THE CHRISTIAN’S JOY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-9-88 10:50 a.m.
You are now a part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Christian’s Joy. In our preaching through the Book of John, we are in the very holy of holies of all God’s sacred Word: John chapters 14, 15, 16 [John 14-16], and the high priestly prayer in John 17 [John 17:1-26]. The message this morning is taken from the very heart of these sacred, heavenly words of our Savior. It is a textual sermon on John 15:11.
Speaking to His disciples, He says, “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” [John 15:11]. There is a word in this verse that is filled with infinite meaning as it and its six cognates are used in the New Testament. It is the word chara, chara, joy. “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy, chara, might remain in you, and that your chara, joy,” gladness, happiness, “might be full” [John 15:11].
Chara: that is a much-used word in its cognates in our English language and in many other languages. We had a young woman join the church at the 8:15 o’clock hour named Kara, “joy.” Sometimes a girl will be named Karen; put an “en” on it, “Karen,” joy. We use it sometimes in our English language in a cognate, “charisma.” Sometimes we make an adjectival form of it, “charismatic.”
It is a beautiful word, and you find it throughout God’s revealed New Testament. For example in Galatians 5:22, Paul writes, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, chara, joy, peace, goodness, faith.” In 1 Thessalonians 2:19, Paul writes to the church at Thessalonica, “For what is our hope, or chara, joy? It is even you in the presence of our Lord.” One of the cognates is chairō, “to rejoice, to be glad.” In adjectival form in Luke 15 we have the beautiful stories of those lost sheep, lost coin, lost boy [Luke 15:3-32]. And this shepherd, “When he has found that lost sheep, he layeth it on his shoulders chairōn,” rejoicing [Luke 15:5] and says, chairō, “Rejoice with me; I have found my sheep that was lost” [Luke 15:6]. Likewise, our Lord says, chara, “Joy, shall be in heaven over one, somebody that repents” [Luke 15:10]. It closes that fifteenth chapter with the story of the prodigal boy coming back home [Luke 15:20]. And the father says, “It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: chairō, for this my boy was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” [Luke 15:32].
Another cognate of the word charis is charizomai, “to show favor to, to forgive.” That beautiful, beautiful verse in Ephesians 4:32, “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, charizomai, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake, for charizomai, hath forgiven you.”
Another cognate is charis, “charm, favor, grace.” In Luke 1:30, the angel said unto Mary, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found charis, favor, grace with God.” And Luke 2:40, speaking of the Boy Jesus, “Jesus grew . . . filled with the Spirit; and the charis, the grace, of God was upon Him.” And in Luke 4:22, describing our Lord’s ministry as He spoke in Nazareth, it says, “And all bare Him witness, and wondered at the charis, the gracious, words which proceeded out of His mouth.”
Another cognate is charisma. That means “a gift of grace,” an undeserved favor. In Romans 1:11, the apostle Paul writes to the church at Rome, “For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some charisma, some spiritual gift.” And then again in Romans 6:23, that glorious verse, “For the wages of sin is death; but the charisma of God is eternal life.”
And one other here in the New Testament: charitoō. It means “to be favored.” In Luke 1:28, “And the angel said to Mary, ‘Hail, thou that are charitoō, greatly favored.’” And in Ephesians 1:4-6, Paul writes, “God hath chosen us, and predestinated us to the praise and glory of His grace,” charitoō. It’s a glorious, glorious word. And it is used throughout the New Testament, describing the grace and favor of God poured out upon us.
Where can we find joy and peace and happiness? Where? Do you find it; can you find it in unbelief? In the rejection of Christ, in atheism, in infidelity? Voltaire—I suppose, the greatest philosopher the French people has ever produced—Voltaire said, “I wish I had never been born.” He was an infidel, he was an atheist, he rejected God’s grace in Christ. “I wish I had never been born.” Can you find peace and joy and happiness in carnal and worldly pleasure? Lord Byron wrote a famous poem entitled “On My Thirty-Sixth Birthday.” Do you remember the first stanza of that poem?
My days are in the yellow leaf;
The fruits and flowers of love are gone;
The worm, the cancer, and the grave
Are mine alone!
He lived a desolate and carnal life. Or Bobby Burns, as much as that Scottish poet is loved, he lived a desolate life. Do you remember his word?
Pleasures are like poppies spread:
You seize the flow’r, the bloom is shed;
Or as the snow falls in the river,
A moment white then gone forever;
Or like the rainbow’s lovely form
Vanishing amid the storm;
Or like the borealis rays
That flit ere you can point their place.
[“Tam O’Shanter,” Robert Burns]
The transitory nature of carnal, worldly pleasure: can it be found in money, in affluence? Wouldn’t you think to be rich would be to be happy and joyful beyond description?
