Cultivating Joy

Sunday I preached on Matthew 16:24-28.  One of the main points of the sermon was “Never Losing Your Soul.”  In referring to Jesus commanding us to take up our cross I brought our attention to Hebrews 12:1-2.  It reads, “1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

What was the joy?  The joy came through enduring the cross and resulted in sitting at the right hand of God.  The joy was honoring His Father and as a result being honored by His Father.  The joy was completing the work and sitting down in the position of power at the right hand of the Father.  Joy was in serving the one who is greater than the pain Jesus faced.  

We have a few similar examples in Hebrews:

Hebrews 11:24-26, “24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”

Hebrews 10:34, “34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.”

The question that was posed for us to consider during the sermon was, How do we cultivate this kind of Joy?  Here are a few ways to begin cultivating that kind of Joy:

  1. By seeing every God honoring joy in present as a foretaste of what is to come in heaven.

Every child laughing is a reminder of the joy to come.  The joy we experience at a baptism service is a foretaste of the joy to come.  The joy that comes from eating the meal before us, no matter what that meal is should be a reminder of the joy to come.  Staring at a rainbow after the storm, looking up at the stars in awe, kissing your family good night, all of these should remind us of the joy that is to come.

  1. By cultivating a mouth, mind, and heart of thankfulness.

What can you thank God for right now?  What goes unnoticed on a daily basis that should be a point of thankfulness leading to joy?  Did your car start today?  Was there coffee at the office?  Are you breathing?  Did you have options for what to wear today?  What else comes to mind?

  1. By holding loosely to the things of this earth we cannot take with us.

One of the hardest things about having joy is holding loosely to the things that we cannot take with us when we die.  While a car accident, furnace breaking, or difficult day at work, these things don’t have to define our joy level.  Now that is easier said than done, but lasting joy is found in relationship with Jesus.  Temporary joy is found in a possession and circumstances.  Living in St. Louis we all know if you don’t like the weather wait 5 minutes, and that is how life should be with circumstantial joy.  We need eternal joy found in Jesus dying and rising for our salvation.  Don’t let this life and all that happens steal your joy in Christ.  

  1. By holding tightly to the two things that matter most on this earth; People and Jesus.   

The best way to cultivate joy is to follow Jesus and remember that people matter more than stuff.  I have never heard anyone regret spending time with family and friends.  I have never heard a couple come in for counseling say, “We talk to much.”  I have never heard of a Christian saying, “I think I am spending too much time with Jesus.”  Focus on what really matters like Jesus did and there you will find joy.