When I was a young dad, I was an “okay” parent. Many things went well by the grace of God and I had a great wife, but I missed out on something. When I was deployed from Ft. Hood, TX to Ft Irwin, CA on a seven week helicopter airlift and resupply mission, long before all these recent war deployments, my wife sent me this picture. (the picture of our daughter at five months was shown) I looked at Katy’s picture, as she was five months old, and I wrote back to Barbara, “We should have a dozen just like her.” But, I became so busy with work, then school, then church work, that I lost sight of what really mattered – children growing up. Now, I have more joy over children than anything else in life. It helps being a grandpa and having three precious granddaughters, I get to live with.
Today, I know of no greater joy than being a part of God’s growth process and watching people walk in the truth. John wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” (3 John 1:4 NKJ) We had the first quarterly home group leader training a week ago Saturday and it was a big momentum boost as I could see leaders grasp hold of the church vision. When people grab hold of the joy of their salvation and say, “I want to press forward and become a spiritual parent discipling other people,” it is the greatest joy I know of in the world. I would much rather disciple someone who wants to grow than travel abroad, than go to Six Flags, or than to hit a hole in one.
Our vision is the Bible verse on the wall as you enter, “Grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Savior Jesus.” What does that look like? Paul guides us in one of the essential ingredients to church growth. He wrote, “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. (Phil. 2:1-2 NKJ) That joy is to be shared, passed around and splashed about. John wrote, “And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” ( 1John 1:4 NKJ) How do you abound with joy? Let’s look at how Paul and others abounded with joy.
1) Connecting together to worship God.
There are three words that bring a laser focus to our vision: Connect, Equip, and Multiply. We connect together to worship God. God wants us in community with other believers to see His Holy Spirit drawing others into the presence of Jesus. Paul said, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13 NKJ). God is a God of what? Hope. What does He want to fill you with? Joy. And what is the result of that filling? Abounding hope. A few verses later, Paul highlighted the joy of connecting with other people. He wrote,
30 Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, 31 that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you. (Rom. 15:30-32 NKJ)
How does this happen? A Christian grows up to be a spiritual parent and looks at others even as Paul looked at the Thessalonians,
19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? 20 For you are our glory and joy. (1 Thes. 2:19-20 NKJ)
For Paul, he was not pursuing a promotion, a new chariot, a bigger tent, or better sandals, or even a far away trip to Spain. He was committed to seeing people change.
In fact that joy is not a passing comment with Paul. It is a guiding theme of his as a spiritual parent toward the Thessalonians, “9 For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God, (1Thes. 3:9 NKJ)
Paul connected to people to help them grow spiritually and abound in the joy of faith. Paul wrote, “And I wrote this very thing to you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow over those from whom I ought to have joy, having confidence in you all that my joy is the joy of you all.” (2 Cor. 2:3 NKJ) Paul wrote the letter (we call 1 Corinthians) that was a rebuke because the Corinthians were comparing each other, divisive, acting spiritually immature, allowing a young man to live in incest with his step-mother, taking each other to court, causing some to stumble, violating the communion table and distorting the purpose of spiritual gifts and the promise of the resurrection. He did not care about things or situations, he cared about those God had given him. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.” (2 Cor. 4:15 NKJ)
Paul was not a glass half-empty kind of guy. The context of this next passage is financial giving, but the application is true for giving of time, service and compassion. Paul wrote, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” (2 Cor. 9:8 NKJ) The glass is not ½ empty or ½ full. It is abounding with joy in the Lord! When people are unified around Jesus, when the invisible reality of Jesus is more real than the quirks and preferences of people, you don’t care about those things, because connecting with people gives you such joy in the Lord.
How do you abound with joy? Connect together to worship God.
2) Equipping together in grace to become more like Jesus.
Connect, Equip, and Multiply. We equip together in grace to become more like Jesus. Paul was a spiritual parent, who took what God had given him to help others. He said,
21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. [picture of a hearse pulling a Uhaul trailer] 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. 25 And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again. (Phil. 1:21-26 NKJ)
He did not care about anything, but helping people know Jesus.