Jay Gould, who lived the generation before us—one of the richest men in the world—dying, Jay Gould said, “I suppose, I am the most miserable man in the earth.” What a testimony to the emptiness and the despair of affluence and riches! Well, can joy and peace and gladness be found in position and fame? Lord Beaconsfield—Benjamin Disraeli was twice the prime minister of Great Britain in the days of its glory. He was the favorite of Queen Victoria. Lord Beaconsfield said—Benjamin Disraeli said, “Youth is a mistake. Manhood is a struggle. And old age is a regret.”
Well, could joy and peace and victory and triumph and gladness and happiness be found in military glory and in conquest and in world empire? I suppose there was never a greater military victor that ever walked on the face of the earth than Alexander the Great. When he was 32 years old, that seems so young to me—when he was 32 years old, in a drunken debauchery he died in Babylon; 32!
Or Napoleon Bonaparte: what a swath did he sweep across the western civilized world! The most impressive poetry you’ll ever see of Napoleon Bonaparte is after he is exiled to St. Helena, a hundred twenty miles west of Africa: standing on the shore of the vast Atlantic with his hands behind his back, looking over that great sea with an infinite sadness, pathetic despairing featured on his face.
Where can you find joy and peace and victory and gladness and happiness? Well, here is a Man who says, “I have it!” Do you see that? Possess it! “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you” [John 15:11]. Here is a Man who speaks of His joy. I want you to look at that Man, who says that He has a fullness of joy and peace and happiness in His heart and in His life. One thing, He belonged to a despised, hated persecuted race. This Man who stands here speaking these words is not a militant, conquering victorious Roman conquering the world, He is not a Roman. This Man who speaks this word is not an intellectual Greek; He is not in the train of Plato or Aristotle or Socrates. This Man belongs to a despised and hated race.
My forefathers came from England. There were hundreds and hundreds of years when the Jew was prohibited from even being in England. You get a good idea of the English attitude at that time toward the Jew in Shakespeare’s, The Merchant of Venice, in Shylock. Jesus belonged to that race. Look again; this is the Man saying He’s filled with joy and gladness that He wishes to bestow upon us [John 15:11]. And He is a nobody! He has no status, He has no fame, He has no credentials, He lives in a despised town in a despised district, up there in Galilee.
He said Himself, “The foxes of the field have dens, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head” [Matthew: 8:20]. Poor, a mendicant; could you say a street person? With nothing! Look again at this Man. He is described in the Bible as a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief [Isaiah 53:3]. Upon an occasion, He asked His disciples, “Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?” [Matthew 16:13]. And the first answer was, “They say You are Jeremiah” [Matthew 16:14]. Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, who cried saying, “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” [Jeremiah 9:1]. “You are like Jeremiah, You cry all the time, You weep all the time.” Isn’t it remarkable? Never in the Bible will you say the Lord smiled, or that He laughed, but that He wept, and He wept, and He wept [Luke 19:41, John 11:35, Hebrews 5:7-8]. “You are like Jeremiah.” The torture of a Hosea and the disappointment and despair of an Amos characterized the life of our Lord Jesus. The Book says in prophecy, “He bore our trials and griefs, and carried our sorrows” [Isaiah 53:4]. This is the Man who is speaking of His joy [John 15:11].
Would you take a moment just to look at one other thing about this text? Do you notice the occasion upon which the word is spoken? At that minute, at this minute, at that moment that the Lord speaks of His joy [John 15:11], the Sanhedrin was meeting, planning His crucifixion [Matthew 26:1-5]. At that minute, Judas Iscariot was bargaining with the members of the Sanhedrin to deliver and to betray and to sell our Lord for thirty pieces of silver [Matthew 26:14-16]—at that minute. When the Lord spoke that, He was walking with the disciples to Gethsemane [John 18:1].
Gethsemane is a word in our language for an indescribable struggle and conflict and hurt. In Gethsemane, our Lord was in a blood bath of agony [Matthew 26:36-38, Luke 22:44], that’s the occasion upon which He spoke those words. And dear sweet people, within a few hours after the Lord said that, “My joy” [John 15:11] within a few hours, He was nailed to a tree and died on a cross [John 19:16-30].
How could such a thing be? How could the Lord speak of His joy and His peace and His happiness in a context like that? Well, it must be, it must be that His joy and His gladness and His happiness finds its fountain source in some other place than in this world and in this life. Evidently His joy and His happiness is inward, it is God-ward, it is heavenward. It is not earthward and man-ward. He found, evidently, His joy and strength and peace and happiness in doing the will of God. In the Book of Hebrews, quoting Him in the Scripture, “Lo, I come,” parenthesis, “(in the roll of the book, in the roll of the book it is written of Me),” end parenthesis, “to do Thy will, O God” [Hebrews 10:7].
