Honour With Joy!

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Honour With Joy!

Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White

Sunday 2nd February, 2020

If you’ve been watching the tennis over the last few weeks, you’ll have seen some interesting situations unfolding, especially as some players have erupted with uncensored and unfiltered emotions – and we’ve seen racquets destroyed – racquets thrown across the court… one player even wounding his own father across the arm with his smashed racquet.   And did you see his mother come down and get into him?  There’s been swearing, abuse hurled at umpires and linesmen…  you name it – it’s been happening.

We’ve been working our way towards talking about honour…  Well, we’ve just seen some disgraceful but perfect examples of dishonour.  And to be honest – some of these players…  they are dishonouring themselves more than anyone else!

And that’s what I’ve been finding – that to clarify what honour really is – it’s actually easier to highlight what it means to demonstrate dishonour.

This mornings message continues along the whole “honouring” theme.  We’ve already talked about how familiarity with God and with one another can lead to lack of honour.  We looked at how having a hard heart towards people can prevent us from honouring others.

Today, I want to bring a connection between honour and joy.  Honour has everything to do with the heart, because that’s where the issues of life flow from.  And although circumstances and simply walking through life can bring some terrible trials and tribulations, the bible tells us that there’s a way to carry unquenchable and deep joy in our heart, which transcends even our darkest life experiences.  

It doesn’t mean our pain, grief and heartache are not real – and need to be expressed in a healthy and healing way.  It’s a journey.  And the joy I’m talking about is not the same as happiness.  Happiness depends on what happening…  Joy is deeper and is related to who we are.

As followers of Christ, there’s something real and powerful that we carry on the inside that keeps us steadfast and…  full of deep, inner joy.

It means we’re not smashing our racquets at the first sign of life’s disappointments, and bringing dishonour to ourselves and those around us.

Our very own tennis world number one, Ash Barty…  when she was defeated in the Australian Open semi-final… she responded at her media interview afterwards and expressed how she was disappointed.  And she would have been.  Even though she’s world number one, she missed out on being the first Australian finalist at the Australian Open since 2005.   

But she had her baby niece in her arms and basically said, this is what life is all about…  which was a fantastic way of showing the world that life is about balance….   when it comes down to it – what is really most important and valuable in life?

That’s enough about tennis.  

But when I talk about joy being something that facilitates honour, I’m saying quite a few things.

We’ll come to some scriptures in a moment,  but I just want to honour those here at Seacoast who have lost loved ones in recent times…  

Without mentioning names, we have witnessed such incredible steadfastness and Christlike character – a tremendous love for God in the midst of suffering – in those who have experienced deep grief and loss.  The pain of separation has been heart wrenching…  and nothing can take away the reality of losing someone you have loved for most of your life – or in some cases, all of your life.

Having said that – in Christ, there is a deep joy for life, a hope of eternity, a peace in knowing that there is a day coming when we will be reunited with those who have died with Jesus in their heart. 

But my point is – that inner joy and peace not only brings honour to those who live and demonstrate faith in their darkest moments – but it brings honour to God…  because He is the One in the end who is glorified and exalted.  And isn’t that the ultimate calling of our lives?  To bring glory to God!

He is the reason we have this joy!

There are a number of times that Paul lays bare his experiences of trials and tribulations, of distresses and stripes and imprisonments…  He was whipped and scourged and he suffered terribly for the sake of the gospel.

But he never lost his inner joy for Jesus Christ and the preaching of the gospel.  And that in itself was an amazing witness to those he was trying to reach.

2 Corinthians 6:10 (NKJV),  he says…  “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”

It is possible to be sorrowful and yet always rejoicing.  

I came across a comment recently that said the opposite of joy is not grief or suffering.  It’s despair in suffering.  It’s the sense of hopelessness that sees no light at all at the end of the tunnel.  It’s being without any strength to carry on.  And without Jesus – that’s how it must be for many!

If we want to truly honour God with our whole life, then it’s how we respond to tragedy, to disappointment, to an unknown future, that will speak the loudest.  And not only how we respond – but how we behave…  how we demonstrate our faith, that will ultimately bring glory to His name.

In our Strategic Planning Team, we’ve been talking a bit about our mission as a church.  That’s the outworking – the doing part of who we are.

And I’ve been thinking – we all have a personal mission to reveal Christ to the world.  

1 Peter 2:9 (NKJV),  “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;”

Our lives are meant to be proclamations of praise to God – and a witness to others.

1 Peter 2:12 (NKJV),  “having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

I’ve had a bit of a revelation this week.  Most of us – well, hopefully most of us – would say that we love Seacoast Church – we love the people – we love what happens for our kids, the hospitality, the worship…  you might even like some of the preaching…  that’s the biggest miracle of all from my perspective!

I love what I’m hearing about our youth ministry. Samuel said that Friday night was the best youth meeting he’s experienced here at Seacoast since he’s been leader. 

But I’ve realised – it’s not enough just to love the church.  And this might be moving away a bit now from talking about how we respond to things like grief and loss…

This brings us to a more general question of – how does my life demonstrate and engage with the mission of what it means to be a Christian – what it means to be a functioning part of the body of Christ?  And how does my life bring glory to God through my honourable conduct?  Through my good works which the community in which I live, observe?

