Cheer Up Sydney was the title of an article in the Sydney Morning Herald late last year. It suggested that Sydney-siders possess a legendary preference for complaint. Whether it's property prices, Saturday morning traffic or the cost of living, few things escape the gloomy gauze through which the city's citizens see the world. Cost of living, traffic and housing affordability were the most pressing concerns. All this at a time when Sydney, and NSW, have a strong economy and a popular government. What’s more, Sydney is regularly ranked among the 10 most liveable cities in the world by organisations like the Economist Intelligence Unit. Psychologist Suzy Green, CEO of the Sydney-based Positivity Institute, says Sydney-siders have plenty of reasons to cheer up. She says: “We live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and generally, people are kind and caring. We aren't living in a war-torn country.” So if we could minimise those negative circumstances and appreciate the good things like Sydney’s beaches, parks, culture, and employment opportunities, then we would be happier.
It is a little confusing that we live in one of the top ten liveable city’s in the world and yet are a pretty miserable bunch. More so if you live in Chatswood and its surrounds; we are living in one of the top 5 locations of this ‘top 10’ city. If circumstances are the issue then we should be happier than most? I’m pretty sure that no matter where we are on the joy scale, none of us would complain about getting a bit more joy in life. I can’t imagine anyone saying that I have just about as much joy as they can take right now! Our secular, post-Christian, culture places the maximising of joy and happiness in life as one of the greatest pursuits in life. How many times have you heard: do whatever makes you happy…the most important thing is that you are happy…he died doing what made him the happiest. Christianity is after the same thing; do what brings you the most amount of joy, only that Christianity would suggest that God is central to a life of joy.
Our current sermon series in Philippians - JOY FOR EVERYONE - connects so profoundly with the reason we exist as a church - know Jesus, treasure Jesus, represent Jesus for God’s glory and the joy of all people. But what is this joy that we are pursuing? A good starting point for us is a definition of joy. What does joy mean? What is it to be joyful? Here are a couple of options that I like for various reasons:
Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation - Kay Warren
Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world - John Piper
I like that both are God centred, and therefore, not circumstance reliant. Romans 14:17 tells us that JOY is a Christian virtue: For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. God places a high importance on the fruit of joy in our lives. Without joy our lives are not very pleasing to God. Without the fruit of joy in our lives, God doesn’t look so great! As we saw last Sunday in Philippians 2:14, Paul said, do everything without complaining (murmuring, grumbling). Grumbling robs the Christian, and the Christian community, of joy. Grumbling is an evidence of little faith in the gracious providence of God in all the affairs of our lives. Little faith is a dishonour to him. It belittles his sovereignty and wisdom and goodness. The only effective way to deal with a grumbling, joyless, heart is to look to our great God and his attitude towards us. When the circumstances are tempting us to joylessness and grumbling we must be reminded again of everything we have in God through Christ. The Bible reveals many promises of God’s good will towards his children. He is...
Do you believe these things? If our faith is strong in these promises, then we will not grumble. An ungrateful heart (which all are by nature) must be transformed by the renewal of the mind. This transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit as we fill our minds with the word of God. We tend to think that life comes in hills and valleys. In reality, it’s much more like train tracks. Every day of our life, wonderful, good things happen that bring pleasure and contentment and beauty to us. At the exact same time, painful things happen to us or those we love that disappoint us, hurt us, and fill us with sorrow. These two tracks — both joy and sorrow — run parallel to each other every single moment of our life. True joy, however, is not at the mercy of life’s circumstances working out how we think they ought to be. We rejoice when things are going well, but there is nothing especially Christian about rejoicing when things are going well. Doesn’t everyone do that? What is extraordinary about Paul, as we’ve seen in Philippians, is how unbelievably stable his joy was when things weren’t going well. For example: I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds. (2 Corinthians 7:4). Or Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you (Colossians 1:24). There is no doubt that the Apostle Paul was an extraordinary man. He knew the ups and downs of life. I suspect he knew how to rejoice when things went well, but he also knew how to rejoice when it was really tough. He wrote these words while rotting in a first century prison: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4). He is not suggesting that we rejoice but commanding it. Rejoicing - or joy - is not a feeling because you can’t command a feeling, but you can command an attitude. Joy is what God expects of those who follow Christ. Where does this come from? Did Paul have an unusually strong constitution? No! First of all it was taught by Jesus: Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. (Luke 6:22-23). Second, it comes from the Holy Spirit, not our own efforts or imagination or family upbringing. The fruit of the Spirit is ... joy (Galatians 5:22). Third, it comes from belonging to the kingdom of God. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). Fourth, it comes through faith - from believing God. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him (Romans 15:13). Fifth, it comes from seeing and knowing Jesus as Lord. Rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4). Sixth, it comes from fellow believers who work hard to help us focus on these sources of joy: we work with you for your joy (2 Corinthians 1:24). Seventh, it comes from the transforming effect of hard times. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4).
I’m not enough like Paul, but I’m wanting to be. In fact, he calls me to be. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). In facing circumstances with joy - circumstances that would have tempted him to grumble - Paul was like his Lord. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2). Paul’s eyes were fixed on Jesus. He followed Jesus. He calls us to follow for joy. For most of us this is a call to filling our heads and hearts with the word of God, and earnest prayer. After all, the life of boundless joy is a supernatural life gifted to us by God. Needing to learn Paul-type, Christ-centred, boundless joy,
Steve Jeffrey - Senior Minister
Steve Jeffrey - Senior Minister