Sermon delivered October 28, 2000 by Pastor Kent Crutcher

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted.

Rejoice!

This Sabbath we have the Madrigals from Collegedale Academy who will be sharing some of their music with us.

The holidays are coming. Christmas and Thanksgiving, and what that brings to mind, family reunions. At least to me. Whether that's good or bad. When the family gets together I was very impressed with my girl friend when she survived my first family reunion when I knew her, so I married her. Our family reunions can be a bit odd. I think they're all somewhat alike. We get together and the first thing we do is eat, and then we eat, and then we eat. And then when everyone is filled except for those that didn't know when to stop eating, the adults kind of merge around the room and find a comfortable place. We enjoy sitting around and talking. I remember as a kid I could not understand that. That was a mystery to me because my cousin and I, sitting around the card table would eat real fast so that we could go outside and play. Oh, I dreaded the thought of becoming an adult, a boring, talk-loving adult.

Now, after Thanksgiving dinner I watch the little cousins run out to play while I look for some good conversation from an easy chair, wishing that I had not eaten that last spoonful of mashed potatoes. And then, you know what happens. The stories begin. "Do you remember when..." And somebody is embarrassed. They don't want to be talked about. "You think that was funny? Do you remember...?" And each one gets more impressive than the other, and the stories keep building and laughter gets louder and then you think, "We told all these same stories the last time." You have heard them all before, except they seem to be funnier than they were last year. They kind of grow with the telling. And you wonder, what actually did happen?

Those times are fun. Unfortunately, the times in-between can be just the opposite. Stories get told to one-another in a negative way. Instead of "You think that's funny?", you might hear "You think you have problems? I'm the one with problems." Then we dwell upon the ills of our lives and the ills of society, it's going down the drain, and walk away tired and depressed.

"You think you have problems?" If anyone could have ever said this, I believe that it would be Paul. You remember Paul. You remember Paul. He's the one they used to call Saul, the persecutor of Christians?

You think that you have problems? What was Paul's attitude? Did he write the book of Lamentations? No, he wrote the book of Philippians.

Turn with me to Philippians 4. We'll be starting with verse 4. Remember what all happened to him. His first words throws me off right here. Rejoice... Paul, don't you know what you've been through? Rejoice in the Lord (sometime, when the going is good. No, that's the wrong translation.) Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Always? Did he say "always"? Do you realize where Paul was when he wrote this verse? He was not sitting in his easy-chair at home in front of the fireplace playing with his grandchildren! He was chained up in a Roman prison! That kind of adds perspective to what this verse means. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice.

Now, verse 5. Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. "The Lord is near." Now that's something to rejoice about! "The Lord is near!" We are fortunate to have the risen Messiah to believe in! Not everyone does. Some are still looking for the Messiah. They don't have reason to rejoice.

This week, I found a newspaper clipping in my files from January 1993.

Lubavitchers divided on whether rabbi is the Messiah! That was a headline a few years ago. -The Associated Press, NEW YORK - "For years, some members of a Hasidic Jewish sect have believed that their revered grand rabbi, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, could be the long-awaited Messiah....Before he was rendered speechless and largely paralyzed by a stroke last year, Schneerson preached that the time of the Messiah was imminent, but never claimed the mantle for himself..."

After coming across this clipping this week, I wondered what ever happened to that rabbi that so many had high hopes for. I did a little Internet research and found many web-pages devoted to this man. I was shocked. He seems to have been a good person. But he died on June 12, 1994. To many, hopes were dashed about a Messiah. But we have hope because the Lord is near! The Messiah has already come and will be coming again soon! We have cause to rejoice!

Verse 6. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Did you hear that? "Don't worry about anything?" Doesn't he know what we're going through? Don't worry about anything? How long has it been since you worried about something? Are you worried about the elections that are coming up? Who is going to move into the White House? I know a lot of people that are worried about that. I know who I'd like to see sitting there, but wait a minute, maybe I don't know what's best, so I'm not going to worry about it. Because, after all, who is it that sets up kings and rulers? Who is it that takes them down? So, why am I worried about it?

Don't worry about Politics because whoever is there, I want them to be the one that will hasten the day of the Lord. And I hope that is coming real soon. I'm not going to worry about it.

