River Church NOLA
Wed Dec 15 Choices that Create Joy
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  • Joy is mentioned 8 times in the Christmas Story
    It’s Christmas time and we want to look at the choices that create joy in your life but do it from the Christmas story tonight. Everyone has Christmas on their minds right now, especially the stores which seem to be doing well… at least by my observation.
    People talk a lot about Joy during the time leading into Christmas and Christianity is a joyful faith…
    John 15:11 NLT
    11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!
    We are also a singing faith because our faith is overflowing with joy so we sing songs about joy. Life Songs plays Christmas songs all month. There are more songs about the birth of Jesus than any other holiday… probably more than all the others combined.
    In the Bible, Joy is used more than 8 times in the Christmas story. It’s why we say Merry Christmas instead of Scary Christmas. It’s a celebration of a joyous event… the Birth of the Savior of the world.
    Think with me. What brings joy to you? What is joy anyway? We know it’s an emotion, but we also know it’s more.
    Here is the difference…
    Look at


    Happiness - based on what happens

    Your external circumstances… temporary. It depends on what happens to you and around you.


    Joy - based on your choices

    Your inner character… It’s long lasting. You can have joy when you are in the middle of grief and chaos.
    Happiness depends on where you are at the moment.
    Check this out from the book, Choose Joy...
    Joy the settled assurance that God is in control of every detail in my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything will be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.”
    It might not be ok right now, but you know that God is in control and that He will work it out. Joy is a determined choice to praise God in all things. That’s a lot different than just feeling good. Joy is a choice… it’s a commitment.
    God wants you to live a joy filled life.
    the world would sure be a better place if more people walked around with joy-filled lives. People would not be so cranky and ugly. No one would be committing all these crimes that are going on. The world would be a nicer place. But the truth is that we don’t have joy all the time. You don’t have Joy all the time. I don’t have joy all the time… none of us do. Why? because it leaks out of us. It will drain out of our lives.
    Why does this happen? You need to understand that there are “joy thieves” that will steal the joy right out of your life. These joy thieves fight against you having joy in your life. We live in a very negative world and sometimes… many times you will have to fight to be positive. Does that make sense? Not everyone around you is joyful of positive and you have to intentionally choose to be positive… to choose joy.
    I want us to look at some of these Joy Thieves and the choices we can make to restore our joy. We will look at the choices that Mary, Joseph and the wisemen made in the Christmas story.

    3 Choices that will Restore your Joy

    1st Joy Thief: Anxiety

    When you get stressed out, you are NOT full of joy. Anxiety will steal your joy. When you are anxious, you are full of fear, worry, and you are stressed out. When anxiety comes in… joy goes out.
    Now, when we read the Christmas story, we don’t usually focus on or even realize the stress that Mary was under. That first Christmas was very stressful.
    First of all, Mary was not very old… 13 or 14 at the most. People got married then at 12 or so. Mary is not a 30 year old mature woman. She is not a young woman in her 20’s. Mary is a young teenager. Then she is engaged to a man she probably barely knew and then she is pregnant before being married… and it’s from God. How do you explain that to your mother? Hi mom, I’m pregnant, but I didn’t do anything… Would you believe your daughter? Mary’s mom probably did not either. The virgin birth thing created a lot of stress.
    She lives in a small town and she will be a single mom. There will be a lot of gossip and she could even be stoned to death. No one will believe that God is the father of this baby.
    Then a couple of days before she is due, the government says that her and Joseph have to go to Bethlehem for a census so their taxes can go up, so at about 8.5 months, she has to ride on a donkey for 2-3 days to Bethlehem for the census. Any of you ladies here like to ride on a donkey?
    Then when they get to Bethlehem there are no hotel rooms. They have to stay in the barn with no hospital or nurse or midwives to deliver her baby… just Joseph. She has never had a baby and now she has to deliver alone.
    Then to top it all off, angels keep showing up and telling her that she is giving birth to the SOG. Talk about pressure. This is all extremely stressful. think about it… every time an angel shows up, the first thing it says is, Don’t be afraid. Why? Anxiety steals your joy.
    Write this down. Mary made a choice and here is the first choice she made.

