Everyone wants to be happy, but true happiness and deep joy is found only in Christ.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6,7
Many who don’t belong to a church try desperately to convince themselves that they are happy. They fool everyone but themselves. Or they know they are not happy and try to drown their sorrow in drinking, drugs, sports, work or something else to keep their minds off their unhappiness. We believe there is only one kind of true, lasting, joy: “Christian Joy.” We hope this pamphlet will guide them to this joy.
Others ARE church members, but find no reason for joy. Many of these have been robbed of the true gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith. If that is true, there can be some joy – maybe a false, short-term joy – but not true, lasting peace of mind and heart. Or, because of the weakness of their faith, and the temptations that so easily beset, some have a hard time seeing the joy of salvation.
Our prayer is that God will use these excerpts from sermons preached in our church to be a help for you in your life. May you have “Christian Joy.”
The Cross's Prescription
Have you ever asked yourself what it means truly to be happy? We mean, now, TRULY full of joy! Do you know it? Is it your experience? Do you wake in the morning able to smile?
A Christian can and does. NO ONE but a true Christian can make that claim. A Christian says: “Yes, I know what true happiness is. Even though life is not all roses, I am truly happy.” Why can a Christian say that? And why would anyone be so bold as to say that ONLY a CHRISTIAN can be genuinely happy? There is one fundamental reason—Jesus Christ gives us peace of heart and mind. Let us explain.
The only reason for all the Unhappiness today is that men are not right with God. Men and women have “missed the mark” (that’s the Bible’s description of sin). What is the mark men and women must aim for? To LOVE God with all our time and energy, and love our neighbours as ourselves. (Matthew 22:36-38). That’s the bulls eye. When people fail in that, they owe a GREAT DEBT to God, a debt that we must pay, or be unhappy by God’s judgment. Now, why are so many people miserable today? In simple language, they have failed God. In His anger, God rightfully makes men miserable. SIN stands in the way of happiness. And if that sin is not remedied, they will be miserable in the most utterly serious sense of the word – forever.
Is that our life expectation? It is and must be unless we understand and believe the next paragraph.
Here is the key: A Christian is happy, and can be happy, NOT BECAUSE HE DOES NOT SIN. Don’t misunderstand. Christians still “miss the mark.” They still sin. So true. But Christians can be happy because they believe their debt is paid in full.
How? Through the death of a man—JESUS CHRIST—Who is also God Himself. He paid the debt by His perfect love to God and sacrifice on the cross. (He “hit the mark!”) Thus, the ONLY reason for true misery is gone! To be happy (truly happy) you must BELIEVE that this Man died to satisfy for YOUR failures. That’s why the Bible says “Blessed (happy) is the man whose transgressions is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” (Psalm 32:1). How is this possible? Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of those who believe in Him. Find joy first at the cross!!!
One Day At A Time
We all see a lot of failure when we look BEHIND us. There are many mistakes; both deliberate and unintentional. We see the misery we have caused others and that we have brought on ourselves.
But we believe that Christ has paid the price for our sins. Christ took the punishment on Himself when He died on the cross. And when we confess our failures to God daily, He daily forgives our sins and gives us true joy – even when we look back and see how badly we have botched our lives (Psalm 31).
But life is not so simple. We also need to look ahead. And sometimes the future is harder to handle than the past. CHRISTIANS CAN ALSO BE HAPPY WHEN THEY LOOK AHEAD.
It happens sometimes that we want to bite off a bigger piece of life than we can chew. We do that in our spiritual life, too. Let me use an illustration. A donkey can carry a large load of straw—more than we can sometimes believe. But if we would pile five times more straw on the donkey, he’d collapse, no matter how sturdy he was.
We do the same when we try to worry about what is going to happen tomorrow, or the next day, or the next, or the next… The Lord did not create us to worry about more than one day at a time. There is enough trouble to care about today, enough burdens to occupy all our strength RIGHT NOW.
Of course, that does NOT mean that we must not PLAN for tomorrow. That would be folly. If we would not plan ahead, we would be very unhappy when “ahead” came and we were unprepared. Rather, a Christian should plan ahead, but then leave it to the Lord to “worry” about tomorrow.
Christ teaches this in Matthew 6:34. “Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow will take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” In plain language: Don’t let tomorrow get you down!!! The PAST is taken care of by Christ and His work. And because the FUTURE is also His, you may not take that burden on yourself until it comes to you. Christ directs it for the good of His people.
“One day at a time” is the Lord’s second lesson for Joy.
Christians On Trial
Not a very nice thought. Who would care to sit before a judge and be declared guilty of a crime? Yet there are many who know what that’s like. There is ANOTHER kind of trial that Christians experience. And if we understand what it means that God puts US “on trial,” we will have come another step in maintaining or finding TRUE CHRISTIAN JOY.
