Good morning, welcome to Hope City Church! My name is Peter… I’m glad you’re here today. We are starting a new series today called The Pursuit of Joy. Over the next four weeks we are going to be looking at how to have balance in your emotions, and what it means to grow in our Joy!
Earlier this week, it was Halloween, and my family and I were out collecting our fair share of Candy. These were my three kids, A Mariachi man, A nerd, and An Old Lady.
The best was when an equally old lady would answer the door. It was like looking in a mirror. Quite startling! One lady looked at Grace and was like, “I like your outfit”. I’m sorry, don’t you mean, costume? Well, either way… Our kids were on a mission. They were in Pursuit of Candy!
It’s amazing how happy they were on that walk. We walked… We didn’t take a golf cart. We hoofed it. It was amazing, because if I had asked my kids to walk that far with me on a regular day, they would have said no way. Now I’m saying, let’s go for a walk, you’re going to carry a guitar with you the whole way, and every stop it’s going to carry a little more weight. And what do you think their response was… LET’S GO! Along with every other kid in the world. They were on the hunt. They were in pursuit of CANDY! And Candy meant happiness. I mean, look at this loot! That’s a serious haul. It would be hard for a kid not to be happy with that haul.
Here’s the problem. Candy quickly gets in our system and boosts our energy, it triggers the release of chemicals that set off the brain’s pleasure center, in this case opioids and dopamine. And so after it gets you all hoped up and hyper… it causes your body to want more, and need more to get that same feeling. And in the course of 30 minutes you move from being on a sugar rush to a sugar crash!
It’s not just candy that triggers this rush of feelings. We move through a range of emotions when we have a post that gets liked by more than just your mom and your immediate friends. When you see the little red notification, you can’t help but click it and find out who has ‘liked’ your post.
We purchase things and feel good about them so long as they are new, and then we have to purchase the next new thing to keep that shopping high going.
We fill our life with relationships, dating, or otherwise and there is a moment where those relationships are just going perfectly, almost too perfectly. We live in this romanticized euphoria, and then there is a problem. You find out they love Pumpkin Spice Everything, and you’re just like Ew… Gross. Game OVER! The moment that relationships move from being perfect to being a challenge is an issue.
Too often we move through life searching for the next high. We experience something that makes us intensely happy, and then when it changes, or goes away, or wears off, we experience an intense low. And we move through this chart… How many of you have seen a pain management chart like this? Probably all of us have. Sometimes we feel super happy and we are way off the charts over here. And yet other moments we are super un-happy and we are way off the charts in the opposite direction. Interestingly enough, many people move through life chasing after the next Happy High.
But is that enough? Our world changes faster than we can imagine, and our circumstances change quicker than we would like to admit. It can easily leave us feeling like we are on an emotional see-saw. Up and down, Up and down… and then when you’re up again, someone gets off the other end, and lets you crash to the ground… THERE WAS ALWAYS THAT KID ON THE PLAYGROUND! Our happiness, your happiness is left behind.
Happiness is a fickle emotion. Happiness is that feeling of elation that occurs when your situation is favorable. You got the raise, your kids are obeying, that guy asks you out, that girl says yes to a second date. You make the team. Happiness relies on the situation or the circumstance. And in a world where we have very little control, or less control than we think, it seems that Happiness can be scarce, and that it comes at a premium. There are far too many people who go through life searching for happiness, searching for meaning and value.
This has been true for centuries. People have tried to meet their desires with people, possessions, or power. And when you’ve got those things, it’s positive. And when you don’t. It’s negative. Jesus speaks to this thought. Because what we’re going to find is that there is something more than just happiness. IN fact, Jesus desire is for you to experience more than just a “happy life.” Today I want to lay the ground work for where we are going for the rest of this series.
I want to invite you to turn to John 15:11, that’s found on page 737 in the Bible’s around you. While you’re turning there, Jesus has just gotten done telling his disciples that some really bad things were coming down the pike. In the previous two chapters Jesus predicts his Betrayal, arrest, and ultimately His death. Then He tells His disciples that in His absence, the Holy Spirit is going to come to be with you forever. And in the midst of the news that would ROCK THE DISCIPLES WORLD, Jesus says, this, look in verse 11…
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
In the midst of the worst situation, in the face of grief, fear, and confusion, Jesus says, I want you to have joy. And Joy that would be made complete, or made fully whole. Joy! Joy is a strange thing to say in the midst of pain and sorrow—Because too often we say that when we are filled with Joy we are happy. Which may be true. But not always! You do not necessarily need to be happy to be joyful. Joy is something much deeper than simply being happy. You can go to the store and purchase happiness, you can book a trip that will provide for happiness, but you can’t purchase joy!
Which brings us to our first point this morning, Joy is not Situational. Jesus just gets done telling his best friends, the disciples, that He’s going to suffer and die, and in the same conversation he says, May your joy be complete!
When we rely on our circumstances to keep us happy, we can easily experience the feelings of hopelessness and despair, when situations change. We can’t always rejoice over our circumstances, but we can rejoice in our circumstances. You don’t have to love your circumstance, but it doesn’t mean that God loves you any less. Even in some of the worst times in life, you and I can have joy. And Jesus helps us understand how that is possible. Look back a few verses to see what Jesus has told them in order for them to be full of joy!
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.6If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.10If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
Jesus shares another analogy, saying I am the vine, and you are the branches. All of the life flows from the vine, from the roots, into the branches. But it first must go through the vine. He says, that fruit grows on the branches, but is fed from its connection to the vine.
