People often spend their lives looking for happiness and joy. Are you looking for it in the right places? In this message, we uncover the source of joy and how to access it.
Hi, Porch. My name is Harrison Ross, and I'm excited to be back with you tonight. We are in a series called Mood. Last week, David Marvin kicked us off, and he gave us this overview kicking us into the series, talking about, for the next few weeks, what the Bible has to say about emotions. We all have them. It's a human experience. We all experience these emotions and these feelings, so what do we do with them?
All of us experience different things. Some of us cross over and have similar emotions. Sometimes we experience similar things or different things and experience different emotions. Sometimes that's subjective, but there are a few things that are not subjective. When you are placed in that place or that experience, it evokes something in you, a feeling, an emotion.
If you don't believe me, what happens when you see these images? Where are you? Yes. Vacation. Everything away from what you hate right now…your job, your life. You're sitting there with a Corona in hand, or a virgin mocktail for those who are out there. You're just living the dream. You're loving life.
You're completely sunburned because you're convinced, "I can get away with it. I'm young. I don't have leathery skin. I'll be fine," said everyone else. You look like a lobster, but you're on the beach and life is good. It fills you with delight and joy. Maybe the beach isn't your scene. You're into mountains. Or maybe this is your scene: college football season.
Here you are. You're at the game. It's game day. You're excited. Maybe you're in the season and your team is winning. The Aggies aren't my team. That experience where you're there together, and they throw that long pass and you're biting your nails. Your girlfriend is like, "Why are we here?" and you're in that moment. And they score! Odell Beckham reaches out, and he breaks his collarbone, and you're like, "Yeah!" You're high-fiving. It fills you with joy.
Or maybe more than sports, you just love to watch your team lose. I hate the Aggies. I find joy when the Aggies lose, and I go, "Yeah, you just got whupped. Whup that!" It's amazing. It fills me with joy. Maybe different feelings, but sports do that. Maybe neither of those things are your thing, but universally, we all know this fills us with joy: puppies. It's like, "Oh my goodness! Aw!" It doesn't matter who you are.
Now there's a reason we didn't put cats up there. Cats are divisive. Cats are disgusting. If you're a cat person, I'm not saying you're disgusting. Hiss away. You're an Aggie. That's fine. But we love puppies. They're just cute and cuddly. The problem is they grow into dogs, and then they eat everything. But we see these things, and it gives us this feeling, this emotion we all can relate to. It's joy, this feeling of joy. We want it, and we spend our lives chasing it from experience to experience.
So, tonight, we're going to look at how we can have joy. Here's the problem: life is not just vacations and football games and puppies; life is a beach. Maybe life is a beach when you're there one or two weeks of the year, but everything else is hard. It's difficult. It's sometimes boring, and your team loses. It's not always elation and joy, and you're allergic to puppies. It doesn't fill you with joy.
You get rejected by the guy or the girl you care most about. They don't want you. Or you don't get that job you wanted. You get turned down for that job or you can't even get a job or you start looking through Instagram and your life looks nothing like everyone else's life or maybe, if you're honest, your life looks nothing like you thought it would when you got to this point in your life. You're not Drake, "25 sittin' on 25 mill." That's not your life.
Maybe you're not one of those things. Maybe you've gotten everything you've ever wanted, and still you don't have joy. Maybe you are like Drake. Maybe you have millions. You have success. You have status. You have that guy or girl, and it's leaving you empty. Do you know what the Bible says? The Bible says that regardless of where you are on that spectrum, regardless if you've had the best life and everybody wants it or you've had the worst life and no one wants to be in your shoes, you can have joy.
So, tonight, we're going to look at how we have joy. We're going to look at what joy is, what keeps us from having joy, and then how we can have it. First, what is joy? Joy in the dictionary is defined as a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. Yeah. It describes what we feel when we see it. Oftentimes, when the Bible speaks of that feeling or emotion or experience, it talks about delight. All throughout the Scriptures it speaks of delight, 111 times throughout the Bible.
Delight is synonymous. It's the same thing as joy…happiness, satisfaction, extreme pleasure and fulfillment. Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." Happiness, joy, fulfillment, extreme pleasure, satisfaction, this feeling we all want. But I want to shatter something for you. Joy isn't just something you wake up and you're like, "Oh, it's a great day! Hurrah!" And then the music starts playing and you start high-fiving everybody. That's what we all want: for it to kind of happen to us.
