Recovering Stolen Joy

Finding True Joy in Christ Even in Life's Darkest Moments

Hunter Gray
Dec 17, 2023    47m
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Are you feeling weighed down by anxiety, grief, or other difficulties in life? Do you long to experience deep and lasting joy, despite the challenges you face? This inspirational message explores how to find true joy in Christ, even in life's darkest moments. Learn how Christ's sacrificial love provides a wellspring of joy that circumstances can't take away. Be encouraged to turn to Jesus, abide in his peace, and let his strength and joy carry you through. Discover how obedience and trust in Christ allow us to fully experience the freedom and abundant life he offers. Video recorded at Upland, California.

Transcription
messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Intro: [00:00:00] Hey there. Thanks so much for checking out one of our messages here at Life Bible Fellowship Church. And we know there are two great ways you can connect with us. You can visit our website at LBF.church to learn more about all of our ministries and what we believe. And also, you can subscribe to us on YouTube to make sure that you don't miss one of our future videos.

Steve: [00:00:19] Good morning church family. Good morning, my name is Steve, I've helped with life groups and the men's study. Our verses today are John 16:16 through 22, “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.” 17 Then some of His disciples said among themselves, “What is this that He says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?” 18 They said therefore, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is saying.” 19 Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, “Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the suffering, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you." This is God's word.

Hunter Gray: [00:02:08] Well, good morning, beloved church. It's a privilege to be here with you. And as we begin, I want to tell you a story, it's a story that I feel, especially maybe I could call myself an expert in, I think. All right, this is a story that has to do with childbirth. Right? See, the women in the first service were like, you had us at the first half, so bear with me here. Yeah, I feel uniquely qualified to speak on this subject because I have recently brought a child into this world, right? All right, they know where this is going. So what I can tell you from my experience is that childbirth is not for the faint of heart. We understand this, right? See, surely the Lord must have steeled my resolve as I would face many trials and tribulations, sacrifices, and suffering to bring Nehemiah into this world. You see my long-suffering, it would begin at the moment we arrived to the delivery room. Because if you could believe it, they didn't offer me a bed, right? My wife got a bed, but I had nowhere to lay my head, and so I was forced to make do with a couch in the corner as the base of operations for the next two days. See, fortunate for me, though, I thought ahead, I brought some extra blankets and pillows. And otherwise, can you imagine how much discomfort I would feel, how uncomfortable I would be? I mean, I can't imagine, right? But see, that was just the beginning, because I was also going to be forced to live off the snacks that I had brought for myself. See, for some strange reason, all the food deliveries from the hospital staff, well, they prioritized my wife, and sadly, I just wasn't provided for. See, my suffering would continue, and I would only have my gummy bears and donuts to comfort me. You see, now that I think about it, those two days, they were really all about my wife, she got the bed, she got the food, the doctors, the nurses, all their attention was on her, right? I wonder why that is. See, woe is me, childbirth is hard for the man, isn't it? Well, of course, we know why all the attention was on the mother, right? We know that my inconveniences paled in comparison to the challenges my wife would endure to bring our son into this world. You see, in all honesty, the only true trial that I had, the only true pain that I had, was what I felt when I watched my wife suffer for the sake of our child, knowing I could do very little to alleviate that suffering. You see, childbirth is a painful experience, especially for the mother. We know this, right? Nine months of change, of discomfort, fear, anxiety, of mood swings, and stress, and then comes the pain of the actual delivery. And this is something I will never pretend to truly understand.