    1. When Mary was afraid she chose to trust God and accept His plan

    She chose… and so can you.
    Luke 1:26–30 NLT
    26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” 29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!
    Basically, the angel was telling Mary that she had been chosen by God to carry the SOG. Listen to me… God has chosen you for a purpose as well. But you will miss out if you don’t make the same decision Mary did… to trust God. Unfortunately mist people don’t make the Mary choice and miss out on their purpose.
    Now, the next statement by the Angel will also cause her stress.
    Luke 1:31–33 NLT
    31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
    Not the ordinary Birth announcement is it? No and it’s no normal child either. The baby she is carrying is going to be a king because he is the SOG.
    So Mary asked the angel and obvious question…
    Luke 1:34–37 NLT
    34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” 35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For the word of God will never fail.”
    Now, given what I just read, if you were Mary you would be anxious too.
    Let me pause for a minute? What are you anxious about this Christmas? What are you worried about? family… job… Covid… finances… health… if you will ever get married?
    I do’t know what you are worrying about but I know the antidote without even knowing what you are worrying about. It’s the same as what Mary used. You have to trust God and accept his plan. This means that you take everything that you are worried about and place it in God’s hands because He is bigger, smarter and stronger than you are. That’s what Mary did on that first Christmas.
    Look at the next verse.
    Luke 1:38 NLT
    38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
    That’s a very mature response from a probably immature teenager girl. She basically said, I am willing to accept whatever God has for my life.
    Have you ever said that to God? If you haven’t, that’s why you are worried… why you are afraid… why you are anxious. You are stressed because you have not made the Mary decision. If you want to live a life of joy, you will have to make this decision… the decision to trust God and accept His plan.
    What’s the result fo saying this? The result is always joy.
    Luke 1:47 GW
    47 My spirit finds its joy in God, my Savior,
    Your spirit will not find joy on social media… TV watching… eating out… Our spirit finds joy in God our Savior. We have to trust him and accept his plan.

    2nd Destroyer of Joy: Resentment over a hurt

    You cannot be resentful and joyful at the same time.
    Resentment comes when we have been hurt. Everyone in this room has been hurt at some time… by actions or words, but you have been hurt. Maybe a hurt from your past is preventing you from having joy in your life.
    I am sorry you have been hurt. We live in a broken world. Life is not fair but God never said it would be. The world is filled with sin and sinful people who hurt other people. As a result, we hav all been wounded. I am sorry you have been prejudiced against… looked over for a promotion… betrayed… Maybe you have felt rejected and it’s difficult to get past it.
    I don’t know how you have been hurt, but I do know that you have to deal with that hurt and your response to that hurt. Resentment over hurt will keep the joy out of your life. Bitterness keeps millions of people from experiencing joy in their lives. You can see in people who have been hurt and carry a grudge in their hearts towards those who hurt them.
    Listen, you cannot be joyful and resentful at the same time.
    Back to the story. We read about Mary, but have you ever thought about how Joseph must have felt? How wounded he must have been when the woman of his dreams… his wife to be says… I’m pregnant and he knew it wasn’t his. Can you imagine how he must have felt? He most likely felt betrayed… cheated on… and I am sure he was heart broken.
    Some of you know what it feels like to be betrayed. In the Bible, Mary and Joseph were engaged to each other. Today if you are engaged and it doesn’t work out, you just break it off. It’s no big deal. But in those days, engagement was a legal contract that you signed one year before your wedding day. During that time you were considered married, but you could not have sex with each other … or anyone else for that matter. The only way you could get out of it was to divorce.
    Joseph could divorce her or even bring charges against her and she could have been stoned to death. He is hurt and disappointed, but then he heard from God. After hearing from the Lord, Joseph did not respond with anger or hurt.

    2. When Joseph was hurt, he chose to offer Grace and let it go

    He chose to offer grace and let the pain go. Have you ever wondered why God didn’t tell them both at the same time? He could have but he didn’t. He could have sat them both down and explained the whole plan to them. But he didn’t.
    God was testing Joseph’s character. Will he get angry? mean… get even… what will Joseph do and say? Joseph doesn’t attack Mary, he offers her grace.
    Matthew 1:18–19 NLT
    18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
    Even before God speaks to him, he doesn’t try to humiliate her, he just says, look, we will call off this wedding. He didn’t want to hurt her or embarrass her.
    Who has hurt you deeply? someone came to mind.
    Are you still struggling with that hurt?
    If you are, that’s one of the reasons, if not the main reason you are not experiencing joy in your life. You cannot be resentful and joyful at the same time.
    Listen to me. Resentment is the most worthless emotion on the planet. It does nothing but make you feel miserable. Resentment will never change the past. It won’t make you feel betterm it only makes you feel worse.
    somehow in our minds, we think that if we hold onto hurt and keep rehearsing it over and over in our minds, it will go away, but it won’t. It gets worse and worse. It just keeps hurting YOU. It doesn’t hurt them at all. It hurts you… could cost you your job… And it only makes you more miserable.
    Listen to me. I care about you and want to see you succeed in life, especially in your faith walk. ou cannot succeed with resentment in your life. Some of you have had people hurt you in the past, but they cannot hurt you anymore without your permission. And every time you think about it, it hurts you again. Every time you go over it in your mind, you give them permission to hurt you again. Stop it. It’s just not smart to do that. Let it go. You may say, they do’t deserve your forgiveness. You are right. None of us deserve forgiveness. You don’t forgive people because they deserve it. You forgive people because you don’t want to hold onto the pain anymore.
    With Joseph, God didn’t keep him in the dark forever, he sends an angel to talk with him and explain.
    Matthew 1:20–21 NLT
    20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
    After he made the choice to forgive, the angel appeared to him. Joseph did not get bitter, he was blessed with the responsibility of raising little angels. Think about the blessing he got… he was assigned to raise the SOG.
    Now you have a choice. Do you want to be bitter? or do you want to be blessed?
    Nehemiah 8:10 NLT
    10 And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”
    You can have joy instead of bitterness and rage…

    3rd Destroyer of Joy: Confusion

    When you are confused about life, it will steal your joy. When you cannot figure out what you are supposed to do… you keep second guessing yourself and you just can’t make up your mind, you will lose your joy. Confusion will steal your joy. The question everyone wants to know is, How do I know the direction of My Life?
    At this first Christmas, everyone was confused, except the angels. Mary was confused… Joseph was confused. Herod was confused… he was supposed to be king so what was this new king about?
    Jerusalem was confused. Herod was fearful and the people didn’t know what to think.
    The wise men were confused as to how to find the King of Kings. They did not have GPS to follow, they followed the star. Now look at how they responded.

