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Joy Inexpressible (1 Peter 1:6-9)

    We use the word “joy” a lot during this time of year, even outside the church. We talk about the joy of the season. We wish other families a joyous holiday. We have the word “joy” decorating our homes. The French expression for Merry Christmas is even “joyeux Noël” which literally translated means “joyful Christmas”.
    What does “joy” mean though? And why do we have joy? Is it something that anyone can have?
    We’re going to look at a passage this morning that isn’t one of the “traditional” Christmas passages. It doesn’t talk about the birth of Christ or anything surrounding the birth of Christ. But it does talk about joy, and since joy is such a rich part of Christmas, any passage about joy can be seen as applicable to the Christmas season.
    I’d like for you to join me in 1 Peter 1:6-9 this morning. Peter’s letter is directed to Christians he says are exiled throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. These were Christians, some Jewish and some Gentile, who were living in these areas, and they weren’t exiles in a traditional sense. They weren’t exiled from their homes, and they weren’t exiled from any church. Rather, because they were Christians and at odds with the way that the world lived in a sinful and fallen state, they were exiles from the dark world around them because they had the light of Christ.
    In this way, we can empathize with the Christians that would have read this letter from Peter. We are exiles too! We haven’t been exiled from our homes or from our families or churches, but we are exiles from the world and the ways of the world. We are at odds with the world because it walks in darkness and we walk in light.
    But, Peter reminded them and reminds us today, that even though we are at odds with the world, even though we are exiles from it, we “have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood” (vs. 2). God chose us! We wants us to follow Jesus Christ in obedience. And so with that knowledge, Peter talks about two things that have a lot to do with the Christmas season: hope and joy.
    Let’s look at verses 6-9, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
    I love the way that Peter describes joy here as “inexpressible and glorious”! And when we truly understand what joy is and where it comes from, we find it fits those two descriptive words perfectly. Inexpressible and glorious joy! It’s good stuff!
    So the first question I want us to tackle this advent Sunday about joy, is: why do we have joy? The world would say that joy is intense happiness, that it’s an emotion of great delight caused by something that you find satisfying. By this definition, joy could be threatened if you face a very dissatisfying situation. If the bad is enough to outweigh the good, then joy could disappear, if joy is what the world says it is.
    But that’s not true joy. So, why do we have joy? Do we still have it when the punches keep coming and we are trapped under the weight of bad circumstances?
    To help us understand joy, Peter answers another question for us. The question is: do we still have joy, even when we’re suffering? Look again at verse 6, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” To rejoice means that you have joy, it is the action of having joy or taking joy. So, yes, Peter is saying that we do still have joy, even when we’re suffering.
    It’s important to know what suffering Peter is talking about here. He is not talking about suffering that happens as a consequence of sin. He’s talking about the suffering you will go through for the sake of the gospel. This could include persecution; it could include slander; it could include martyrdom.
    But Peter is also talking about another type of suffering that happens when we bear the name of Christ. He’s talking about the suffering that comes from temptation. Not the following through with temptation, not the suffering that comes from sin, but the suffering that comes from temptation. If we look at ourselves as exiles from the world, then we have to understand when we stand firm in the face of temptation and do not allow it to become sin, there will be suffering for going against what the world says is not only okay, but good.
    Look at what James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
    The suffering both Peter and James speak about comes from temptation and from being at odds with the world around us. We are guaranteed to face this type of suffering because we are withstanding temptation and not allowing it to become sin. We will face these types of suffering and trials.
    If you’re following along in your bulletin this morning, I want you to look at 1.a. It says, “suffering is”, and next to it I want you to write “temporary”. Suffering is temporary. When we talk about the type of suffering that comes from being tempted, the type of trials that come from being at odds with the world around us, it’s temporary. It will never last long. It is not a permanent experience. Even if it lasts for your entire earthly life, suffering is not an eternal state of existence.
    There’s something else we need to know about suffering that you’ll see in your bulletin is that suffering only happens if God allows. Now, that doesn’t mean that He causes suffering, He doesn’t. He doesn’t cause temptation, we usually do a pretty good job of that ourselves. But, He does allow us to go through it. He allows us to go through suffering.
    Peter tells us to find joy in these trials and suffering.
    What is the reason? What is the purpose for this suffering and these trials Peter talks about? And what does this have to do with joy?
    Let’s look at verse 7 of 1 Peter 1, “These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
    You have another two blanks in your bulletin this morning, under the question, “What is the purpose?”
    The verse we just read answers this question. Suffering and trials happen, and God allows them to happen so our faith is refined. That’s one of the results of suffering: it refines our faith. Peter says that it proves the genuineness of our faith, it makes it of greater worth than gold. Isn’t that something to rejoice about?! Do you want a greater faith? Do you want faith that is of greater worth than gold? I know I do!
    The verse we just read gives us another answer to what comes out of our suffering. The other result is that we receive praise, glory, and honor. Now bear with me. When you first read through this verse, you’re first thought is likely to be that it is Christ, it is God who gets the praise, glory and honor, and that is certainly true. Any time that Christ is revealed through our lives He does receive praise, glory and honor, but so do we! This verse isn’t specific about who receives praise, glory and honor, because we do too!
    We receive praise, glory and honor from God when we allow Him to refine our faith through suffering and trials. How many times do we read about blessing for those who endure persecution? How many times do we read about blessings for those who face all sorts of trials? Our praise, glory and honor for sufferings and trials comes from God!
    I was thinking about this suffering, and these trials that Peter talks about and the joy that we have as Christians during Christmas time. I couldn’t help but think about the joy those waiting for the Messiah to come might have felt.
    Verses 8-9 say, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
    In many ways, it was similar to the joy we feel now. They couldn’t see the Messiah yet, and we have never seen Him either, but they loved Him and so do we. They believed in Him and were filled with joy as they waited His coming with anticipation. We believe in Him and are filled with joy as we wait for Him to come again.
    We feel joy because even though we’re facing suffering and trials, we have the hope of not only our future complete salvation, but the joy of the salvation that we have now through Christ. They also had the joy of the hope of future salvation, waiting in anticipation for their Savior. For them it was for the first time, for us, it is for the second time.
    But, the point is, that our joy doesn’t come from the circumstances. It doesn’t come from any temporary thing. It comes from the hope of salvation, past, present and for eternity, that we have in Christ Jesus. And so, because our joy, that is deeper than an emotion, better than happiness, comes from our hope of salvation in Christ, it doesn’t matter what we suffer through. It doesn’t matter what trials we face. It doesn’t matter how long He waits to come back. Our joy is inexpressible and glorious and it is eternal because our salvation is eternal and that is what we have joy in.
    So, in all this greatly rejoice. God is refining your faith to make it greater than gold and you are receiving the salvation of your soul.

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