Hunter Gray: [00:05:26] And so the question is raised, why would we do this? Why would we subject ourselves to this level of pain? Now some women may ask that very question aloud during the throes of delivery. Other women, they might be less inquisitive in nature and maybe more accusatory as they look to their husband and they say, you did this to me, right? But why do we do it, right? I think we all know, right? We do it for this reason right here, don't we? See, in this picture, do you see any pain? No, what do you see? You see joy, you see this unspeakable infectious joy because all the pain, all the sorrow, all the struggle somehow, miraculously just transforms into what can only be described as just pure joy. So this is perhaps the most beautiful I've ever seen my wife to be, joyfully holding our precious son after she's endured all that she did to bring him to us. And in the moments that followed the birth of my son, my wife, she was no longer fixated on the pain, on that excruciating pain, if I'll tell you, that she was experiencing only seconds earlier. See, in this moment when our child is brought before our eyes, when it's laid into our arms, all that we saw was beauty, and all that we experienced was joy. And this is especially true after the doctors told me that, hey, babies have cone heads, that's normal, they will correct over time. As soon as that was there, I was cleared for all joy. Right? See, it's hard to imagine the joy that's greater than a child entering into this world, right? You see this moment, it kind of nears the top, it might be at the top of the list, right, of the most joyful experiences I will ever know, and my wife would agree. And furthermore, she would tell us that all the trials and suffering that she endured to get to this moment, to receive this gift, it was all worth it. The joy surpassed the pain to such a large degree that the pain is hardly worth mentioning.

Hunter Gray: [00:07:38] See, it's now one of the greatest joys of my life to be a father, and Nehemiah, he brings me immeasurable joy. However, as wonderful as he is, there is a joy that I know that surpasses that of fatherhood, there is a joy that is greater. And I know this, and it's crucial that I know this, it's also crucial that you know it as well. See, there is a joy that I've experienced a moment, a relationship, if you will, that has surpassed all others in establishing joy into my soul. And this is a joy that's greater because it's a joy that's going to outlast all others, it's a joy that I have found that I know can never be taken from me, this is the joy in which I draw my strength. And so, as much as I enjoy the blessings of my life like my son, my wife, my family, this work that I get to do, even my gigantic fluffy corgi, right? I recognize that these gifts, as precious as they are, they're only temporary. You see, you and I, we have all experienced loss in some way, have we not? I think we all could share a time when something or someone in our life that brought us great joy was taken from us. See, if we're all being honest, we're going to understand and acknowledge that the things of this world, no matter how great they are, they are temporary. See, jobs are going to come and go, our belongings will decay, our health is going to decline, nations are even going to fall, and our loved ones, they will pass away.

Hunter Gray: [00:09:14] See, some of you might be right in the midst of these kinds of challenges this morning. And if our joy, if it rests on worldly things, then unfortunately what we are doing is we're building a castle in the sand and the waves are coming, and that castle is not going to stand. And so because of this, there really is only one true and lasting place where joy can reside, there's one source of joy that surpasses all other blessings, one place that we can find, joy that can never be taken away. And so it's this joy that we're speaking of, this is the one that's going to sustain us, to encourage us for all of eternity. And let me give you what that joy is, if you haven't picked up on it already, it's Jesus, right? When I met Jesus, this is that everlasting joy. It's when he forgave me of my sins and invited me into his family, this relationship with Jesus, this is joy fulfilled, this is joy complete, this is joy everlasting. And this is what I want us to focus on this morning, because this is a joy that the world does not give to us, and therefore this is a joy that the world cannot take away.

Hunter Gray: [00:10:32] And so in our passage this morning, we're going to see that Jesus will liken his death and resurrection to that of the anguish and the subsequent joy of a woman giving birth to a child. You see, in Jesus's wisdom, he chose to refer to this experience as the most suitable object lesson that we have to understand both the anguish of his sacrifice and the joy of his return. And so, as we dive into our passage this morning, I want us to remember that object lessons can only take us so far, because this is a story about the greatest love that we will ever know being lost, but then returned and returned in such a glorious fashion that our joy is going to be made forever complete in him. And so even the joy of welcoming your child into the world is but a shadow of the joy that we have in Jesus. I want to ask you this morning, do you see Jesus this way? Is he the source of your joy this morning? Is he the solid rock in which you stand? If not, then my prayer for you today is that this will be a day of perspective change for you, because the joy that he offers is a joy that cannot be taken away. So I do not want us to forget our first love this morning. I want us to see who he is and remember that this is the Savior of the world, who takes away our sin and makes us children of God. You see, in this, we can always rejoice.