Joy isn't a mood; it's a choice. Joy is not something that's just going to happen to you; joy is something you choose to walk in. I'm going to explain that through the rest of this message. Joy is not a mood; it is a choice. What this Scripture says… Again, delight is a synonym with joy. It doesn't say, "Oh, you're going to have joy. You're going to feel joy. You're going to feel delight." It's not a noun. It's not something we're pursuing; it's something we pursue. To delight in, to find joy in, or, another synonym, to enjoy. Joy is not a mood; it's a choice.
What you're looking for is happiness. Most of the time when you say, "I want joy, and I want to be joyful," what you mean is, "I want to be happy. I want what I want. I want everything in my life to go really, really well so I can be awesome and beautiful and everyone will love me." We can giggle, but we all feel it. What you're looking for is not joy. The mood you want is happiness. That's not joy. Joy is completely different. It's not happiness, because happiness is dependent on our circumstances.
Happiness is dependent on everything going well or me winning the lottery or me blowing a red light and not getting in a wreck. I'm like, "Oh, yes! Ha!" It's dependent on my circumstance. Joy has nothing to do with my circumstance; it has everything to do with my Savior. It's not dependent on everything around me. I can have joy regardless of what's happening in my life. That's what the Scripture teaches all over the place.
Joy isn't a mood. It's different. It's a choice. If you don't believe me, people do this all the time. You can think of people whose life is in shambles, and they have a smile on their face, not because they're faking happiness but because they have something that maybe we don't have. Or they're going through a terrible situation, they're going through a terrible sickness in their family, and these people have something. It's hope. In that, they can choose to have joy.
My wife has three siblings. A few years ago, one of her brothers died in a motorcycle accident out of nowhere…random, catastrophic. In most families where a death occurs, not only is that hard to deal with but it breaks the family apart. The divorce rate skyrockets. Siblings start to gripe with each other and hate each other. I saw something different in my father-in-law. He stood strong, and he chose to have joy in the midst of a terrible circumstance.
No one wakes up and goes, "I hope my son dies today, because I'd love to have joy." Regardless of his circumstance, he chose joy, not because everything was good but because he chose the goodness of God in the midst of everything being terrible. If you look at the Scriptures, Paul is going all over the Grecian world, and he is getting persecuted and put in prison and beaten, and he sings. That's crazy!
He's sitting there. He and Silas are chained to a wall. Not just like, "Man, this is a bummer again." They're probably elevated, hung by their arms and legs, hanging on a wall, probably thinking they're going to die, and they're worshiping God. Not because they're like, "This is awesome, God! We have a house, a roof over our heads."
It's terrible, but they chose joy regardless of their circumstance. There are stories throughout the Bible that show the same thing. Paul had it figured out. Joy is not from his circumstance; it's from his contentment, that God is who he says he is, that he's going to do what he says he's going to do, even if it doesn't happen in this life. In that, he can have joy.
Some people probably know Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." You see the college football players put it on their eye black, or the high school players. They're like, "Yeah, I'm bad." They're like, "Man, we're going to do it. We're going to win this season because we've got God! Yes!" We take it completely out of context. That's not what it means. This is the context. Philippians 4:11:
"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me."
Joy is not a mood; it is a choice. What keeps us from having joy? What keeps us from choosing that? I think the biggest thing is we choose the wrong things. We always have a choice, but choosing joy is not easy. Choosing joy is not often fun. Choosing joy isn't most of our first steps. We choose these other things because, like I read earlier in Psalm 37:4… It says we can delight in him and he'll fulfill the desires of our hearts, but I think we flip it around.
Too often, we look for our desires to bring us delight, but God has created us to delight in him, and he will fulfill our desires. Too often, we think, "If I go chase what I want, I go chase what I think I need, I go chase what my heart is telling me I'm feeling, I'll have joy." That's not what this verse says. That's not what the Scriptures teach. If I choose to enjoy him, if I choose to have joy in Christ, I'll have everything I could ever ask or think or imagine.
We choose the wrong things. We're focused on the wrong things. We become focused on our feelings, what we think our heart wants, what our heart is telling us. "Whatever your heart says, just go do that." "I don't know. What's your heart telling you?" I don't know! It tells me something different every hour, and I can't tell if it's heartburn. We get focused on our feelings, and we chase these experiences. We chase these highs to give us something, thinking, "If I just chase my feeling, then I'll have what I want."
