What does joy look like?
The return of a spouse from deployment.
The pronouncement of a bride and groom as husband and wife.
The winning touchdown of your favorite team in the championship game.
The birth of our Savior, born to take our punishment for sin and deliver us from death and hell!
Joy is the celebration of something deeply desired or longed for
But what is joy to the world in a year like 2020?
In Luke 15, Jesus tells three stories which give us the foundation of joy to the world.
- Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? When he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
- A woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
- The third is the famous prodigal son. After wasting his inheritance and his return home, his father told the brother, “We had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
We were lost and now we are found. We were dead and are now alive. Truly great news!
But how do I have joy when life is not so great: a scary health diagnosis, a rebellious child, a divorce? Life this side of heaven is full of hurts and hazards.
There’s a part two of Joy to the World! Now that we’ve been found and made alive in Christ, God is completing and perfecting us. If we let him, God will use our hardships to refine us and make us more like Jesus and get us ready for heaven!
Why does this part matter? If I think being a Christian is all about blessings and prosperity, I have missed the point about why Jesus came and his purpose for dying on the cross. Material blessings are fine, but if they are our focus, they point us away from Jesus, rather than to him.
If I don’t have the right understanding of why Jesus came, I will have a distorted view of God and will be disappointed in him. Satan will have successfully deceived me into believing that God is not good and does not keep his promises.
If you are struggling in your belief that God is good and that he keeps his promises, remember that Satan can never take away the fact that God did keep his promise in sending his Son Jesus to die for our sins. Satan can never take away the fact that God did keep his promise of Jesus rising again and conquering death. If I ever doubt God’s goodness or promises, I need to remember the cross.
Our brothers and sisters in the New Testament gave us an example of joy in hard times.
Romans 12:12 says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
2 Corinthians 7:4 says, “I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.”
This does not mean that we are masochists. We will experience sadness when sad things happen and we will be troubled when bad things happen. Jesus told us we would (John 16:33), but we can take comfort in the big picture, the part two, of what God is producing through the difficulties.
I can say without hesitation that I am grateful for what God has produced in my life, much of that has come through heart-aches in relationships, and financial and health setbacks. I don’t want to go through those things again, but I am grateful for what they have produced in me and in how I have a greater understanding and love for Jesus. Suffering has a way of making that happen.
I can have joy in knowing that God is producing something beautiful.
What are some action steps to get joy, parts one and two, into my life?
- Read Luke 15 with your kids and have an age-appropriate discussion on what Jesus did for us.
- Details aren’t necessary or even appropriate for young children, but they understand the concept of something or someone lost being found. You probably have family stories of someone getting lost at the mall and the mad search to find them. We can all relate to what a sweet reunion that is.
- Do you have a relationship with Jesus that would be described as having been lost and now found? If not, and you’d like to talk with someone, please click here to reach out to us. We’d love to chat!
- Take an inventory of the good things God has done in your character or mindset through hard times. Where are you stronger, kinder, more compassionate or wise? Hardships tend to develop those qualities in us!
- Who needs the good news of Jesus? Start praying for them regularly as a family. Over time, see what doors God opens.
Jesus tells us in John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
This is our prayer for you: that your joy would be full this Christmas as you look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.