On Sunday we talked about how one of the hallmarks of a genuine revival among God’s people is deep contrition – a profound awareness of the ugliness of our sin and a strong desire to confess, repent and be cleansed from our unrighteousness.
There is another, almost paradoxical hallmark of revival in people’s lives. It’s a deep, strong joy that fills the soul of the revived man or woman.
Most of us think that joy is an emotion. The Bible says that joy is a way of thinking and living that is seen in the lives of those who are filled with the Spirit.
But it’s more than that. We are told in scripture that we are to choose joy. To be joyful people. Joy is not an option for Christians. It’s a part of our identity as children of God.
The former Chaplain of the Senate and Pastor at Hollywood Presbyterian Church, Dr. Lloyd John Ogilvie said that “Joy is the missing ingredient in contemporary Christianity.
And Sherwood Wirt has said “Jesus came bringing a message of joy to the world, and where has it gone? When will all the churches begin smiling and singing with fervor and loving each other, and otherwise behaving so that the world learns what it really means to know Jesus Christ?”
Theologian Karl Barth said that rejoicing in this life is a “defiant nevertheless.” It’s a bold statement that we will choose to rejoice in the face of the broken world in which we live.
One pastor reflected on God’s call Psalm 100 to serve the Lord with gladness, and he confessed, “My challenge each day is not so much working hard, but cheerfully working hard. If I understand Scripture accurately, I will not glorify God simply by working hard. To truly bring Him honor, I must labor with a cheerful spirit. Therefore, I must not only serve my family each day, but I must serve them with joy. I must not only prepare a sermon, I must do it cheerfully. I must not only labor faithfully in the church, I must do so happily. Merely working hard is not sufficient. It must be done with gladness.”
Some of you may be a little put off by the idea that we are commanded to rejoice and to be joyful. You think to yourself “I can’t just will myself to be joyful. I can’t just turn on the joy switch in my life.”
And there are some who battle more than others with depression, discouragement and melancholy. Some of you may live under a heavy cloud of darkness that dominates your life.
Mike Mason is an author who lives in Canada. He has written a number of books, including a classic book on marriage called The Mystery of Marriage.
In 2006, more than 20 years after he wrote the Mystery of Marriage, Mason wrote a book called Champaign for the Soul – Celebrating God’s Gift of Joy.
Mason says he isn’t a happy person by nature. He describes himself as a recovering alcoholic who has lived most of his life in a state of anxious, borderline depression. He says he began to realize that his lingering, low-grade melancholy was keeping him from experiencing God’s love.
So, Mason embarked on a 90 day experiment to see if he could” break my addiction to the cheap wine of melancholy… [and] seek champagne for the soul.”
In his book, he has 90 essays from his 90 days of laboring to capture and pursue joy in his life.
And perhaps the biggest conclusion he came to is that joy is something you have to fight for. You have to struggle to embrace joy.
And where do you go to find it?
You rejoice in the Lord.
You find joy in what God has already done in your life – the joy of your salvation.
You find joy in what God is doing in your life right now – the gifts, the blessings, the transformation that is going on in your soul.
You find joy in what God has promised for your future.
If you struggle finding joy in life, there are three passages of scripture I’d recommend you memorize. The first is from Psalm 16:
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 second is Psalm 42, where a depressed David models how he fought for joy in his life. Vs. 5:
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
And finally, memorize last three verses in the book of Habakkuk.
 Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
 yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
 GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.
When the Bible calls us to rejoice in the Lord, it isn’t calling us to pretend that life isn’t hard or that we aren’t really discouraged or depressed.
Remember where the Apostle Paul was when he wrote “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.” In prison. Facing a possible death sentence. In that setting, he told the Philippians to fight for joy.
Think today about all that God has done in your life, all that He is at work doing in your life today, and all that He has promised is ahead for you.
Let that data overwhelm your circumstances and your emotions.
A couple of dates for your calendar. The first is our annual church business meeting. Here are the details.
And don’t forget, that morning we have some special friends coming to lead the music portion of our worship service. We’ll be welcoming the Spencer Family from Kansas to Redeemer. You can learn more about them here.
And men, make sure you block out Friday and Saturday, April 20 – 21. We’ll be heading up to the Ozark Conference Center for a one night men’s retreat. Our special guest speaker this year is Jim Davis, a pastor friend from Oxford MS. More details soon.
What role does prayer play in a revival? That’s our topic this Sunday.
See you in church!
Soli Deo Gloria!