Hunter Gray: [00:12:04] So let's read again our passage this morning, John 16 verses 16 through 22, and let's see how Jesus begins preparing his disciples for this coming reality that they are going to endure their Lord, lost, but then returned in order that their joy may be made complete. So starting in verse 16, it says this, "In a little while you will see Me no longer, and again a little while you will see Me. So some of his disciples said to one another, what is this that he says to us, a little while, and you will not see Me, and again in a little while you will see Me, and because I'm going to the Father?" And so they were saying, what does this mean by a little while, we do not know what he's talking about. "And Jesus knew they wanted to ask him, and so he said to them, is this what you're asking yourselves, what I meant by saying a little while and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me. Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. See, when a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come. But when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for the joy that a human being has been born into the world. And so also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you." No one will take your joy from you. I want you to hold on to that this morning more than anything else.

Hunter Gray: [00:13:44] You see, if you know your Gospels well, you're going to know that Jesus has his own enigmatic way of speaking about these complex spiritual realities. It's incredibly profound, but it often leaves us listening and confused and seeking more, we want more clarification sometimes. And we can see that here, as the disciples are actually confused at his words that are describing these common realities that they are about to face. And so they'll begin discussing among themselves Jesus's words captured in verse 16, A little while you will see me no longer, and again in a little while, you will see me. You see what Jesus knows is that his hour draws near. See the time for him to accomplish his mission is close at hand; and Jesus knows what his disciples do not, that sorrow and suffering, well, they're on their way. And so the task that's set before Jesus, the reason that he has come to dwell among us as our Immanuel, well, it's going to require suffering to accomplish.

Hunter Gray: [00:14:45] And just as in the heart of a woman during childbirth, there is also anguish in the heart of Christ as his hour approaches, and we can see this anguish very clearly in the Garden of Gethsemane. We see on this very night Jesus is going to be taken into custody, but before he does, he goes to the garden to pray, and he prays this honest and vulnerable prayer to the Father, and he's so concerned about what he's going to endure that drops of blood will be replacing the sweat on his brow as he prays. But just as in childbirth, there's also a joy set before Jesus. And this joy is giving him the strength that he needs to endure what will come next, because he's going to take upon himself the sins of the world upon this cross that he does not need to take but does so freely on our behalf. And now the disciples too, they also are going to experience immense trial and loss, aren't they? But they don't yet understand what Jesus does. They are confused by his statements, and as they talk amongst themselves, trying to figure out why their Lord is going to be taken from them, they just simply don't understand. You see, for them, he is their Messiah, and they are following him for a reason. He's meant to be their king. He's meant to right the wrongs of Israel and to restore glory to their nation. Right? How could he leave them now? Their work is not yet accomplished. And if he was going to leave now, why would he come back, it just doesn't make sense. So I would imagine that anxiety is beginning to grow within the hearts of the disciples, as they ponder Jesus's words. You see, they have given up their former lives to pursue Jesus with a singular focus, and now he simply says, I'm going to leave you, and they cannot yet understand these spiritual realities that the Lord prepares for.

Hunter Gray: [00:16:43] See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, well, he's about to be offered up for sacrifice, and the man of sorrows is soon to be pierced for our transgressions. And these figures of speech that are used to describe Jesus, they're not yet clear to the disciples, and they won't be until his task is complete. See, they cannot understand that the sorrow that Jesus is going to face is necessary, and that through it lies a joy that can never be taken away. They're not going to understand until they are shown. But Jesus says that day, the day they are shown there will be rejoicing.

