Study # 6
Thesis: Enduring joy requires the enduring provision of a singleness of focus in the mind/heart complex.
Introduction: [Read Luke 1:13-14.] It's certainly one thing to read about a promise of joy in the Bible and altogether another thing to actually experience the fulfillment of that promise in one's life. The main question before us this morning has to do with this: why did Luke tell Theophilus about Zacharias' coming joy? What is the impact that comes from reading about another's joy? What do you suppose would have been Zacharias' emotional response if the angel had told him that, though he was going to have a long-desired son, that son's destiny was to be thrown into prison guiltless and then have his head cut off because some extremely wayward queen got mad at him? Tied to these questions is this one: why is it that the list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 has joy as the second characteristic in the list? Doesn't God know that we live in a cruel and grief-filled world where it doesn't matter what you live like, you will get hammered? If you live godlessly, you will be clobbered by the repercussions of your behavior as the law of the harvest kicks in and by the reactions of those around you. On the other hand, if you live godly in Christ Jesus, you are promised that you will suffer persecution. How is it that one of the chief aspects of the promise of eternal life is joy? And, in addition to that reality, when we read Paul's letter to the Philippians from a Roman prison we are confronted multiple times with his insistence that we "rejoice". Was he some kind of a nut like the one we saw at Burger King who not only carried on a conversation with himself, but regularly burst out in gleeful laughter? How are we supposed to respond to the grief in this world and the biblical mandate that we present the watching world with a real demeanor of joy? What help do we get from Luke's record of the angel's words to Zacharias?
October 5, 2003
- I. First, Some Perspective.
- A. The angel's words came to a man whose world was over-weighted with grief.
- 1. There was grief at every level of Zacharias' experience.
- a. He was serving as a priest in a nation where the Herods were the heroes and the politics of religion made the serious practice of biblical faith very difficult.
- b. He was living, and had been living for a long time, in a culture that looked down on him and his wife because they were not normal.
- c. He was living in a home where there did not appear to be any answers to the frustrated longings that existed for whatever reasons.
- 1) We have at least three examples in the Bible of the kind of wear and tear that goes on in a family where frustration is daily and continuous:
- a) The illustration from 1 Samuel 1.
- b) The illustration from Genesis 29:29-30:1 and following.
- c) The illustration from Genesis 15.
- 2) In each of these cases, God ultimately fulfilled the longings, but even the fulfillment was a mixed bag -- Abraham had to turn his back on his firstborn; Rachael died from childbirth as she continued to compete with her sister; and Hannah had to turn her son over to the priests as soon as we was weaned.
- d. He was living under the dominion of a God Whose behavior seemed to indicate that He was exceedingly hard to please because He was persnickety. In his nation, in his culture, in his home, and in his theology, Zacharias was weighed down with somber realities that left little room for a pollyanna demeanor.
- 2. There often does not seem to be any kind of effective counter-balance in this kind of world.
- B. The angel's words came along with a rather significant disciplinary action that, at least on the surface, appeared to do little to lighten the load.
- 1. The rebuff for disbelief seemed to fit right in with the theology of persnickety.
- 2. The inability to speak for nine months was no small addition to the load.
- C. The reality is that many, if not most, people simply are not joyful.
- II. Second, Does It Have to be This Way?
- A. Yes and No.
- 1. There is no easy fix for joylessness.
- 2. There is, however, a fix.
- B. The process is actually workable over time.
- 1. There is this reality: results come only by processes -- there are only a few instant fixes.
- 2. The processes involved are threefold:
- a. First, there is the re-writing of the heart so that the values of time are overwritten by the values of eternity.
- 1) This generally works through experiences which pretty much demand that we go along the rode to disaster far enough that we find ourselves sufficiently motivated to stop.
- 2) The dawning of the reality of a completely different way of looking at things can occur at any time, but it generally only happens when we have come to the end of our self-will.
- 3) And no matter how many of the paths we have taken, there are many more.
- b. Second, there is the re-education of the mind so that the world view of time is replaced by the world view of eternity.
- 1) This does not happen apart from biblical instruction and there is a link between the speed of the process and the amount of instruction we receive.
- 2) Even the indwelling presence of the Spirit of God does not bypass this reality.
- c. Third, there is the issue of endurance.
- 1) Luke 8:13 uses the plant/root metaphor because of the reality of no quick fixes.
- 2) In multiple places in the Scripture we are exhorted to beginning the course and sticking with it regardless.