And a few verses later on, our Lord Jesus, “For the joy, the chara, for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” [Hebrews 12:2], and the shame, and the agony, and the condemnation—for the gladness and the joy of doing God’s will.
When I think of the Lord, and the joy that He speaks of in His heart, and the tragedy that was overwhelming His life—hatred, bitterness, condemnation, finally crucifixion and suffering and death—when I think of the Lord and He speaks of His joy, I think of a sea that is swept by a violent storm. And the waves and the breakers are rolling and beating against the shore; but underneath, in the depths of the sea, there is infinite quiet and peace, undisturbed and unmoved. That is our Lord. However the outside and the providences and the materialities of this world may sweep, inside—perfect rest, perfect peace, perfect happiness—quiet in the goodness and the presence of the Lord.
Now, not only does He speak of His joy, “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” [John 15:11]. He speaks of our joy, the joy that God gives to us. Do you notice in this passage out of which I am preaching what the Lord says about us? He says here that we’re going to be hated by the world [John 15:18-19]. Now, in the next verse He says that we will be persecuted [John 15:20] and all that persecute you will rejoice in their persecution of you [John 16:20]. Then He says in a few verses later on, “They shall cast you out of their synagogues.” And in the same verse He says, “And whosoever kills you,” murders you, delivers you to execution, “will think that he does God’s service” [John 16:2].
“What? Lord, how? How could such a thing be? We are to be hated and we are to be persecuted, and we are to be cast out and finally even executed; hated unto death. Lord, how could that bring joy to us?”
If I look at the world, I don’t have an answer. But if I look at God’s Book, I see it plainly. In the sixteenth chapter of this Book of Acts, chapter 16, they took Paul and Silas and beat them with Roman rods [Acts 16:22-23]. I have read many times in history that many times under the flagellation of those Roman rods, men died! They beat Paul and Silas. And they cast them into an inner dungeon and made their feet fast in the stocks [Acts 16:24]. That’s what God’s Book says. Then God’s Book says, “And at midnight,” in the darkness of the night, in their blood and stripes and in their imprisonment and in their dungeon, “they lifted up their voices and prayed and sang praises to God” [Acts 16:25]. How could such a thing be? Singing praises to God, bathed in their own human blood and cast into an inner dungeon?
It must be that there is a peace and a joy and a gladness and a happiness that is not conditioned by this world or by the providences of life. When Paul wrote this letter to the church at Philippi where that happened, there’s nothing in the Bible so up, so optimistic, so full of the promise and glory of God, as the letter to the church at Philippi, the Philippians letter. Paul says in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content,” to be happy in the Lord. O God, what a wonderful gift! Just praising the Lord, whatever, however.
In the Old Testament you have that same kind of a marvelous response on the inside of the heart. Job is described as the richest man in the East [Job 1:3], and there came all of those tragedies that overwhelmed his life! Everything that he had was destroyed, everything that he possessed [Job 1:13-17]. All of his children were slain in a storm [Job 1:18-19], and finally God allowed Satan to afflict him from the top of his head to the sole of his feet with running sores [Job 2:7]. And Job sat in an ash heap crying in misery [Job 2:8]. And his wife came and said to him, “Curse God, and commit suicide! Curse God, and die” [Job 2:9]. And Job replied, “Naked came I forth from my mother’s womb, naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” [Job 1:21]. Great God, what a gift from heaven! Whatever the providences of life, whatever the despair and the hurt and the sorrow and the tears, blessed be the name of the Lord. An infinite peace and quiet and happiness in your soul; it’s a gift from heaven.
May I take a leaf out of my life? Some years ago there died a very, very rich and a very, very famous man in America by the name of George Eastman, George Eastman. He invented the Kodak: he invented modern photography and his empire swept the entire earth, every nation in the world. The Eastman Kodak Company became an affluent well of wealth for George Eastman, millions and millions and millions and millions of dollars. Fame and fortune, adulation, admiration, all that human heart or mind could think for belonged to George Eastman. When you read the biography of George Eastman, look it up in the encyclopedias and on and on and on—I did this this week just to be sure that I was correct in this—every one of those biographies in the encyclopedias and all will say George Eastman died such and such date. Not one of them says he committed suicide, not one, not one. George Eastman with all of his wealth, millions and millions, and all of his fame and all of the adulation accorded him by the world, George Eastman committed suicide; died by his own hand.