Hunter Gray: [00:17:22] Now, what I want you to see this morning is that this joy that we are speaking of, this is not based on the avoidance of hardship, this is not simply good times and pleasant experiences. it's a deeper joy than that, it's more fulfilling, and it's longer lasting. See, Jesus speaks of a joy that requires suffering to obtain, and he never suggests in his teachings to us that the goal for the Christian is to simply remove all of their hardships. Remember, as Jesus is going to warn us at the end of this very chapter, that in this world you will have trouble. But he also says to take heart, because I have overcome the world. So Jesus doesn't promise us that he will remove every burden that we face, but what he does promise is the suffering that we experience in this life, well, that's going to be temporary. And the joy that he offers, get this, that's going to be eternal. You see, the world does not give us this joy, and so the world cannot take it away.

Hunter Gray: [00:18:28] See you and I, we can find joy in many things that this world has to offer, can we not? But unfortunately for us, that joy is fleeting, it only lasts as long as the good experience lasts. And right now, I could share some lighthearted and fun examples here to get a laugh or two, but I don't think that's what we need this morning. See, we need to know where our joy is sourced at our worst. See, for some of you this morning, you may not be feeling so jolly this Christmas season, and Christmas may actually be a sore spot for you rather than a time of rejoicing. See, some of us, we've lost loved ones, we've lost our jobs, and some of us really aren't all that happy about how our lives are progressing. And so this advent season, I want you to learn that you can have joy in any and all circumstances. But in order to do that, you have to know where that joy comes from. There is a joy that the world cannot take, and this joy comes from Jesus.

Hunter Gray: [00:19:29] You see, I love my Father, his name is Danny. We'll put him on the screen here in a minute. I looked up to him greatly, and I was filled with joy, planning for him to come and visit me in Japan. See, I was proud of the ministry that I was doing there, I was doing something important, and I believed my dad would be proud of me. I believe that this visit that we were planning, it would deepen our bond together. It had been many years since he and I had some meaningful time together, and I was excited to show him my life as really a functioning adult in an important role. I think we all get that; we want our dads to see us that way, right? See, this idea brought me great joy. And yet one morning, that joy that I had, it was going to be turned into sorrow, when I received a phone call. My father, he was in an accident, and he's no longer with us. This joy that I'm speaking of, it left that day; and this joy, it didn't return, it could not return because what was bringing me that joy was no longer here. But praise God this isn't the end of this story. See, despite the reality that my father has died, and the joy that I had about being with him is no longer available to me, I do still possess a joy surrounding him that is not fleeting, that will not perish, that will always remain. And it's this right here, if you'll show this video.

Speaker5: [00:21:02] Danny, have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord? Yes. And based upon that confession of faith and your obedience to his command, my brother, I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Hunter Gray: [00:21:24] You see, my father gave his life to Christ, my father was baptized in his name, my father knows Jesus. And what that means for me is that death is not the end, right? Death is not the end for my dad, it's not the end for our relationship, and in that, I can rejoice. And so, speaking the words of Paul here, this is what I'm saying, "What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever. 51But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. 53For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. 54Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless."

Hunter Gray: [00:21:24] And so, Christians, this is where our joy resides. You see, this joy of the Lord is secured for us by the work of Christ. This is a joy, it's not based on our circumstances, it's not based on our relationships with our families and friends or with our jobs. Right? This is a joy that's going to outlast all of that, because it comes from a source that's greater than all of that. See, this is a joy that springs forth from an eternal well, a well that will never dry up and cannot be taken away. So do you lack joy in your life today? Well, if that is you, then I would tell you that you've lost the correct perspective because the joy of Christ is a joy that's not based on positive or happy circumstances, it's deeper than this, it's more satisfying than this. See, this is a joy that's born from an eternal, imperishable hope that Jesus Christ, our Emmanuel, that he would humble himself, bearing the limitations of the human body. He would live with us, he would love us, and he would give his life for us so that we might become the righteousness of God.