These are not light, fluffy questions.  These are hard core questions that challenge us all to look at our lives as they are lived out before others.

Honour is not really about what we receive, or how we feel…  honour is about God and others.  

And as much as it’s a wonderful thing to be able to celebrate and be grateful for our moments together and our lives together as Christ’s body the Church, in the end, it’s not about us…  

This is where we get filled up…  where we are encouraged… where we have the opportunity to glorify God in worship and allow the Word of God to wash over us as a small community of believers.  It’s where we hopefully build loving and enduring relationships. 

But our main focus must always be, how am I demonstrating God’s love and grace to my world through living a life of genuine joy…  because joy speaks powerfully…  People are looking for a meaningful reason to be genuinely joyful and hopeful themselves.

They want to know how to stand strong in a world that is crumbling around them on many levels.  Some are distraught by national and world wide issues.  Others are feeling weak and vulnerable because of very personal and intimate struggles that they face relentlessly day after day.  There is a growing sense of despair and hopelessness.

We face all the same things as everyone else – but here’s the difference:

Nehemiah proclaims to the people of God who have had to fight some battles to rebuild the walls of their city, and have realised how far they have fallen from the Word of God, in their time of exile in a foreign land…

And he says, go now and celebrate together and with others who have nothing, for…

Nehemiah 8:10 (NKJV),  “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

How can the joy we carry in our lives build strength into the lives of others in our world?  How do we honour others joyfully?  If we want to be men and women of honour ourselves, what does that look like?

In Philippians 2, Paul speaks of two young men that he obviously honours and commends to the church that they are incredible examples of selfless servants.

We honour people by serving them…  and as Paul speaks of in other places, it’s not with complaining or disputing, with moaning or whinging…  but with a grateful and appreciative and joyful heart.

He says to the Church in Philippi:

Philippians 2:19-22 (NKJV),  “But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.”

What an incredible endorsement of this young man’s character and genuine servant heart.

And then he mentions another young man – Epaphroditus:

Philippians 2:25-30 (NKJV),  “Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.”

We need to hear Paul’s heart in this…  he is sending to Philippi two men with similar godly character.

He describes them as like minded to him…  they’ve obviously submitted themselves to Paul’s guidance, teaching and discipleship.  They’ve been teachable, open hearted.

They have proven character, serving like a son cares for his father…

They’ve ministered to Paul’s needs, they are ones to be rejoiced over, received with gladness, to be held in high esteem.  They were ones not to consider their own needs or own lives.  

How would we feel as a church if we received news that these two men were coming to serve at Seacoast?  

Well guess what?  Many men and women, including yourself, have been called here – and have been called to demonstrate and exhibit the same unselfish and servant hearted lives.  You are these men!

What makes these guys special is that they are selfless servants – demonstrating their love for the gospel and for people.  They’ve been very practical in their care for Paul – and now they are heading off to support this growing church in Philippi.  And they are men full of the joy of the Lord.  They are men who are honouring God with their lives – and therefore bringing glory to His name wherever they are planted.

I share this with you because as I said, they are examples of what I believe God is calling us to.  If we really want to live an honourable life by honouring God and others, then we could do no better than to follow their lead.

Timothys name actually means – one who brings honour to God.

But as always – our primary example of how we should be in this world, comes in Jesus Christ.

John 12:26 (NKJV),  “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.”

There you go.  Serving Christ is what we are called to.  To be with Him is to serve where He leads us.  And in that place of servanthood, our Father in heaven actually honours us.  How humbling is that?  He precious is that?

Then Verse 27:

John 12:27-28 (NKJV),  “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’?  But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.”

It says that those who were with Jesus at that moment heard the thundering from heaven as the Father spoke to the Son.  And Jesus said – those words weren’t spoken for Me.  They were spoken for you.

That sends chills down my spine every time I read it.

But here was Jesus – being real about the suffering He was about to face.  It wasn’t a happy time that’s for sure.

He cried out – Father save Me…  But then straight away He acknowledges that this is what He was called to walk through.  This was the salvation of the world.

But let’s tie that in with the scripture from Hebrews that says:

Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV),  “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.”

You see… Jesus – in that place where His natural human self would have so longed to be free from the heavy burden of paying the price for our sin – that place of eternity that resided deep within Him – said – this is My joy…  the joy of knowing that multitudes throughout every generation will now have the opportunity to receive the free gift of salvation and eternal life.  We can only imagine what that moment was really like for Him.  It was the greatest expression of selflessness and suffering – but also the most joyful love that was ever expressed.

And in allowing joy to rise up and bring strength to His life, He brought the greatest honour to His Father in heaven.  He glorified His name!  

For us – what can we say?

Paul pretty much sums it up again as He speaks to another of his churches, this time in Thessalonica:

1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 (NKJV),  “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? For you are our glory and joy.”

And we could say – as Christ’s servants today…  Ballina, Australia… your salvation is our hope, joy and crown of rejoicing.  You are our glory and joy!

Our joyful mission, in whatever way it is expressed, is to reach our world for Christ.  And in doing that, we will glorify God our Father’s name again.

Let’s continue to love Christ’s Church – to love one another – to love His presence in our midst – but then allow all of that joy to be the driving force that propels us to serve others – to honour them – and to bless the heart of God.

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