We chase the highs, the party life, the weekend warrior, the next promotion, the next relationship. We just pursue our emotions, our emotional experiences. That happens in the Christian life all the time, even in pursuing godly things. We want that great worship experience. We want to feel close to God. I hear all the time, "I don't know that I feel God is there." It's because you're focused on the wrong things. You're focused on what you feel; you're not focused on God.
We're focused on the wrong things: our feelings or our flesh. Not just what we feel but what we want, what we desire, the carnal nature within us. We just want what we want. You don't withhold anything. Anything you want, you go after it. It's like a buffet. I love buffets. You're just like, "Give me a plate, and give me another. Give me that tray so I can go four on there." You just take it because you can and you want it.
I lived my life that way for so long. I was addicted to pornography for 12 years, and part of that struggle was because I just chased what I wanted. I chased what I thought would give me pleasure, would give me life, would fill me with something, because I wasn't feeling joy. It's those impulse actions, those things we jump at because we think we want it. We become focused on our feelings, on our flesh.
When we do that, when we chase our desires, that doesn't lead to delight. It doesn't lead to joy; it leads to despair. Spiritually, it leaves us jaded. Many of us in this room go, "Well, hey, I love Jesus, but I don't feel joy. I want to try to choose joy, but I don't feel that." Because we become focused on the wrong things instead of the pursuit of our God.
The last one we focus wrongly on is fantasy. What I mean by fantasy is not just where our minds can go sexually but just this world that really isn't reality. We just get distracted. We live in a world that has more devices and more stuff that can take our attention and more pings and alerts. I hate wearing an Apple Watch anymore, because I'm like, "Wow! Do I have arthritis? I'm just buzzing all the time."
We just get distracted. The glow of our phone, the constant Instagram feed, Netflix, what everyone else has and we don't. Then there are some of you in this room who go, "Well, I have joy. I don't need God. I feel joy all the time. I'm living with my boyfriend. Life is good. We have one rent check, boy! I don't need anything else. I have joy. I don't need God." Okay. Again, I'd say I think you may have some happiness.
Can you have happiness outside of godly things? Yeah. Absolutely. But it's not going to last. It's not joy. It's not a constant state of being regardless of your circumstance. That's completely dependent on your circumstance. Some of you are saying, "Hey, I have joy, and I don't need God." A friend of mine uses an illustration. It's like free-falling. If we took a video of someone just skydiving with no parachute, you'd be like, "Wow! They're living the dream"…until they hit the ground. Or they're jumping from building to building.
When you're suspended in free-fall and it seems like you have no care in the world, that's great, but eventually there's another side. What I'd tell you is if you're here and you think you can have joy outside of Jesus, then you're missing out on what God has for you. Eternity is coming. That's not a scare tactic. Because that's there, Jesus pursues you and he loves you and he wants you to know him so you can have joy. But we get focused on the wrong things.
Second Corinthians 4:18: "…as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." We get so focused on here, so focused on ourselves, on what we feel, on our flesh and what it wants, and on this fantasy we want to create that we miss out on an eternal perspective.
John Piper asks it this way…If you could have all of the pleasures in this world or God, what would you choose? If you could have your dream job, you could have more money than you could imagine you could ever have, you could have the hottest wife or the hottest husband and however many kids you want or whatever lifestyle you want… If you could choose that right now…snap your fingers and have it…or you could have God and have none of it ever again, what would you choose?
I know what I should choose, but I know what I want to choose. I know where my feelings take me. I know where my circumstances make me want to go find joy in everything around me. I know I can choose Jesus. I know I can choose God theologically, conceptually, but really what I want… I want fame. I want security. I want those experiences of elation and excitement. I want to feel God. I will do that at the expense of even deepening my relationship with Jesus, because I want what I want.
I know what I should choose, but I know what I want to choose. And you know what? I'm so glad Jesus didn't. He had the same choice I did. He had the same choice we all did: to choose this world or something far greater. When he could choose to be the ruler of all that was here, he knew he already was, so he rejected that and chose you and me. What keeps us from having joy is we are consumed with everything else in our lives instead of being consumed with the one thing that will give us life: Jesus.