Well, sweet people, just one of those providences of life that I do not know. On the day that George Eastman died—on the day that he committed suicide, on the day that he took his own life, on that day—I buried a hunchback, a hunchback. I buried a hunchback on that day. He was a godly man, afflicted by a tragic disease that bent him over and he became a hunchback. Poor; lived by the work of his hand, the labor of his hands, but a godly man, a beautiful man in his heart and in his life. And we ordained one of his boys to be a preacher of the gospel. And at that service, that lad whom we had ordained to preach the unsearchable riches of the grace, the chara of Christ, spoke of that wonderful father and how his life and testimony had blessed him and the sweet circle of family and all who knew him.
And in my notes written years ago, I put that down; “On this day George Eastman died by suicide with his own hand, and on this day I buried that hunchback, whose life was a glory to God, and whose boy stood up as a minister of the gospel, praising the Lord for his godly father.” It is infinitely precious to be rich toward God, however the providences of life may bring us to poverty, or to sorrow, or to age, or to sickness, or to despair, it is in God’s hands.
How shall my life end? I’ve come to the time and the age when I think about it often. Whether I will or no, I can’t keep it out of my mind. How will my life end? I don’t know the outside circumstances. Will it be a stroke? Will I just go to sleep in the Lord? Will I die in a physical agony? Will it be after a long illness? All of those things are in the hands of the Almighty. I just know this: that however that providence comes in my heart, I’ll be happy in Him: glorifying God, praising the Lord, blessing His Holy name, “God having provided some better thing for us” [Hebrews 11:40].
I must close. I went to school in the seminary with a blind boy—young preacher, blind—and he never sang this song but that I just wept out of gratitude and praise and thanksgiving to God. In his blindness, he’d stand up and sing:
I shall see Him face to face.
And tell the story of His grace.”
[“Saved By Grace,” Fanny Crosby]
And look at him, blind! Blind yet he is singing, “I shall see Him face to face.” Won’t be anymore blind, won’t be anymore crippled, won’t be anymore old, won’t be anymore sick, won’t be anymore dying, won’t be anymore death, won’t be anymore sorrow and tears, for God has made all things new and this is our inheritance forever [Revelation 21:3-5]. “God, having provided this better thing for us” [Hebrews 11:40].
Oh, dear people, why wouldn’t anybody love God, serve the Lord, open their hearts heavenward and God-ward and live a life of triumph and victory, peace and glory, joy and happiness? This is the Christian way. This is the reason Christ came into the world, thus to give us everlasting life [John 3:16, 10:27-30; Hebrews 10:5-14]. Now may we pray?
Our Lord in heaven, what a wonderful Savior You are, and what a glorious victory do we have in Thee. No matter the providences that overwhelm us now, God has some better thing prepared for us [Hebrews 11:40]. What a wonder, O God, the home You are preparing for us in heaven; a mansion in the sky [John 14:2-3], and all the riches of glory in Christ Jesus, bestowed upon us. We who are fellow heirs with our Lord, He is our elder brother [Romans 8:17]. O Christ Jesus, what a happiness, in the very thought of someday sitting down with Thee, being Thy guest! O Christ, that we might love Thee more and serve Thee better. And may every day for us in this pilgrimage be a glorious triumph, singing the praises of God, no matter what! The sorrowful providences that overwhelm us, just happy in Thee. And may this joy that we have found in Thy faith and grace and goodness [Romans 5:2], Lord, may it be shared by all in divine presence, please God. In Thy dear name, amen.
When we sing our hymn of appeal in a moment, you come. It will be one of the sweetest benedictory remembrances you’ll ever share in your life. And in the throng of people in this sanctuary, in the balcony round, down one of these stairways, and in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, God has spoken to me today and I’m coming. I’m standing with you and the Lord.” Put your life in our dear church, welcome; to accept the Lord as your Savior, welcome. To answer God’s call in your heart, welcome [Romans 10:9-13]. May angels speed you in the way; come. Come, come, while we stand and while we sing.
WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN’S JOY?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Chara – “joy”
B. Six variations used in the New Testament
1. Joy (Galatians 5:22, 1 Thessalonians 2:19)
2. To rejoice (Luke 15:5, 10, 32)
3. To show favor, forgive (Ephesians 4:32)
4. Charm, favor, grace (Luke 1:30, 2:40, 4:22)
5. A gift of grace, an undeserved favor (Romans 1:11, 6:23)
6. To be favored (Luke 1:28, Ephesians 1:4-6)II. Where can we find joy, peace and happiness?
B. Carnal pleasure?
E. Military glory?III. Jesus speaks of joy
A. Look at this Man (Matthew 8:20, 16:13, Jeremiah 9:1)
B. Look at the occasion upon which He speaks
C. What joy could He have? (Hebrews 10:7, 12:2)IV. This the joy Jesus gives to us
A. Look at the outside things Jesus incidentally mentions (John 15:19-20, 16:2)
B. The joy of Jesus not conditioned by the world (Acts 16:23-25, Philippians 4:11, Job 2:9, 1:21)