Good morning. If you have a bible would you please open it to the book of John chapter 3. We will study today v. 25-36 and I have entitled my sermon “the attitude of a joyful man!” Are you a joyful person in this world? Do you walk through life with a heart overflowing with sorrow or with joy?
A man was brought on a talk show once for his unusual behavior. According to the host he was a rather rare fellow, his oddity? He was an old joyful man. He simply looked and acted truly happy. And that was perceived as unusual! He was bombarded with questions from the audience, “At your age how do you manage to be happy with your failing body? How do you manage to be happy with the money you make on retirement? How can you be happy when others around you are slowly passing away?” He answered, “I haven’t any great secret. When I get up in the morning, I have 2 choices either to be happy or unhappy. I just choose to be happy. That’s it!”
Well this may have worked for him but that’s not the norm. One thing is true though, happiness is a choice. You choose the way you react to things. But is there no secret to help us be joyful? I think there is. Paul says in Philippians 4:12, “I have learned the secret to being content or happy in every situation.” He goes on in his epistle and he says at least 3 times, “Rejoice in the Lord and again I say rejoice!” So the Christian is to be a joyful man and he has secrets he can learn to do that!
It reminds me of the words of a 3rd century man I read this week this man about to die wrote this to one of his friend: “It’s a bad world, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life. They are oppressed and persecuted but they care not. They are martyrs of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people are the Christians and I am one of them!”
Oh are you joyful this morning? If you are not I want you to listen carefully to this sermon. You can be happy no matter what circumstances are in your life. You can rejoice no matter what trial you face! You can be like John the Baptist. Read with me and let’s get to know this joyful individual. v. 22-36 “…”
Do you see a content man in this story? John is filled with peace. He is a happy man here. Now he has faced turbulent times and he will have more in the future, this he knows. He understands he will not live very long but still he is content, peaceful, happy man. Now in this story we find John’s disciples are hung up in problems with Jesus’ disciples. You know Jesus at this point is in Judea. And the text says, he is there baptizing. The only problem is that’s John’s official territory. For a long time John has been in the Judean countryside teaching. He has preached there and he has been baptizing there because there is a lot of water in that place. So it’s been a great spot for John. But now Jesus comes to their place. And don’t forget some of Jesus’ disciples used to be disciples of John. So now Jesus is around the corner with old friends doing the same job! And in v. 25 we read there is now one Jew who comes and argues strongly with John’s disciples. We don’t know exactly why. Was he baptized by Jesus? Did they want to force him to be baptized again? It could have created the problem! Was it an issue because the man felt alright simply in virtue of his Jewish heritage? Did he fight about the necessity of baptism? Again we don’t know. What we know though is John and his disciples have a rough time on 2 counts. Some people are opposing them and many others are going to Jesus.
But I love John’s way of seeing things. First in v. 27, he says a man can only get what God gives. Second he says in v. 28, “I am not supposed to be the big cheese!”. Thirdly he says “I am only the friend of the groom!” I am happy and full of joy the bride is responding to him!”
You see in the bible Israel is pictured as the bride of God. When Israel went after strange gods it was condemned as adultery or infidelity to the marriage bond. Jesus being the rightful Son of God was Israel’s bridegroom. The role of John was not to establish faithfulness to himself but to point. He acted as the “shosben,” the best man of the groom. His role was one of liaison between the bride to be and the groom to be.
The shosben arranged the wedding. He took out the invitation and presided at the feast. Plus he had one very special duty. Once the bride would withdraw he would go along to guard the bridal chamber. His special task was to open the door only to the groom. In the darkness of the night, he had to ask questions and open only if he could recognize the voice of the groom. When the groom was there he would go away rejoicing for his task was completed and the lovers were together. He did not bear a grudge because the husband got the bride. He rather faded willingly and gladly out of the center of the picture. He would go away and rejoice for the night! And every time he would see the 2 together he would rejoice again thinking, “It’s partly my doing.”
So what lessons do I see here? So John is joyful and I learn 3 important lessons in regard to his joy. #1 A happy man bases his happiness on Christ not on outside circumstances!
John’s circumstances per say were not good and yet he rejoiced! It was not due to outside happenings but to an inner frame of mind!
As a man has said “Happiness is good! The place to be happy is here The time to be happy is now The time to be happy is to remember Jesus Christ in your heart!”