Spiritual growth doesn’t always come immediately. We have to transition from the self-focus as a spiritual infant to God- and other-focused, which is what Paul exhorted to the Colossians,
9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; (Col 1:9-11 NKJ)
Paul charged children, “Obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise: 3 that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” (Eph. 6:1-3 NKJ) Why does he command this? Is it profitable for children to submit to parents? It IS profitable! So also, God expects His people, those transitioning from spiritual infancy to spiritual young adults, to bring joy to their spiritual parents. The writer to Hebrews commented on that, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. (Heb. 13:17 NKJ)
It’s an ongoing process. The spiritual parent must exhort others to press forward. God’s people put their eyes on Jesus, accept life and are obedient in circumstances. They get exhorted as James exhorted,
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (Jam. 1:2-4 NKJ)
“Count it” means to “make this a priority to consider this,” or “consider it a duty,” or “regard it as a responsibility.” Every circumstance is designed to help us grow up spiritually and become equipped to be more like Jesus. Peter exhorted about this same joy growing up,
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen1 you love2. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, (1 Pet. 1:6-8 NKJ)
And later Peter wrote, “…but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1 Pet. 4:13 NKJ)
How do you abound with joy? Connect and Equip.
3) Multiply together with the gospel to reach the world.
Connect, Equip, and Multiply. We multiply together with the gospel to reach the world. When Jesus gets a hold of your heart, every area of your life becomes something that is abounding. Even in poverty, you abound, because God is multiplying through you. God multiplied through the church of Macedonia as we saw a few weeks ago,
Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: 2 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. (2 Cor. 8:1-2 NKJ)
The spiritual parent takes his eyes off of the glitz and glimmer of the world. He’ll stop wishing for one more trip or even a seventh meal out, if it will make a difference in discipling someone to Jesus. Paul so beautifully proclaims,
16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. 17 Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me. (Phil. 2:16-18 NKJ)
Do you have the power for this? No, you don’t, but God does in Jesus. Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13 NKJ)
Are you able to do this? No. Only as Jesus directs the Holy Spirit in your life to empower you. When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you will see the fruit of the Spirit. You can’t stop it, because you don’t want to. It will keep coming out. If it is not coming out, there is no filling.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23 NKJ)
It happens one way only. Put your eyes on Jesus and be like Him.
2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:2 NKJ)
When you Connect, Equip and Multiply you will have abounding joy.
- Abounding joy will become contagious. It will be so overflowing, it will become contagious. When it becomes contagious, it will multiply in spite of the forces of evil.
- Abounding joy will heal every wound. Every critical word spoken, twisted deed, or hidden agenda, abounding joy will heal it, because Jesus is real.
- Abounding joy will be your name. My second granddaughter’s first name is Emma. Emma is going to be used by the Lord in an incredible way. She has such arousing passion, such emotional expression, such demonstrative enthusiasm that when her parents, Matt and Katy by means of the Holy Spirit help her learn to control her spirit, she will be an incredible witness for Jesus. I think God knew Emma would be like that and He moved Matt and Katy to name her Emma Joy. [author’s note: I since found out that “Emma” has the meaning of “complete” so her name is really “Complete joy!”]
There is only one more thing that needs to be said:
24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, 25 To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen. (Jud 1:24-25 NKJ)
Do you have His joy?
Message Based Discussion Questions
1) What do you enjoy doing in Indianapolis the most?
2) What are incidents in Scripture, in which joy is expressed?
3) Does God desire a person to have joy? (cf. Ps. 51:12) _____________ What are things in life that add to or take away from joy?
4) Was Jesus, in His humanity, always filled with the Holy Spirit (see Luke 4:1, 14, 18)? _________ Is the believer in Jesus always filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18)? Why or why not?
Bonus question: If Jesus, in His humanity, was always filled with the Holy Spirit, how can /should you define joy so that it includes the time just prior to and including His crucifixion, so that it is consistent with Scripture?
Application from the message:
5) What are steps a Christian can take in order to increase his joy?
6) When parenting is difficult, how should a parent maintain his joy? What should a spiritual parent do in order to maintain/increase his joy?
7) How would you disciple another person, who is normally discouraged or has trouble expressing joy in his life, have greater joy?