Hunter Gray: [00:24:13] You see this joy, it's made complete in his resurrection. You see, when Jesus, when he walked out of that grave, he declared unequivocally that death is not the end. And in so doing, he gave us every reason that we need for eternal and imperishable joy. See, we rejoice in our sufferings because we have a God that is greater than them. See, we have a God that is greater than sin and sickness and sadness and even Satan, right? Our God will have the final victory. And this is important, Jesus is one and we belong to him. I want you to let that truth sink in, because we don't need to forget this truth when we begin to feel the darkness start to surround us. See Jesus, he is the great light of this world, and what happens to darkness when light is exposing it? Right, it flees. Darkness can't stay within the light. So some of us might need encouragement this morning to simply step back into this great light and abide in it, to rest in it, to dwell in it.

Hunter Gray: [00:25:19] You know, in Psalms 119 and 105, it reminds us that the word of the Lord is a lamp unto our feet. And so I want us to take a moment to shine some of his light on some of the joy stealers of our lives and remind ourselves of God's promises in the midst of them. See, for some of us, this Christmas season might be especially painful because we are feeling financially vulnerable, and Christmas reminds us of all the things we lack, not all the things we get, right? This is a time when we might feel like, Lord, I don't have enough. And when we're feeling financially vulnerable, we need to remember Matthew chapter 6, verses 31 and 32 when it says, "To seek first the kingdom of God, and all other things will be added to you." The Lord knows your needs, he has a priority in mind for you to focus on. And in Philippians 4:19, if we couple that with this verse, it says this, "My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus." So we can rejoice even when we feel like we are in lack because we know we have a God that provides.

Hunter Gray: [00:26:28] Now, we might be feeling the pressures of legalism this morning, and our guilt and our shame begin to rob us of the joy that we have in Christ. And if that is you, I want you to remember Romans 8:1-2, it reminds us that "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." Some of us might be in the midst of feelings of betrayal and rejection. And the Lord would tell us in John 6:37, he would tell us this, that "All that the Father gives to me, whoever comes to me, I will never cast out." No matter what a man or a woman does to you in this life, take heart and rejoice because you have the God of the universe saying, I love you, and you're mine, and I will never leave you or forsake you, and in that we can rejoice.

Hunter Gray: [00:27:25] Some of us today are sick, some of us have serious illnesses that we're combating, and in our sickness, we can still rejoice. Why? Because Psalms 73:26 would say this to us, "Even though my flesh and my heart may fail, God is my strength and my portion forever." Even though my flesh may fail, God is my strength, I have a reason to hope, a reason to find joy in my sickness.

Hunter Gray: [00:27:53] Now, this is an interesting one, we may experience persecution for our faith sometimes, and this is what the Lord would tell us. The Lord would tell us this, you are in a privileged position when you face trial and persecution for your faith. Do you think of it that way? See, Matthew 5:11-12 would say this, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven." See, for many of us, including myself, at times we hold the wrong perspective about the idea of persecution that's endured because of our faith, somehow, we feel like we must avoid this because we're afraid it will steal our joy. The scriptures would actually teach us differently. See, with the right perspective, we may find that persecution can actually ignite our joy in many profound ways.