We forget that sometimes! But circumstances are ever changing and they can be the bane of our joy. Christ though always remains the same. He always loves us. He always cares for us; he always desires to dwell in us. If Christ is my joy, my heart will always soar. If Christ is the flame of my life, I will always rejoice. As I was doing this sermon I wondered why is it I have always managed to stand up after being knocked down by life. Let me tell you where joy will never be found! It will never be found in unbelief. Why is it that I have managed to keep on wanting to live? Voltaire was an infidel of the most pronounced type. He wrote: “I wish I had never been born.” You won’t find joy in pleasure; Lord Byron lived a life of pleasure if anyone did. He wrote: “The worm, the canker, and grief are mine alone.” Nor will you find it in money. Jay Gould, the American millionaire, had plenty of that. When dying, he said: “I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth.” Position and fame won’t give you joy either. Lord Beaconsfield enjoyed more than his share of both. He wrote: “Youth is a mistake; manhood a struggle; old age a regret.” And you can’t find it in military glory. Alexander the Great conquered the known world in his day and having done so wept in his tent before saying “There are no more worlds to conquer.”
Where then is real joy found? The answer is simple, in Christ and His relation to you alone. It is not found in circumstances!
That brings me to my second point. A happy man does not allow other people to rob him of his joy.
You see we’ve got to be careful of people working hard to bring us down in this world! Sometimes they give us complaints and arguments to question everything we do, sometimes they come with sorrow over the way they see us treated. Both types of people are very dangerous. You see the Jews questioning and complaining to John could have caused him to be sorrowed to the point of death as Moses was in the Old Testament. John also could have said, “Lord I’m tired of these people, let me die!” Complaining can quickly wear us down, can’t it? But John didn’t allow the constant negative attitude of the Jews to rob his joy.
He didn’t allow the sympathy of his friends to get to him either! It would have been easy. They hearts were polluted with jealousy. Jesus was increasing at their expense. They were hurt. John after working so hard was abandoned. They loved him so much they could hardly stand it.
I tell you sometime the hardest opponents to our joy are our good friends. I may be alright at first when something bad happens, I do not feel slighted, injured, or sorry for myself until… my wife, my child, or my best friend starts to feel sorry for me. And now a well meaning sympathy plants a seed of bitterness in my heart. Before I know it, it robs me of my joy!
No negative people, friend or foe, will get the best of me! I will allow no one to steal my joy. Praise John for his example.
The final lesson I see in the text of John 3 that the forerunner of Jesus, John, was happy not only because of his relation with Christ, not only because he didn’t allow others to rob him of his joy but also because he was aware of the place where God wanted him and he humbly accepted it. He said “Jesus must increase and I must decrease! It was joy and humility. He was prepared to play the subordinate role. And I like that. He didn’t have to have the first place.
So many of us only look for great things to do and when we don’t we are full of resentment and heart broken. You see what we need to do instead is accept in our hearts the place God has given us. Then we need to work with all of our might on the task he has assigned us. That’s another key to joy. As Ann Browning said it, “All service ranks the name of God!” Any task done for God is necessarily great. We need to be prepared to accept God’s choice and verdict for our life. Not only if it means no big job but also if it means no success. A man cannot receive more than God gives him!
Now I am not saying to be a fatalist. You know this is bad that must be where God always wants me. No! I am saying if something is not great you can shoot to improve the situation. But if God keeps you in it for a while, learn to accept it with joy.
There was a preacher once who was quit popular and had converted many people. His name was Dr. Spence, but as the years went by his people drifted away. In the next neighborhood church a new youth minister came. This young minister was of the same belief but was young and eloquent and charming. The crowds started to go to his church. One Sunday evening Dr. Spence stood up and there were only a few people in his audience. He asked, “Where have all our people gone tonight?” There was an embarrassing silence and then a deacon said, “I think they have gone to the church across the street to hear the new young minister.” Now how would you have reacted? Dr. Spence thought for a minute then he smiled and said, “Well, I think we ought to go to them.” And he descended from his pulpit and led the people to the next neighborhood.
What a jealousies, what resentment and what sorrow we would all avoid if we were like that. Today accept God’s choice and rejoice in your own portion. Today let us learn to accept God’s choice and rejoice. Rejoice because in the big picture he is doing something that will result in your good. Guaranteed one way or another you’ll benefit from it. John did. He became a hero for all the converts Jesus made.
So today I invite you o be happy! I invite you to fill your heart with joy. As the song says “Joy to the world a King is born!” Accept Christ, protect the inward joy against robbers and rejoice in the position he gave you. There are my 3 lessons. If you need….