“Joy,” A Message on 1 Peter 1:1-9

A Message on 1 Peter 1:3-9
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
May 16, 2021
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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As Christians we should be joyful. We should be filled with joy. Not just when things are going our way, but even when–and perhaps especially when–things are tough for us. We are to be joyful in all situations.

Yeah, easier said than done, right.

I’m going to be honest here. This past week was a tough one for me. I’m not going into details but there were many things that happened that got me down. It’s just part of being a pastor, I know. It seems like 80 percent of my time is taken up by issues and challenges that are administrative more so than religious. Lots of problems, not much Jesus.

It seemed like it was all adding up. It was really getting me down. I didn’t have much joy.

At the first of every week I look to see what I will be preaching on the next Sunday. I then think and pray on that throughout the week before writing my message.

I knew the topic this week was going to be “joy.” But to be honest, I didn’t feel much joy in my heart. To use a Winnie the Pooh comparison, I wanted to be joyous like Tigger but felt much more like Eeyore.

But I kept returning to the scripture we read today from Peter, Simon Peter, the man that Jesus said would be the “rock” of the church.

In this scripture Peter doesn’t claim that followers of Christ will have easy, problem-free lives. Just the opposite.

In verse 6 he says, “even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials.”

But what is important is what he says right before then: “In this you rejoice…”

Put together, it reads, “In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials.”

We find this theme of “joy in the midst of trials” in other places in the Bible. James, the half brother of Jesus, writes in the first chapter of the book that bears his name: “2 My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; 4 and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

In the Old Testament book of Habakkuk we find these wise words written:

“Though the fig tree does not blossom,
and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails,
and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold,
and there is no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will exult in the God of my salvation.
19 God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
and makes me tread upon the heights. Habakkuk 3:17-19

When we are followers of Jesus Christ we are to be joyous, especially when times are tough.

Let’s try an experiment. Clear your minds. Now think of one friend that you like to be around. Not your spouse or significant other, but a friend. Someone who you enjoy spending time with. Okay, do you have someone in mind?

Now, let me ask you a question: Would you describe that person as joyful? I’ll go out on a limb and say that the odds are that the answer would be yes.

Joyful people are contagious people. (In a good way, not like COVID.) People enjoy being around joyful people.

Nobody wants to be around an old grumpy sour-faced person. People prefer Tiggers to Eeyores.

As Christians we are called to spread the “Good News.” We are to tell others about the incredible love God has for each one of us, a love that is so incredible that he allowed his own son to die a horrible, painful, and cruel death on a cross. Our joy comes from the fact that Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose from the grave, defeating death and giving every human the opportunity not only to have their sins forgiven (which is impossible for us to do by ourselves), but to be promised an eternal life in a perfect place.

Peter sums that up this way in the scripture we read today: “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.” 1 Peter 1:8-9

Faith can give us joy. Faith in Jesus Christ gives us the power of the Holy Spirit to not only persevere during tough times, but to even be joyous. And as Christians, we are called to support other Christians when they are down, to help them reach a turning point.

My turning point came this week when I met with five of my fellow clergy brothers and sisters on our weekly small group Zoom meeting. I shared with them that I was feeling down and having a tough time. You know what they did? They made me laugh. Yep. Yes, they supported me, they lifted me up and spoke words of encouragement as well, but the best thing they did was to make me laugh. They helped restore my joy.

Years ago a man named Norman Cousins was the editor of the magazine the Saturday Evening Post. Cousins suffered from ankylosing spondylitis, a very painful disease of the spine. His doctors were trying everything possible, but to no avail. Then he took things into his own hand. He locked himself in a room and watched Marx brothers movies. [Imitate Groucho and say, “Some of you will remember those…”] He sought to fill his life with as much laughter and joy as he could. As a result his condition improved.

Joy begets joy. A joyful Christian results in more joyful Christians. A grumpy Christian does not result in more grumpy Christians. It results in fewer Christians.

So my challenge to you today is to ask yourself: Am I a joyful Christian? Do I rejoice in the Lord regardless of my circumstances, and especially if I’m going through something difficult? Am I joyful because I have Jesus in my heart?

Joyful Christians result in more joyful Christians. Be joyful and make a friend. Be a joyful friend. And then be joyful as you lead a friend to Christ.

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

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