Hunter Gray: [00:28:52] I'll give you an illustration of this. A dear friend of mine, he spent several years serving as an importer, exporter, or businessman type guy in the Middle East, and his work would allow him access to close countries and secure places watched closely by certain governments. Well, this is important, my friend, he said, I'm a Christian first, a businessman second. And so for the joy set before him, he saw some kingdom opportunity in his role, and so he decided to take some risks. You see, during his visits, he would slowly develop trust within the underground church network in these places. And then he would use his importer-exporter business to smuggle Bibles into these restricted areas, and he would distribute these Bibles under the cover of night with great secrecy. You see, if he was caught, he would lose his job and he would lose access to these countries for life. However, it was even more risky for those who helped him, for the risks taken for the locals were great because if they were caught, they would be imprisoned or worse. You see, one time he got the opportunity to visit a prison that was housing some Christian pastors who were arrested for their faith, and he was anxious to meet them, he was hoping that he could in some way encourage them. And so as he enters into this jail, he was taken to an area in which they housed some of these Christians, and he heard something surprising to him, he heard singing. And so caught off guard, he asked his translator, who is singing and what are they singing about in such a depressing environment? Well, the translator said, oh, these are the Christians, they are always singing about their God in here. Remarkable, he thought, this is a place meant for suffering, and it is filled with songs of praise to our Lord Jesus Christ. Well, he was able to speak with a couple of the pastors who were in that jail. He asked them what they were doing, and they said, oh, we are worshiping our Lord. And so he said that, oh, I'm so sorry that you've been imprisoned for your faith. And he asked them, well, when and if he might be released, is it possible? And this is what they said, this is how they reply. They said we don't want to leave because we are in the one place that we can worship our Lord freely. We are free here, we're more free here than we are outside. We can be more open with our faith here, it's not like they can do much more to us, right, we're already in jail. And so we are free to worship here, and for that reason, we are content to stay. You see, these men, they were meant to suffer in prison for their faith in Jesus, they're marked with a surprising joy, a joy that was born out of that very faith. See they were more content in prison than out of it because they were more free to express their faith in their Lord. Well, that is enlightening, isn't it? That is perspective-changing, isn't it? See, it was not my friend who needed to encourage these men, in fact, he actually probably came away more encouraged and blessed than the other way around. See he left that jail with a new perspective about what's most precious in life, he learned how he could have joy in any and all circumstances. See when Jesus is a source of our joy, that is a joy that the world cannot take away.

Hunter Gray: [00:32:29] And so what I learned in Scripture, and from my own experience, is that if we're unable to find joy in our lives, then what's happened is that we've taken our eyes off Jesus. We've forgotten who he is and what he's done for us. We've forgotten his promises, and we've stopped being obedient to his commands. I want you to hear this, joy resides in us as we abide in him. Joy resides in us as we abide in him. And so are you burdened by your guilt and shame? This is what Jesus would say, he would say, you are forgiven, you are set free. Are you poor in this life? This is what Jesus will say, so take heart, this world is not your home. If you have Jesus, you are rich in spirit. You see, you and I, we're going to mourn, there are losses in this life, but we don't mourn like the world mourns, not without hope, not without joy, because Jesus has won, and we belong to him. And in that, we always have a reason to rejoice.

Hunter Gray: [00:33:33] I want to use one more metaphor, and it's actually found in John 15, describing the joy that the Lord gives. In its essence, this is what John 15 says, it says joy is a fruit that's produced in us through abiding in Jesus. If we were to look in John 15, what we're going to see is Jesus is described as a vine and we as his believers, we are described as a branch that becomes grafted into that vine. Now, the branch that is connected to the life-giving vine it's going to produce fruit. Abide in me, this is what Jesus will say, and he says, you will bear fruit. Now what kind of fruit, you may wonder. Have you ever heard of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5? There's a song about it, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Listen, thank you, thank you.

Hunter Gray: [00:34:27] These are not simply virtues to be better at, I want you to hear that, this is not simply pull up your bootstraps and do more of these things. Right? What this really more accurately is, is fruit that is naturally produced in our life as we abide in the vine, right? We are producing the fruit of the character of Christ as we abide in him. And so in John 15:14, if you'll remember this, "Abide in me and I in you." This is our path to joy. Are you abiding in Christ? You may even wonder, like, what does that mean? How do I do that? Well, let me make it more simple for you, abiding is about believing. Our act of abiding is about receiving, believing, and trusting all that Jesus has to give. In John 1:12 it says, "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." So, abiding, in its essence, it's about welcoming Christ into our souls, trusting him to be who he claims to be, and to do what he says he will do. And so as we hear and place our trust in the words of Christ, we will grow to love him, and to love Jesus means to obey his words. And so we abide in Christ when we're obedient to his commands because being obedient to his commands is one of the primary ways in which we show we love him. It's also one of the primary practical ways we are going to experience the joy of the Lord.

