We are in a series about joy. We explained that joy is different than happiness. Happiness is what happens to us. When I get new car, I am happy. When my favorite football team wins, I am happy. When I have a date for the dance, I am happy. Happiness is temporary. As fast as it comes, it can go.
Joy if different. It is a decision we make. Joy is about character. We explained that joy is based on the reality that God is in control so we can relax in that. Joy is bigger than happiness. You can actually have joy and not be happy. If I have a flat tire, that doesn’t make me happy and it doesn’t steal my joy that God loves me.
The difference between joy and happiness are important to understand. Because the struggle people have with God can be, we want God to give us happiness, but God wants to give us joy. We want God to make life around us easy. No pain. No struggle. No hard times. But God is up to something bigger. God wants us to grow up spiritually.
James, Jesus’ brother, wrote:
2 Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. 3 For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything. NLT James 1:2-4
To make it simple, we said happiness is what happens to us. Joy is based on the reality that God is in control and we can relax in that. We are looking at the things of life that can steal our joy and the decisions we need to make to find joy.
In this series, we are walking through the story of Jesus’ birth. It’s a story of God inviting ordinary people into what He was doing. Last week we read the story of the angel visiting Mary. The angel was inviting Mary into an impossible story, a virgin birth, that would probably end in scandal. As you read the story, you can almost feel the stress and anxiety rise inside of Mary. How does Mary, at the age of 13, respond?
“I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true.” And then the angel left.” NLT Luke 1:38
We asked several questions. What are you stressed about? What keeps you up at night? What gives you anxiety? Are you like Mary? Do you put your trust in God and surrender? We said, if you haven’t, that’s why you live with stress, anxiety and fear. To find joy, when we feel anxiety, we must trust.
Today we read about Joseph.
18 Now this is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. NLT Matthew 1:18-25
Understand reading this, Joseph doesn’t know anything about what is going on. He’s a carpenter. He fell love with Mary. We was planning on marriage, kids and a life of carpentry. For Joseph, there has been no visit from an angel for Joseph. No God moment to update him on what is happening. What is Joseph confronted with? His soon to be wife is pregnant with someone else’s baby. She has broken the engagement contract. She has broken trust. She has broken his heart. She had to have fooled around with someone – right? How disappointed, hurt and angry would Joseph had to be with Mary?
I need to stop and ask you. Who has hurt you? You put your trust in them and they broke that trust, who comes to your mind? You are disappointed in them; you can’t believe they did what they did. You are hurt and chances are they will never understand how deeply. And maybe that hurt has led you to become very angry.
I want to ask you a second set of questions. What have you done with that hurt and resentment? Are you holding on to it? Are you angry? Here is what we know. If you are holding onto that hurt, it’s stealing your joy. You can’t hold onto your hurt and be joyful at the same time. One is getting bigger and one is getting smaller.
To give you an analogy, it’s like kryptonite to Superman. The longer Superman holds onto kryptonite, the weaker he becomes. That’s what hurt does to you when you hold onto it. It ruins you. It steals your strength, your joy.
What does Joseph do? Let’s read on.
19 Joseph, her fiancé, being a just man, decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not to disgrace her publicly. NLT Matthew 1:18-25
It turns out that Joseph is a good guy. He does the right thing. He doesn’t expose Mary as an adulteress. He doesn’t try to get revenge. He doesn’t one up her and have a fling. He doesn’t respond with anger or hate.
What do we see in Joseph? He’s a good guy. We call that character. He still wants to protect Mary.
Let me ask you, how would you have responded to your fiancée getting pregnant? It shows what is inside you. Your character.
Let’s keep reading.
20 As he considered this, he fell asleep, and an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to go ahead with your marriage to Mary. For the child within her has been 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.” 22 All of this happened to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:
23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and he will be called Immanuel (meaning, God is with us).” NLT Matthew 1:18-25
We must see what is happening to this young man. First, his fiancée has broken her vows to him and deeply hurt him. Now, an angel is inviting him into a God story. It’s not at all what he planned. Not only did Joseph have the right to be angry with Mary, but now Joseph could be angry with God. This God story that God is inviting Joseph into, it isn’t fair. He is in that middle of a God story he didn’t sign up for. Now his life plans are changing.
Let me ask you, are you angry at God? Do you find yourself in the middle of a situation that you have no control over? If you were honest, do you resent God for allowing bad things to happen to you? Maybe you are innocent and something bad has happened to you. Maybe you are the good person in the story and something unfair has happened to you.
My follow up question for you is this, have you resented God for it? Here is what we know, if you are angry with God, resentful, it will steal your joy. You can’t walk with anger and joy at the same time.
Let’s see what Joseph does.
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded. He brought Mary home to be his wife, 25 but she remained a virgin until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus. NLT Matthew 1:18-25
Joseph surrenders. Joseph could have been angry and resentful with Mary. Joseph could have been angry and resentful with God. But what does Joseph do? He surrenders to the God story unfolding around him.
One of the biggest things that will steal your joy is hurt that leads to resentment. In those moments, you have a decision to make. Will you forgive and move one or will you hold onto the resentment.
My question to you is, who do you have to forgive? If you don’t, that hurt that has turned into anger or resentment will become toxic to you. It will ruin your story. It will steal all your joy. They will continue to do life but if you hang onto resentment, it will only hurt you.
Next question to you is, do you need to surrender to God? Maybe you are angry with God because you feel like life has been unfair to you. That anger isn’t helping you. It’s toxic. It will steal all your joy.
This Christmas, before you enter into it, if you are walking in anger or resentment, you need to make the decision to forgive. If you want to find joy, you must make the decision to forgive. Who do you need to forgive? Do you need to forgive others? Forgive God? Forgive yourself?
Let’s share 7 things about forgiveness you must know and 3 misconceptions.
1.) Forgiveness is not forgetting.
2.) Forgiveness is a choice, a decision of the will, not a feeling.
3.) Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of another person’s sin.
4.) Forgiveness is agreeing to not hold someone’s sin against them anymore.
5.) Forgiveness doesn’t mean you tolerate sin or re-enter the relationship without changes.
6.) Forgiveness doesn’t seek revenge.
7.) Forgiveness means you are not the judge, God is.
Three very common misconceptions about forgiveness:
Misconception #1.) I haven’t truly forgiven until I forget about what happened – WRONG. You can truly forgive and still remember, but you shouldn’t emotionally hang onto it. After you forgive, if you find that you are emotionally hanging onto it, forgive again.
Misconception #2.) If I forgive, that means I must minimize the offense and pain that was caused – WRONG. To forgive someone never minimizes or condones; what the person did. It simply means you are not allowing that hurt to ruin you, your heart and the rest of your life.
Misconception #3.) If I forgive, that means I resume the relationship without changes – WRONG. There is a difference between forgiving and restoring. To forgive means you are addressing the damage that was done to your heart. To restore a relationship takes time to build trust.
Before you leave this moment, who do you have to forgive? Maybe you need to forgive yourself. God forgives you but you struggle to let yourself off the hook.
Do you need to surrender to God?