Are you worried about school? You don't have any tests this week do you? Don't be anxious about it. That's what Paul says. Sure, study, work hard, but don't be anxious about it. Don't get an ulcer. That's not going to help your test score.

Are you worried about something going on at home? Give it into God's hands. Are you worried about your job? Are you worried about anything?

Keep your finger here in Philippians and turn to Matthew 11:28- 30. "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." That's the way it's supposed to be.

Let's go back to Philippians 4, and read Verse 7 this time. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Rest was one word, and here's another one: "Peace." What a wonderful word in a terrible world! If you say it slowly, "P e a c e." That just calms your heart right there.

If you have been one of my Bible students, you will recognize the next verse. Especially if you are one of my younger students who wonders what is right and what is wrong and how do you tell the difference. The answer is in this verse.

Verse 8. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things.

It kind of reminds me of an old movie: The Sound of Music. You remember the scene where there's a great thunderstorm outside and the little children are frightened and they are taught the song, "Few of My Favorite Things." And there, thinking about their favorite things the storm does not seem so bad. Thinking positive thoughts will bring about positive results. Just as thinking negative thoughts will bring about negative results.

A heard a story about some friends in academy who decided to play a joke on one of their buddies. No don't you try this on anybody, okay? When Johnny got to school, one friend approached him and asked, "How are you doing? Are you feeling okay?" "Well, yeah." "Just asking." Later, another friend asked him, "Hey Johnnie, how's it going? Are you feeling all right?" Well, yeah. Why?" "Oh, nothing." Later, another boy came up to him and "Hey, how's it... It's not contagious is it?" And he went and looked in a mirror. "What's wrong with me? Maybe I'm a little pale." He went to see the school nurse and went home and did not come back for three days because he had a genuine cold that was put onto him by his friends in his mental attitude. Negative thoughts can bring about negative results.

This also works in the opposite manner. Scientists have been studying the effect of laughter on human beings and have found that laughter has a profound and instantaneous effect on virtually every important organ in the human body. Laughter reduces health-sapping tensions and relaxes the tissues as well as exercising the most vital organs. It is said that laughter, even when forced, results in beneficial effect on us, both mentally and physically.

No wonder Paul writes about joy. This message of joy is found in so many of Paul's writings. Turn with me to I Thessalonians 5:13-24. ...Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

I like that verse sixteen. "Be joyful, always"? Did you know that is the shortest verse in the Bible? Don't argue with me. I know you're thinking John 11:35, "Jesus wept." is the shorter than this. Actually, in the Greek, this one is shorter. I Thessalonians 5:16 "Be joyful always." ("Rejoice evermore." in the King James Version.) In the Greek language, "Jesus wept" is actually three words "edakrusen o Iesous" (16 letters), and "Be joyful always" is actually two words "Pantote xairete" (14 letters). So, now you have the shortest verse in the Bible. I would suggest memorizing I Thessalonians 5:16! "Be joyful always."

Is that possible, to be joyful always? Does this mean that Christians are always happy? No, Joy does not equal happiness. Joy is a lifestyle. Happiness depends upon a happening. Something good happens, we're happy. Something bad happens, we're sad. But "Joy" is not dependent upon external circumstances.

I stood beside the bed of Naomi Wilson in ICU on Thursday morning. I knew that the situation was grim. I did not know that she wouldn't live another 24 hours. It was not a time to be happy. The results of living in a sin filled world do not bring happiness. But I did have joy in my heart! How is that possible? This came from knowing that she knew Jesus and was a child of the King. Joy was there because of the knowledge that this world is not the end and that sin will soon be defeated forever! No, Christians are not always happy. The master deceiver is too good at making this a miserable place. But we can have that peace that passes understanding which causes us to live a life of joy. This is not the end.

Being a part of the church should be like a family reunion. We can be filled (with the Spirit) and we can talk while the little ones play and they remind us of what it takes to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We can tell stories each one better that the last, of God's joy has filled our lives and how His leading has guided us on the right paths. And we will never get tired of the same old stories told again and again, especially the old, old, story of Jesus and His love!

This only prepares us for the ultimate family reunion in Heaven when we can be with our true Father and no one will ever have to say "good-bye"!

"What a fellowship, what a joy divine."

Hymn of Praise: #559, Now Thank We All Our God
Scripture: Philippians 4:4-7
Hymn of Response: #469, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

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