Jesus uses the word remain 7 times in this dialogue. He is telling us something that we already know. When you go to any kind of fruit tree, you expect to see the good fruit connected to the branches, growing… You expect to see green leaves, and fruit growing from those branches. And then you’ll find that the branches are connected to the tree. This is a universal principle. What you never expect to see is healthy fruit hanging from a dead branch with withered up brown leaves on it. And the last thing that you would expect is a branch that is disconnected from the tree to grow fruit. Jesus says all of this so that we would know what it means to grow and bear fruit.
Joy is found when we remain in Christ. If you’re taking notes, this is our second point today, that we need to remain in Christ to experience joy!
Just as fruit remains on the tree to grow and flourish, so too do we need to stay connected to Christ in order to thrive and flourish. It’s no wonder that we are experiencing higher levels of anxiety and depression in our society. As we move further away from God as a culture, are we surprised when joy is scarce?
Let me be clear though… if you suffer from depression or anxiety, what I am not saying is that this is strictly a spiritual problem, and that you just need to read your Bible more. No! God has made our bodies to be physical, and spiritual. You can’t separate the two… There are times when we need to take medicine to help balance the physical and chemical make-up of our bodies. And yet, we also need to remain connected to Christ! Jesus says,
11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
Our joy can be made full because of Christ! Even our brokenness and imperfections, our weakness and our sickness can be healed by Christ.
Jesus says, remain in me, why?
8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Just like you know an apple tree by the fruit it produces. So too are followers of Jesus. We are known by our fruit, or what the Apostle Paul calls the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23
“But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, Joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
We are to bear fruit, but not just any fruit. Followers of Jesus should be growing in their JOY! Why? Because Joy is a Fruit of the Spirit. That’s our third point this morning. When we trust Jesus with our life, Joy is a byproduct of walking with Jesus and the influence of the Holy Spirit on our life.
Have you ever been around someone and felt like, There is just something really different about them, you can almost tell that they are a Christian. Not by the way that they dress, or what they look like, or even what they say… but there is something about their attitude, there is something about them that points to Christ. Very often it is their JOY! Joy that is so obvious, it can’t help but be noticed.
This is one of the reasons that I love Baptism Sundays at Church. We are having our first baptism Sunday in just a few weeks here at Church. It is such an incredible time to hear people’s story’s of how Christ has changed them.
See, Baptism is more than just an opportunity to get dunked! It is a powerful symbol. When we are baptized, we are affirming that we have been raised up into a new way of life, a way of life that is surrendered to Jesus and His will for our life. We are showing the world around us that we are no longer living on our own, for our own. We are making a public statement that we accept God’s rule and reign in our life. Baptism is like a wedding ring, it symbolizes what is going on between two people. The same is true of baptism. A ring does not make you married, nor does baptism save you. Baptism is a symbol of what God has done in your life and a symbol of salvation.
Maybe today, you have already placed your faith in Christ but you have not been baptized. I want to invite you to be baptized here at Hope City. I want to invite you, if you have not made that public to take that next step. To talk with someone after church today about being baptized. In the lobby today we have our next step booth by the door with some of our dream team members to talk with you and help you sign up to be baptized.
What I love about this day, and when we witness people being baptized is inevitably, there is such JOY in their story! Joy over how God has taken them from where they were to where they are now. Joy is a fruit of the spirit. It should be growing in us.
When my kids were born, every new step was cheered on, and every milestone was celebrated. My in-laws are in town for a while and we were sitting around the dinner table the other night and they said to us, “man the kids have grown so much.” And really what we are saying is, this is healthy! This is a good thing. It’s actually problematic when a child doesn’t grow, or if there is one part of their body that doesn’t grow.
We must grow in our Joy! There are too many Christians walking around that look like following Jesus is the least amount of fun possible. If your heart loves Jesus, you might want to tell your face! Joy is a fruit of the spirit and we should be growing in that!
Jesus shares this with us, He reminds us of our desperate need for connection to him just as the branches are connected to the vine, so that your JOY would be made complete! So that you would be full of JOY!
Some of you today are tired, worn out and burnt to a crisp. And you haven’t felt Happy in a long time. Life has thrown its curve balls, you thought it was headed one way, and all of a sudden it turns. Your relationships went down, your health went down, your finances went down.
What if today you started looking up? And by looking up, your life started to look up as well… What if today you focused your heart on Christ, and staying connected to Christ?
I know that your circumstances stink, and you it seems overwhelming. We’re going to talk about that next week. Come back for week 2… But today we need to make a decision. We need to decide, I CAN’T DO THIS ON MY OWN!
We have to stop chasing after the short term sugary highs that life offers and be willing to believe Christ when He says that our connection to Him results in increased joy in you! Today, you could decide to refuse to accept your circumstances as the defining factor of your happiness.
Well, what if you pursued something other than Happiness. What if you pursued Joy? What if you chased after Joy?
Today you can make a simple decision to focus on Christ over your circumstances. It starts by connecting with Christ on a daily basis. And living out of that joy that is found in Him! You don’t have to see your way through all of life’s difficulties right now. You don’t have to be able to look beyond your depression, or your hurts. You just have to look to Jesus. It isn’t going to be overnight, but little by little, the Joy of the Lord will pervade every aspect of your life as you stay connected to Christ!