know if you’ve ever met Jesus personally? The two things that the wise men did when they finally personally encountered Jesus, are the same two things that happen when you personally encounter him.

First, it says they bowed down. The more you know Jesus the more humble you become. Have you ever fell to your knees before God and said, “God, I am so grateful for your love.” You may have gone to church your entire life. It’s the difference between knowing about God and knowing God personally.

These are magi, deep thinkers and analyzers. Bowing down isn’t just for the more emotional people. Worship isn’t just for the more expressive people. Joy isn’t just for the heart types on the personality scale. These guys are truly and humbly joyful and grateful. Why? Because he’s the king. Why do we worship him? Because He’s the king. Some of you know who Jesus is, but you haven’t ever had humble worship.

The second thing these guys did, it says, “They opened their treasure boxes and gave him gifts.” When you really know Jesus, you want to give him the best you’ve got. What do you give the guy who has everything. The only thing he doesn’t have. You.

Have you lost your joy this Christmas? Have you lost your joy from anxiety, resentment or confusion?

2,018 years ago, an angel came and announced this, “I bring you good news of great joy, which shall be for all people.” All people. There’s no sin that could exclude you from salvation, if you’ll choose Jesus today. 

This Christmas, you need to pray what David prayed after he had really messed up his life and committed some horrible sins. Look at what he said,

“Lord, restore to me the joy of your salvation.” Psalm 51:12


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Do you have any more thoughts, questions or conclusions about the message on God’s Greatest Gift? Did you invite anyone to the Christmas services? Did they come?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear The Word

Read Luke 1 & Matthew 1-2

You know, robbers are on the loose. Your gifts and deliveries may make it out untouched, but what about your joy? Has your joy being stolen from you this Christmas? This is a season of joy. The word Joy is mentioned 8 times in the Christmas story.

The first robber of joy is anxiety. So, when Mary was afraid, she chose to trust God and accept his plan.

The second robber of joy is resentment. So, when Joseph was hurt, he chose to offer grace and let it go.

The third robber of joy is confusion. So, when the wise men were confused, they chose to follow God’s light one step at a time.

Application

  1. What stood out to you in the message?
  2. How has this Christmas season been for you? What has you nervous, grumpy or worried this season? How can you trust God and accept his plan?
  3. Is there a wound in your life that you’re still carrying resentment over? How can you offer grace and let it go?
  4. What has you confused this season? Are you confused about your life and direction? How can you follow God one step at a time?

Tell Someone Else

Who can you encourage with hope as a result of this message?

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