So how do you have joy? You choose Jesus. You're like, "Okay. Thank you. I'm glad I showed up. What a Bible answer." It may seem like it's not enough, but that's what God gives us all throughout the Scriptures. That's why Jesus came. That's why he came and dwelt among us. That's why he died. Honestly, as I'm preparing this message, I'm wrestling with, "Well, how can I have joy? How can I delight in the Lord?" I don't really know.
Sometimes it's this ethereal idea, but I'm called to do it, and I can have it because of Jesus. Not in what I get from him, not in what I feel when I choose to follow him faithfully, but because of him. I've been married to my wife for eight years. Before I started dating her, I would see her in the halls. I'm like, "Man, that girl is cute." I'd see her more and more, and I was like, "Man, that girl has something going on. That girl is attractive."
So I asked her out. We went on a couple of dates, and I just had fun with her. I enjoyed her. She made me laugh. I enjoyed our conversation. I enjoyed being with her. So I went and asked her dad. I bought a ring, got down on one knee, and I asked her to marry me. I didn't ask her to marry me so I could get a tax write-off. That's ridiculous. I didn't ask her to marry me so I could come home and have dinner every night. I didn't ask her to marry me so I could have babies.
I didn't marry her because I have a California king bed that's way too big for one person. I didn't marry her because I love to spend twice as much on every meal when we go out to eat. I married her because I love her. I married her because I choose her, because I enjoy her, I delight in her. I didn't marry her for the things I can get from her; I married her for her. I married her because I enjoy her.
What is the experience of enjoying God like? What does it practically look like to have satisfaction and fulfillment in God? It's the joy of knowing the person of God through Jesus Christ. It's not in what God can give you. It's not in what he's going to do for you. It's what he has already done for you. It's what Jesus has done on the cross. And it didn't stop there. He defeated sin and death. He is the only person who rose from the grave and never died again, and he did that so you could have life in him by having a relationship with the living God. In that is fullness of joy.
Psalm 16:11 says that very thing. "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." The enjoyment of God is the enjoyment of the person of Jesus. I already said it earlier, but our joy is not found in our circumstances; our joy is dependent on our Savior. Our joy is the pursuit not of our desires but the pursuit of the God of the universe, Jesus Christ, who loves you, who gave himself for you.
Do you want to know something that's crazy? He finds joy in you. He delights in you. The reason you can have joy is because he's the one who's pursuing you. When you choose Jesus, you have him. Jesus didn't just die so I could go to heaven, although I'm so thankful that I get to spend eternity with him. Jesus didn't just die so I don't have to go to hell, although I'm glad I don't have to spend forever eternally separated from him.
Jesus didn't just die so I don't have to have sin rule my life anymore, although I'm so grateful. Jesus died to give me God, the greatest thing I could ever imagine. He died so I could have God. The Spirit of God, if I believe in him, dwells in me. His power is fully present in me and for all who believe. That's crazy, and that is our source of joy.
So how do you have joy? It's through relationship with Jesus. When I say "choose Jesus," it's not like, "All right, Jesus. Step in, buddy. Come on. Let's take out dating. Jesus, you're in." I choose to walk in him. I choose to have relationship with him, to link my life to his life, to choose that he will be the source of my life, the source of my power, because I submit myself to him. John 15 says…
"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."
Jesus died so we could be reconciled to God, so we could be made in right relationship with him, to love him and be loved by him through relationship. Joy is a product of that relationship, not something we go searching for in our desires and our pleasures and whatever. It is a fruit of staying connected to Jesus. It is the produce. That's what fruit is in the grocery store…unless you all just do Walmart pickup and Amazon and you've never been to a grocery store. It is what comes from the vine. Joy is a product of a relationship with Jesus.
So, how do we have that relationship? We spend time in his Word. First, you have to believe. You have to believe he's the Savior of your life. You have to believe that what he did on the cross is enough for you, to satisfy your deepest needs. You don't have to chase it in this world, but you can choose him. Then you can daily sit in Scripture and be reminded of his promises. We just sang that song: to rest in his promises.
We don't read this because it's a playbook that's going to make me a better person. That's not Christianity. That's not why we love Jesus. I read this so I can be reminded of who God is and how he loves me. When I read this and I rest in his promises, I know I'm loved, I'm accepted, I'm forgiven, I'm wanted, I'm a part of something, I matter to God, I'm a child of God. In that, I find great joy, fullness of pleasure, pleasures forevermore.
We do that through his Word and through his people, community that's all around us, his church, because we forget. We have to remind each other, encourage each other. Then as I said earlier, his Spirit is within you. As we abide in him, as we remain in him and find joy in him, have relationship with him, then joy is the product.