    3. When the Wise Men were confused the chose to follow God’s light 1 step at a time

    One step at a time…
    Matthew 2:1–3 NLT
    1 Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” 3 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem.
    They saw and followed.
    Matthew 2:8 NLT
    8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”
    When these seekers arrived in Jerusalem, it upset Herod. So he plotted to kill the baby.
    There is a downside to seeking jesus. When you follow Jesus, there is a downside as well. People will not like you serving the Lord. someone will get upset just like Herod did. When people try to get close to God, it makes others people uncomfortable.
    Herod wasn’t going to worship the child, he was going to kill him. They knew this because God warned them in a dream.
    These wise men do not stop looking for Jesus until they find him. A lot of people look for Jesus and get close but don’t find him. Keep seeking until you find him for your self.
    Matthew 2:9–10 NLT
    9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!
    They found him and they were overjoyed. they worshipped him and gave him gifts. They were excited. Look...
    Think about this. God gave these guys a little light. He didn’t give them a map. Our problem is we want a map. We want all the details before we commit. These guys went for it. God is not going to give us a detailed map of our lives…not going to happen. It would scare you too much. God also will not give us a map because then we would not have to trust him, and he wants to develop our faith.
    God gives us something better than a map. he gives us a compass. A compass says go that way… The compass for our lives is the Bible. The more you are in the Bible, the more direction you have in your life. The less you are in the Bible, the more dead ins you will run into.
    The bible will not tell you to take a particular job, but it will give you direction. It points you in the right direction on those values it teaches. God’s Word is a compass. The Holy Spirit is the guiding light. He will give you nudges towards or away from something.
    Psalm 119:105 NLT
    105 Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.
    The more you get into the WOG, the more light you will have in your life… the more direction you will have in your life.
    The wise men finally got to where they were going…
    Matthew 2:11 NLT
    11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
    They finally met Jesus. Have you ever met Jesus? I’m not talking about knowing about him. I’m not talking about going to church… knowing him personally.
    How do you know if you have really met Jesus.
    You are overwhelmed with humble gratitude when you meet god and realize that God can do so much in your life.
    When you meet Jesus you want to worship him and give him gifts. You do this out of gratitude of what he does in your life. The wise men opened their treasure boxes.
    What’s in your treasure box? whatever you value the most. Job… kids… plans… money … hobbies…
    Have you lost your joy? Truth is … you may be miserable.
    Some of you have lost your joy because of anxiety. You have too many worries ...
    Some of you have lost your joy because you have been hurt and you keep thinking about it making it worse.
    Some of you have lost your joy because of confusion… You don’t know what you are supposed to do.
    It doesn’t matter why you have lost your joy, God wants to give it back to you this year. The angel said I bring you good news of great joy for all people.
    Maybe you need to pray this prayer…
    Psalm 51:12 NLT
    12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
    God, I don't want to live a joyless life. I don't want to just exist, but I have let anxiety and hurt and resentment and confusion and a lot of other things steal my joy. This Christmas, God, I need help from heaven. Thank you for sending Jesus to be my Savior. I don't understand it all, God, but like Mary, I'm choosing to trust you and accept your plan for my life. I don't even know all of it, what it is yet, but like Mary, I want to find my joy in you, not in a drug, not in an affair, not in my job. I want to find my joy in you.
    Like Joseph, God, I need you to fill me with your grace, so I can let go of all the pain that has hurt me, so I can let go of all the people who have hurt me. I want the joy of the Lord to be my strength. God, like those wise men, I want to follow the light that you give me, one step at a time, through that compass, your Word, and your Spirit. I guess, God, what I'm saying this Christmas is I realize I cannot save myself, and I need help from heaven, and I need a Savior, which is the whole reason you sent one at Christmas."
      • John 15:11NIV

      • Luke 1:26–30NIV

      • Luke 1:31–33NIV

      • Luke 1:34–37NIV

      • Luke 1:38NIV

      • Luke 1:47NIV

      • Matthew 1:18–19NIV

      • Matthew 1:20–21NIV

      • Nehemiah 8:10NIV

      • Matthew 2:1–3NIV

      • Matthew 2:8NIV

      • Matthew 2:9–10NIV

      • Psalm 119:105NIV

      • Matthew 2:11NIV

      • Psalm 51:12NIV

  • Joy To The World (Antioch)

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