Choosing Joy

This past year, I’ve barely posted a blog. There was a lot going on and being involved in ministry and technology I didn’t get to slow down. 2020 was a year that for most was full of pain and hurt for many. I’ve been fortunate enough that my family was not impacted like most. During this year, I’ve grown a lot and tried some new things, some I’m going to cover in a different blog post with a life update, but the one thing I’m going to mention here is that I preached my first sermon.

Now, preaching is not my first calling, but I had something on my heart and a different platform to us at the moment. I had a lot of fun with it and look forward to preaching a few more times this upcoming year. It was my privilege to get to preach on the last Sunday of 2020. During a time we are planning on the new year, and maybe a little broken around the holidays, especially if you were unable to see family, it could be so easy to say how much 2020 just sucked, and how 2021 will be so much better. (NOTE: I hear that every year)

I went a different path. Yes, 2020 had some rough moments for sure, and I’m not going to take that away or downplay it. But I made it through the year choosing to see the joy that Jesus brings. Focusing on Jesus lifted most of my grief so that I could enjoy life even in the lows. (I’m not perfect, so I still had my fair share of whining)

My sermon had to deal with a moment in Jesus’ life where a fun time, quickly turned dark for Him and His disciples. I want to share with you all a little of this as we dig into the passage in John chapter 16 that I covered.

I’ll set the mood for you all. Imagine, Jesus has just spent the night with his disciples. Men that ate with Jesus, traveled with Jesus, shared stories with Jesus, and lived life with Jesus. In this particular passage, He is gathered around the table celebrating a Jewish Holiday called Passover. They are having a good time, Jesus is serving them, washed their feet, even one of them that he knows already betrayed Him. The mood changes a bit and then Jesus tells them that soon they will be thrown out of the Synagogue, people are going to try to kill them, and that He will be leaving them soon to go to the father….

In verse 16 Jesus goes on to say In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little, while you will see me.”

This is very confusing, and Jesus knew that his disciples were confused. They were chattering to each other “WHAT? “Did you just hear what Jesus said?” “what does he mean”

Verse 19 and 20 says “Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little, while you will see me’? Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.”

I want to pause the story right there for a moment.

As a believer and follower of Jesus, I try to live my life as if I was hanging out with Jesus daily. The myth of once you become a Christian and that life becomes easy and the vision is clear is bologna. It’s not going to be a painless road and this new clear 2020 vision that people started off with in January was not clear, and to many, including followers of Jesus, we are sitting around confused about what God may have planned and will reveal to us. Many of us may feel like we are tapped out on joy with this year.

Now when you hear of the disciple’s confusion are you not tempted to say, guys, what is hard to understand about this? Clearly when Jesus says, “A little while, and you will not see me” he is referring to his death and burial! And when he says, “and again a little while, and you will see me”, he is speaking of his resurrection – he will rise from the grave and you will see him again!

Spoiler alert! JESUS DIES AND IS RESURRECTED

We should remember that hindsight is indeed 20/20. You and I see this teaching as basic and clear, but only because we live after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.  The original disciples had not yet experienced these things.

Jesus goes on to say “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’?  Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.”

We have had a lot of grief this year, so much that it’s hard to see joy sometimes. It’s there, I promise you, but you just have to choose it. You have to make the choose to fight for that joy.

Jesus goes on to tell His disciples a story. “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come, but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.  So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”

Did you hear Jesus? NO ONE CAN TAKE AWAY YOUR JOY! This is a God-given right. We get to see the world and choose joy. The world does not really steal it, if you really think about it. We simply choose to give it up or surrender it to the world. If we choose to look through the thickness of grief we can find Joy.

You see 2020 had its rough moments for sure, I’m not going to take that away or downplay it. Many lost loved ones, and jobs in 2020. Some of us didn’t get to go on the ideal family vacation and some of us were forced to play boardgames with our family. While I had some not so great things happen to me, I choose to be joyful for the good. A big one for me was that I celebrated my 5 years of marriage that almost didn’t work out.

“2015 was the worst year ever,” I remember saying that around this time 5 years ago, and 6 years ago, and 7 years ago. It wasn’t until 2016 when I really learned to seek joy and not let my circumstances steal that away from me. 2016 was for sure a rough year for me, and 2017, only became slightly better in circumstances. And then there was 2018…..

You see, for many years I surrendered my joy to the world and circumstances. Not just a year, but decades. I was bitter and angry. In a world of confusion, and feeling isolated, and broken. A time then, that for many feels like today. I made a choice to let my joy come from Jesus. To trust in Him in all things. The good and the bad. By choosing Jesus, nothing could steal my joy. Not a year. Not a virus.  Not politics or people. Whatever flavor it is that we surrender our joy to.

I wish I understood that way before my marriage fell apart. Way before the bitterness and anger. Way before my defeat. When I finally understood it and decided to really put Jesus first. To really fight to see the light and truth, to really seek out my joy in the Lord. God threw a curveball in what seemed to be a hopeless situation and restored my marriage and grew my family, and grew my heart.

You see, Jesus’ final words in this passage is what I didn’t get then, but I’m so glad I understand it now. Verse 33 Jesus says “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jesus is God made flesh as the Gospel writer John puts it. Jesus, who came to walk with us, even in our darkest times. Who is still there for us even when we are not for him, even when we betray Him. Let us not forget that the little bundle of joy sleeping silently in a manger is that same man that is telling his closest friends that life is going to be a little rough for a while. The man willingly picked up his cross dragged it to the top of the hill, to only be nailed to by the ones He is trying to save.

TALK ABOUT A ROUGH TIME!

To sum all this up, if we put our trust in Jesus we will have Joy. Joy is not something that can be taken from you. It is a choice that you have to make. To choose to surrender it to your circumstances or to fight for it. For me, this fight is very hard without Jesus.

More Sermons from CenterPoint Church at https://www.cp-church.com/sermons-page/

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