Where’s your joy placed? – Galatians 4:13-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 21, 2016
A lot of folks do not understand that there is a difference between joy and happiness. Happiness can be fleeting while joy is more steadfast and sure, and in fact you can have joy even when everything around you in life is falling apart. Too much of today’s world has confused joy with happiness. Lasting joy is not found in things. True joy that lasts not just a lifetime but forever is that which is found in a relationship, not in sinful people but in the one who gave everything to give you everlasting joy!
Paul understood this and did not want the Galatian church to be deceived or lured away by the false, shallow, and momentary happiness of the world around them. I know it is hard for some of you to believe but sometimes people have ulterior or hidden motives. They want your friendship, your vote, or your physical presence in order to satisfy their personal lust for power, greed, or pleasure. Paul not only understood human nature he understood the gospel as well. Paul was tacitly asking the Galatians, “Where’s your joy placed?” Let’s discover where ours is placed this morning…
The last verse (v. 12) belongs with the following verses where Paul related how he was received by the Galatians on his first visit to them as found in Acts 13-14 and he lets them know that…
I. Joy is found in other believers! (Vv. 13-14)
As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.
1. Evidently the Galatians had forgotten how when they had first heard the good news “they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” And in fact “The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.” (Acts 13:48-49 NIV) In fact when Paul and Barnabas faced persecution by the very Jews who would pervert the Galatians joy, they just “shook the dust from their feet” and continued on “filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:50-52) When Paul and Barnabas went to Iconium “they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed” (Acts 14:1) and because of persecution they fled to Lystra and Derbe. Because of a healing they did there the crowds mistakenly thought they were Zeus and Hermes. “Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.” (Acts 14:19 NIV) So here Paul kindly reminds the Galatians, “As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you.” Illness! They had tried to STONE him! However Paul continues by reminding them “Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn.” Some think Paul could be referring to his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7) and perhaps it was his eyesight, if so it was because of those who tried to stone him in the first place! “Instead” Paul reminds them, “you welcomed me as if I were an angel (messenger) of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself!” Why would Paul say this? Because he knew that joy is found in other believers!
EXAMPLE: Paul would write the Philippian church that they were to have the same attitude as that of Jesus. That ” If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” (Philippians 2:1-2 NIV) That is how believers are to behave toward one another! There is nothing more beautiful, nothing more powerful, and nothing more wonderful than when believers are pulling, praying, and encouraging one another! Some of the greatest joy I have had is in the toughest times of my life when fellow believers were praying for me and encouraging me to keep on keeping on in the Lord! Paul knew this to be true and would remind the Galatians that joy is found in other believers!
Our world so focuses on ourselves and how we feel that we often forget as believers that we are part of the body of Christ in the world. Christians physically and spiritually represent Jesus in a sin-fallen world! Joy is not found in what the body of Christ can do for you; joy is found in serving Jesus in the body of Christ! And Paul reminds the Galatians that…
II. Joy is found in recalling where joy comes from! (Vv. 15-16)
What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?
1. Perhaps Paul had suffered an injury to his eyesight in serving Jesus by being stoned by those he was trying to win to the gospel. And now those Paul had given his all for including perhaps his eyesight were “turning back to those weak and miserable principles”! How could they do such a thing? Paul is incredulous and asks them “What has happened to all your joy?” Where was their faith placed? Did they not remember what he had done for them; did they not remember what Jesus had done for them; and did they not remember what it meant to be the body of Christ in the world? At the time when Paul had witnessed to them and been with them they were more than willing to do whatever it took to serve Jesus! Paul writes, “I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.” Paul would write others, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us!” (1 Thessalonians 2:8 NIV) The Galatians, like many believers today, were focusing on the wrong thing! They wanted to be accepted, they wanted to feel good, they wanted three easy steps to being happy and successful! The Judaizers were whispering into their ears an easy believism of Jesus plus their guilt. It was ungodly then as it is now! Instead of coming to their senses they got offended and had hurt feelings. This is not what Jesus is about! A believer’s joy is not lost because their feelings are hurt! Paul bluntly asks, “Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” Yet this is exactly how many believers in our day and age react when confronted with their sinful attitudes! “You took away my joy in the Lord, you are my enemy.” Argh! Joy is found in recalling where joy comes from!
EXAMPLE: I was incredulous as a new pastor that there were folks who considered themselves “Christian” who wanted to be treated with godly respect but who were unwilling to treat others the same way. Like the Galatians we can sometimes only think of ourselves first and to heck with everyone else forgetting that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 NIV) They had become so focused on themselves and how they felt that they had left their joy in knowing Jesus behind. So much so that they were treating the very person, Paul, who had first introduced them to the very joy they now had lost! This is why Paul wanted to remind them that joy is found in recalling where joy comes from!
True joy in Jesus is not found in momentary worship on Sundays, regurgitating a stream of meaningless scriptural platitudes, or in trying to message one’s guilty conscience. Jesus never taught his followers to “seek first your happiness and your well being and all the joyous things of God will be yours”. Quite the contrary, we are to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness because…
III. Joy is being enthusiastic for Jesus! (Vv. 17-18)
Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you.
1. Paul would not put up with phony piety from anyone because Paul knew that “such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” (Romans 16:18 NIV) In fact Peter would also have strong words for those who would lead astray sincere believers by saying that “These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity–for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” (2 Peter 2:17-19 NIV) In a world where folks try to fill every waking moment with their own satisfaction it must be difficult to realize this is not what a walk with Jesus is all about. Paul put it into perspective for the Galatians when he told them, “Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good.” The Judaizers were not interested in developing the Galatians in their faith, quite the contrary. In fact Paul related that “What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them.” Paul did not have a problem with folks having strong feelings about God and tells them that “It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you.” Being zealous, having strong feelings is fine but it can lead the spiritually weak away from the importance of following Jesus by faith instead of emotions. The Galatians needed to be strong even when Paul was not there with them! Paul would tell the Philippians that “this my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ”. Joy is being enthusiastic for Jesus!
EXAMPLE: So much of Christianity focuses on the individual in our day that we could be accused of spiritual self-indulgence. While Jesus came to seek and save the lost, we can forget that this also includes others as well. Like the YouTube musical parody that depicts a worship leader singing, “It’s all about me Jesus, it’s all about me!” Christians can become spiritually confused when they focus on the wrong person, themselves instead of Jesus. Joy is being enthusiastic for Jesus!
Joy is found in other believers! Joy is found in recalling where joy comes from! Joy is being enthusiastic for Jesus!
This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.