Hunter Gray: [00:36:08] So let me show you the path to joy in Scripture as I have experienced it. It starts here, "I love Jesus because he first loved me." this is First John 4:19. And so, because I love him, I desire to obey him, that's John 14:15, and so this obedience that I practice, it leads me to true freedom. It's a freedom to take part in and experience the abundant life that Christ has come to give us, we'll see that in John 8:31 through 36. And this freedom of Christ, what does it do? It produces great joy in me, you see that in James 1:25. And so for all of us this morning, just as it was for the disciples, joy starts with Jesus. I want you to hear that.

Hunter Gray: [00:36:55] Now I've got a little illustration that might help us with this, it's a little flawed, don't get me wrong, but let me introduce you to my Corgi, Winston. This is Winston, I adopted him, I am both his father and his master, and it's my job to care for him now. He was sick when I adopted him and he would likely have been put down, but we decided to say no, he's ours for however long we can have him, and we chose to try to restore him to health. Now, because of all this great care and love that we gave to Winston, he grew up to love and trust me, as much as a dog is able to do that, right? And so I teach him many things, and as he learns to obey, this is what happens, he continues to be granted more and more freedom. For instance, because he has learned to be gentle and to never bite, he gets access to children. He loves to play with children, it brings him great joy, right? Because he will behave when he's riding in cars or even backpacks, he gets to do a lot of interesting things, he gets to travel, he gets to hike, he gets to ride motorcycles, and even jet skis. This dog has lived a life beyond his imagination, right? He loves to take walks with me, I hope you see where this is going, his favorite thing to do is to walk with his father in such a way that he's free to run. Because he will obey me when I call, and because he genuinely just wants to be near me when we walk. I can, for the most part, walk with him off-leash and this brings him great joy. His tiny little legs are just going as fast as they can, but in a radius that's never too far away from me. See, when given the freedom to run, he chooses to be close to his master because I am the source of what brings him the most joy. The key here is that he desires to be near his father and master, he has learned that I bring him freedom, and the freedom that I bring him brings him joy, that I am for his good, and his life is enriched by obeying my commands. And so he gets the freedom to do more and enjoy more than he ever thought possible, he ever could imagine because he obeys, really, because he obeys and because he trusts.

Hunter Gray: [00:39:12] You see, obedience is required for us to fully experience all the Lord wishes to share with us. Obedience is a great practical step in abiding this morning. Because if you were to come to me and say, Hunter, I'm sad, I'm depressed, I'm just not experiencing joy in my life. This is what my response would be to you, I would first lovingly ask you to consider where you might be in sin, and I would encourage you to put that sin off and repent. Because no matter how enticing that sin may be for you, it's always going to end up stealing your joy. And then secondly, I would tell you, it's not simply just that we put off sin, but we also need to think about putting on righteousness. If you want to have joy in your life, pursue the things that bring us this joy, right? Put on righteousness. Do you want joy? Do what the Lord asks of you, abide by obedience, right? Share the gospel with your sphere of influence, pray to the Father, worship, serve his people, remember the good things God has already blessed you with, and thank him for those, right? Being obedient to the Lord is a joy-producing activity. And so I want to ask you, where is God asking you to be more obedient in your life? See, that's a good place to start. Ask him that question. You see the Lord, he's good to his people, and there is an abundant life that he offers, and he wants you to experience, and we experience that life when we abide in its source. And so, simply put, joy starts with Jesus, and he has given us every reason we need to trust him when he asks us to obey his commands. So briefly, let's consider what he has done for you as a reason both to rejoice and abide.