So, how do I delight in the Lord? Let me just simplify it way more. How do I delight in the Lord? Practically, how does that look? How do I live it out? What's my next step instead of this ideological thing? One of the ways is just do what makes you love God more. Again, that may sound crazy, but some of y'all are trying to find joy in a relationship with Jesus by doing things you don't really enjoy.
We've kind of gone in these Christian circles of "Okay. I have to have a two-hour quiet time if I'm really going to be a religious person, and I have to memorize all of these texts, and I have to go through these things, and I have to make sure I don't miss church on Sundays." And you're miserable, because you don't enjoy it.
Now are those things bad? No. They're life-giving. We have to stay rooted in his Word and connected to him. We need to fellowship with other believers and worship with them, but don't just do what everyone else is doing. Do what you love. One of the ways to do the things that make you love God more is do what you love.
I'm not a guy who likes to sit for four hours in Scripture and read Leviticus. I'm like, "Ugh! Whatever." I love to be behind a boat on a wakeboard. When I get up at sunrise and I'm standing behind a boat and my legs are throbbing because I need to work out and it is just a glassy lake, that's worship for me. I am connected to the Father. I am close to him and worshiping in his creation, in the mountains, in a starry sky.
What is it that you love to do? Worship him in that. First Corinthians 10 says, "Whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do it for the glory of the Lord." Worship him. Joy in the Lord doesn't just come from godly things. Everything that brings us joy and delight and happiness is given by God, so enjoy him in the things you enjoy, and then do what you're good at. Duh. He made you that way.
Some of you, again, are trying to fit yourself in this box. You don't have to fit in a box. He made you uniquely. Maybe you love to do art. Maybe you love accounting. I don't know why, but God bless you. He has made you to love numbers. Then go do that. The other way the Scripture says this is to use your gifts. Maybe you love to encourage people or to serve people or to invite them into your home. Do those things for the glory of the Lord.
To wrap it all up, choose Jesus and choose joy. Joy isn't just this selfish pursuit that if I go and find what I want, then I'll have joy. It's in Jesus. The Clemson football coach, when they won the national championship last year, essentially said, "Well, I just try to have joy. Here's what joy is: Jesus first, others, and then you." (That spells joy, by the way.)
Our source of joy is Jesus, and from our joy in Jesus it then leads us to serve and love others, not just serve and love ourselves. Most of us flip it around and we have "yoj." No one wants "yoj." We want joy. It's not about you, and it's not about hanging with other people so you feel better about you, and then somewhere Jesus fits in. That's backward. How do you have joy? You choose Jesus and live in relationship with him.
Guys, there are some people in this room who are going through really hard circumstances. As we addressed earlier, circumstances are real. It isn't just this pithy thing to go, "Well, just get over it and choose joy." Those are really hard. One of the ways the Bible reminds God's people continually of who he is is when they gather together like this and rejoice.
They don't just stand there and go, "My life sucks. I hate it. Yeah, you tell me how much your life is terrible." They gather together and focus on God, and they rejoice in who he is and rejoice in his promises. What the word rejoice means is to take great pleasure and joy and delight in and take action. It's to worship. It's to sing whenever you're chained on the wall or your life is in shambles.
If you're here and that is your circumstance, then listen to the people of God sing over you the truth of who God is and how he loves you. We're going to sing Psalm 34. "Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is he who hides in him." It's not just this far-off idea. It is something that if you choose it, if you taste it, you will see the goodness of God lived out fully in your life. Let me pray, and then we'll sing.
Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus. Thank you that we don't have to walk this earth trying to figure it out. We don't have to walk this earth trying to make ourselves better or more lovely or more good. We can trust you. We can choose you. We can choose life in you, because when you were here you said, "I have come that you may have life and life abundantly, life to the full, life with fullness of joy."
Lord, we're easily distracted by all of the things in our lives, where our feelings take us, where we want to place our focus, and what we want to choose that isn't you. So, Lord, help us. Help us find eternal life in you. Help us choose to have life in you today and tomorrow, regardless of what's going on around us. Thank you, Lord, that you chose us, not for what we've done or what we could do but because you loved us. We are your joy, and because you chose us we can choose to find joy in you. Lord, we worship you. We sing that you are good, and we love you. It's in Jesus' name we pray, amen.