Christian Characteristics: “Joy”

Christian Characteristics: “Joy”
A Message on 1 Peter 1:3-9
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
Jan. 7, 2018
By Doug Wintermute

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NRSV)

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, 7 so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

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Today we are beginning a sermon series on Christian Characteristics, where we will be exploring specific characteristics that Christians have.

I want to talk about the characteristic of “joy” today, and I want to start out with a willy, nilly, silly ol’ bear named Winnie the Pooh.

In the Winnie the Pooh books and movies we are introduced to a wide variety of Christopher Robin’s friends.

There’s good hearted Winnie, of course, who naive and sometimes dim witted, although sometimes he is very insightful. And his driving passion in life is to find and eat as much honey as he can.

There’s also Piglet, who is always quickly scurrying around worried about things. Piglet is always anxious and nervous, known for his saying of “Oh d-d-dear.”

Then there’s Eeyore, who sees the downside to every situation. A donkey with a tail that keeps falling off, Eeyore is alway pessimistic, ever glum, and sarcastic. His most famous saying is “Thanks for noticing.”

And there is Tigger, a joyous, rambunctious tiger who bounces on his tail. Tigger is spontaneous, outgoing, and loves to have fun.

Of course there is Rabbit, who is impatient and irritable. He insists that things be done his way and is obsessed with rules, planning and order. He is very picky when it comes to his garden and he is known for bossing others around.

And we can’t forget about Owl, a pompous bird that goes to great lengths to try to convince all the animals in the woods that he is the smartest and most intelligent, even though in truth he is often scatterbrained.

Kanga is a female kangaroo and the mother of Roo. She is the only female of all the characters and has a kind-hearted, motherly charm toward the other animals. She is patient, likes things to be clean and organized, and is quick to offer food and motherly advice to anyone who asks her.

So why am I going over these characters from Winnie the Pooh? Here’s why. I want you to think about your faith life, which of those characters would you say best describes where you are on your faith journey right now? In your walk as a disciple of Jesus Christ, which Winnie the Pooh character most accurately represents you?

Are you Winnie? Do you have a naive, shallow understanding of the Christian faith? Does your passion for honey, or something that rhymes with honey, money, cause you to do things that get you into difficult situations?

Or are you Eeyore? Is your faith gloom and doom? Do you just know the world is going to hell in a handbasket and feel that nothing you can do will make a difference? Do you complain and moan and say, “Lord Jesus, come now”?

Or are you Rabbit? Are you all about the rules of religion and impatient and irritable if everything in the church isn’t done the way you think it should be done?

Are you motherly and compassionate to others like Kanga? Are you like Owl in that you try to impress others with how much you know about Christianity (even if you really don’t know that much) and talk about how good a Christian you are and how others aren’t?

Okay, get the idea?

Now there is one character that I haven’t mentioned and I did that on purpose: Tigger. I saved Tigger for last for a reason.

Today we’re talking about Christian Characteristics, right? And specifically we’re talking about joy, right? Tigger is about joy. And I believe our world seriously needs more Christians that, like Tigger, express joy.

The Bible has a lot to say about joy. The scripture we read today from 1 Peter is a good example.

Now if your remember Peter is the disciple that Jesus told would be the rock of the newly forming church. He was named Simon before Jesus gave him the name Peter which comes from the Greek word Petros which means rock. (Matthew 16:18)

He was a fisherman, along with his brother Andrew, who Jesus called to be disciples as he walked along the sea shore. In addition to being one of the original 12 disciples, he was one of the leaders of the disciples. He was the one that confessed Jesus as the Messiah, he was the one that denied Jesus three times and then wept afterwards, and was the disciple that preached on the day of Pentecost.

Eventually he was crucified in Rome and insisted it be upside down because he wasn’t worthy of being crucified in the same way as Jesus.

So that’s who Peter was. Even though Peter was a great leader of the disciples we don’t have many things in the Bible that he wrote. We have 1 Peter and 2 Peter, and that’s pretty much it. And these are letters, also called epistles, that he wrote to members of the early church.

Listen again to what Peter writes in verses 8-9: “Although you have not seen him [Jesus], you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:3-9)

Let’s read that again, this time from The Message: “You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him–with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what your looking forward to: total salvation.”

Here are some other scriptures about joy:

In Galatians 5 we find Paul listing the fruit of the Spirit: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” (Galatians 5:22)

In Romans 12 Paul writes, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

In John 16 we find this: “So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.” (John 16:22-24)

And here’s a great scripture from Proverbs: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)

As Christians we should be filled with joy. We have much to be joyous about! We have experienced God’s saving grace given to us not because we earn it, but because God loves us. We are so loved by God that he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to earth and allowed him to die on a cross so that by being the ultimate sacrifice for our sins we are forgiven and reconciled to God.

Like the song that the Lykins sang this morning, we should have the “Joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart.” We should be so joyous, even when we’re going through tough times, that others who don’t know Christ should wonder what in the world is going on with us.

The late musician Rich Mullins used to tell of a time when he and his band were touring in Ireland. There’s a saying in Ireland in the pubs when there is one group of people who are joyous and laughing, and someone will say, “I’ll have whatever they’re having.”

Rich said that as Christians we should be the ones that are always joyous, so much so that those without a relationship to Christ will say, “I want what they’re having.”

Joy is such an integral part of Christians fulfilling the great commission to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Here’s an example. How many of you have gone into a fast food restaurant and you can tell that the person behind the counter really doesn’t like their job, doesn’t want to be there, and doesn’t really care about you as the customer. How many of you have seen the video of comedian Anjela Johnson’s character “Bon Qui Qui” working at “King Burger”? She’s working behind the counter of a fast food restaurant when a customer approaches the counter. She’s talking on the phone to a friend of hers about her relationships. The customer finally says, “Excuse me.”

Bon Qui Qui says, “Uh, do you see me in the middle of a conversation? Don’t interrupt…rude.”

Then she says to the person on the phone, “Girl, I’m gonna have to call you back,” and hangs up. She then looks at the customer and says, “Welcome to King Burger, where we can do it your way, but don’t get crazy…”

How many of you have been treated maybe not that bad, but something similar by someone at a a fast food restaurant. How does that make you feel? How does that affect your decision on whether to dine there again.

And how many of you have gone into a fast food restaurant where the person behind the counter has a smile on their face, they talk to you pleasantly, and you can tell that they enjoy working there? Doesn’t that make you want to go back?

This past summer my family was blessed to go do Disneyworld in Florida. The thing that really impressed me with Disneyworld is that every employee there that I came into contact with acted as if they loved their job. Every single one. I even talked to a couple of people whose job was to pick up and empty trash. I thought that maybe all this “happy-with-my-job” attitude might be fake or just an act. But it wasn’t. They really did have joy working at Disneyworld, even if it was picking up the trash.

What if we as Christians were less like Bon Qui Qui and more like the employees of Disneyworld? What if we actually lived as if the “joy of the Lord is our strength?” I think it would make it easier to fulfill the great commission to make disciples of Jesus Christ because unchurched folks would be saying, “I want what they’re having.”

So my challenge to you this week, and for the entire year, actually, is to be a joyous Christian. Let your faith life be more like Tigger and not like Eeyore. More like Disneyworld employees and less like Bon Qui Qui.

Let us believe in Jesus Christ like Peter says “and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,” so much so that others will say, “I want what they’re having.”

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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