Hunter Gray: [00:41:12] In Isaiah 53, it's going to lay out in more detail the suffering that Jesus is preparing his disciples for this morning. And so in verse 3, it says this, that Jesus, "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all." See, Jesus, he did this for you, and he did this for me. See, on the cross, Jesus is going to take the greatest sorrow the world will ever know, and he's going to turn it into the greatest joy. Three days later, Jesus is going to give us his everlasting reason to rejoice. See, he has proven his great love for you. And so I ask you, is this not someone worthy of following? Do you want this joy that is everlasting, a joy that's greater than the circumstances you find yourself in? Because this is going to be found in Jesus. Are you searching for it somewhere else? See, this is a joy like childbirth, it's a joy that's so profound, so life-changingly good that even the suffering that we face in this world is going to be seen as something light and momentary in comparison, it is hardly worth mentioning compared to the joy we've gotten to experience in our God.

Hunter Gray: [00:43:01] See the disciples, they're going to recognize that this joy is found in Jesus, and it's going to motivate them towards incredible acts of faith. They're going to find a joy that can never be taken away, and what are they going to do with it? Well, they're going to go share it with the world, and we're going to find joy when we choose to do the same. And so abide in mem Jesus says this, "Abide in me, and you will bear fruit." See, we abide by believing and by obeying Christ.

Hunter Gray: [00:43:33] I like what this person named Henry Jackson once wrote about the joy of the Lord. He says this, "The joy of the Lord, it is the gladness of heart that comes from knowing God, abiding in Christ, and being filled with the Holy Spirit. And so therefore let us know him in every aspect, in our decision-making, our actions, and behaviors, and communicate with him daily. He is a foundation of our life." So I want that to be our application this morning, Joy starts with Jesus. And so I ask you, do you know him? In John 1:12, remember it says "That all who will receive him, who believe in his name, what does he do? He gives us the right to become children of God." It starts there. But for those of us who do know him, who believe in his name, let our focus be that we will abide in him. Abide by believing first and foremost, but then abide by obeying, and joy is going to be the fruit born from this. So Jesus offers us this infinite, imperishable joy. It's given to us because of his life and his work, and so where are you searching for it? Is it in Jesus or is it in this world? Jesus offers a joy that can never be taken away.

Hunter Gray: [00:44:55] Now, as we close this morning, I'll end with this. Our son, his name is Nehemiah. We named him Nehemiah largely because of Nehemiah 8:10, where it describes the joy of the Lord being our strength. See, his name is actually a prayer over his life. See, we are constantly praying that the Lord would be his joy and his strength forever. It's also a constant reminder for Kelsey and me to do the same, and to feel the same. Right?

Hunter Gray: [00:45:25] And so I think it's fitting that we pray that prayer together now as we close. So if you will pray with me, we'll pray a combination of Nehemiah and the Psalms that I pray over him often. And this is what it says, "Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." Satisfy us with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy all of our days. In all things, and in all ways, Lord, let us remember your joy, and let that be our strength. In Jesus name, Amen.

Hunter Gray: [00:46:07] Alright, beloved church, we're going to begin a time of communion now, a time to reflect on what Jesus has done that should bring us joy. And at this time, the ushers can begin preparing the elements, and the worship team can come forward and they will lead us through this time of communion, as we reflect on the goodness of God and the joy that Jesus has won on our behalf. And so, during this time, let me give you one final thought to think through, and it's found here in Hebrews 2, "Look to Jesus, the founder, and perfecter of our faith. Who for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and now is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. You see the sorrow the disciples felt at the loss of their Lord, the anguish that Jesus endured on the cross, these were turned into everlasting joy for us all, as we recognize that the resurrected Lord has defeated sin and death on our behalf. And so let that thought go with you as we take communion this morning.



Recorded in Upland, California.
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Life Bible Fellowship Church
2426 N Euclid Ave
Upland, California 91786
(909) 981-4848