God sends afflictions to His people to put them “on trial.” The prophet Isaiah writes that God’s people were “chosen IN THE FURNACE OF AFFLICTION.” (Isaiah 48:10). God’s people often see more trouble and pain than non-Christians men and women (Psalm 73). Some people experience sickness, ridicule, persecution, loss of homes or families. Sometimes to the point of saying, “I’m going to give up.” THIS IS GOD’S TRIAL OF A CHRISTIAN’S FAITH.
But God’s trials are not like jury trials. He doesn’t need to find out the GENUINENESS of your faith. He doesn’t need to see whether your faith will fail under stress. Faith is God’s gift. He knows its strength.
Rather, the Bible likens the trials of our faith to the purifying of gold (I Peter 1:6,7). Gold is tried to purify it and to strengthen it.
God sends trial to PURIFY our faith. When God gives us faith, we might add to it our own ideas about Christ, our own carnal beliefs about salvation, our own notions about prayer and church, about fun and happiness. God sends us afflictions to burn away these FALSE BELIEFS, and bring us to our RIGHT BELIEFS.
Then it makes sense that the man of God says, “It is GOOD for me that I have been afflicted…” (Psalm 119:71). The Lord sees what His children need. Knowing this brings us closer to true CHRISTIAN JOY. Thank Him for His care of His people.
Peace And Prayer
ANXIETY and its child DEPRESSION are a couple of the most feared words in the world today. But they are probably two of the most common ailments that men and women face. Who doesn’t know the black feeling when things are not going right, when troubles loom large and unsolvable—when the job is lost, the wife is gone, the children rebel, the friends leave…?
The Lord recognizes that His people face troubles and the potential for great anxiety. So He encourages us to handle these situations PROPERLY. In the negative, He says not to worry. “Don’t be anxious about your problems. Do not fret about them.” In fact, we are told not to worry about ANYTHING. We might all be able to think of some exceptions where we would say: “The Lord would understand that I MUST worry about this …” But the Lord says: “No, don’t worry about ANYTHING!” (Philippians 4:6,7).
Someone might say, “That’s good advice, but I haven’t yet found the switch to turn off my emotions. As soon as I do I will take the advice of the Lord not to worry.” Valid objection. How do we turn off our worry? The answer is: We don’t; the LORD does. How? Prayer.
Too simple? If you look at it from our point of view, it is. But God is bigger than we are. Let me explain. God says: “Don’t worry.” We say, “How?” The Lord answers: “Pray. And believe Me.” In other words, on of the means, (not the only one, surely) that God uses to wipe away worry from our minds, is prayer.
The Lord does not promise to take our troubles AWAY by prayer. And we must not pray for that first, either. The Lord does not tell us to do that. He tells us that when we bring our troubles to Him in prayer, He will give us peace of heart and mind about them. He will give the ability to face them with His strength. Prayer does not change God.
Prayer changes us, because God blesses prayer by giving us His peace to guard our hearts and minds from worry.
Worry in your life? Who does not? Follow the instructions of the Lord: don’t worry about anything, but “in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God that passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6,7).
“These Things … Do”
If you want a full-colour picture of true peace of mind (joy), you must look back to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. The walked with God in the cool of the day, talked with God about their entire life, and loved each other in perfect harmony. Not a moment of misery, not an ounce of grief. Imagine that? A marriage with perfect harmony? We can’t. Not completely, anyway.
The beginning of all problems – both personal and family – is found in Adam’s and Eve’s rebellion against God. To put it in simple yet clear language that a child can understand: they disobeyed God and became miserable. Sound familiar? This is the story of the world today. There is no peace in disobedience to God.
Men and women today learn about peace in the same way Adam and Eve did: we look in faith to the cross of Jesus Christ. There is peace of mind and heart for us, too. (see “The Cross’s Prescription”)
Why, then, are true Christians still “in the dumps” sometimes? Partly because they fail to understand a basic principle of the Bible found in Philippians 4:8,9. The life of a child of God is not a smooth glide and first-class ride to heaven. It involves WORK.
If we think that all we have to do is pray (“Peace and Prayer”) and enjoy the “peace of God that passes all understanding,” but still live like we want, we are seriously mistaken (and probably not Christians). God is a holy God who calls His people to loving OBEDIENCE. Requiring obedience, God rewards DISOBEDIENCE with a loss of peace and joy. How many times doesn’t this happen to so many of us?
Philippians 4:89 says we are to “think on” everything true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. But thinking is not enough. Verse 9 says, Think on these things and, thinking, do them. Oh, yes: Pray for grace to believe in the cross, to live a day at a time, to pray, to bear up under trials. But if we truly understand the cross, out of thanks to God we will also pray for strength to obey God’s will. And the God of peace shall be with us!
Prof. Barry Gritters (Wife: Lori)
Ordained: May 1984
Pastorates: Byron Center, MI - 1984; Hudsonville, MI - 1994; Prot.Ref.Seminary - 2003Website: www.prca.org/Seminary/SeminaryMainPg.htm
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