Genuine Joy

Proverbs 14:13

A wealthy king once confessed: "I have reigned for half a century in peace.
I am honored by my subjects, I am feared by my enemies, and I'm respected by my allies.
Riches, pleasure, and power have been at my beck and call.
No earthly delight has escaped my experience.
In this most unfortunate situation, I have carefully counted the days of genuine happiness
which I have enjoyed.
They total 14."

To all outward appearances, he possessed every right to be happy.
Yet he was unhappy.
Unbelievers are often miserable in the midst of their so-called joys, whereas believers are
often joyful in the midst of their miseries.
Emperor Nero grumbled on a throne, while the apostle Paul sang in a dungeon.

Happy but miserable

Laughter does not necessarily mean joy.
Too often the loudest laugh hides the most hollow heart.
Proverbs 14:13 says, "Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end
of that mirth is heaviness
."

Many depressed individuals possess a smiling depression, so-called because they smile
to cover up their inner sadness.
Many act happy who underneath are unhappy.
Those rounded, jovial faces that stare at us from postcards, billboards, TV, and posters
often feature the word "Smile."

They imply that we can place a smile on our face as easily as we stick a stamp on a letter.
But a good actor can look happy even when his heart is sad.
The comedian Jackie Gleason carried the subtitle,
"Tragic Facts, Never Before Told of the Torment behalf in the Comedy Genius who earned $3 million a year.
He is lonely, tormented, fearful."
– The Lonely Millionaire by Jim Bishop

Many opt for death.
About every 30 min. someone in the United States commit suicide, many times after
seeking in vain to find happiness.
The New York Times estimated in one year in the United States about 5 million people
of all ages – children to elderly – have tried to kill themselves.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students.

Many middle age people also exist without joy.
Realizing they will never reach their goals, or on the other hand, having attained seeming success,
these joyless individuals find that inner satisfaction has eluded them.

One couple wrote a syndicated columnist saying, "We have a well-furnished home,
a new car, and money in the bank.
Our two sons have finished college and are happily married and are doing well.
We have excellent jobs and our combined income makes it possible for us to live comfortably.
So why are we writing this letter?

We are writing this letter because suddenly we find that life is empty and boring.
Are we so different or does this happen to all couples in later midlife?"

Dr. Vernon Grounds says, "Joy is about as rare as the bald eagle."

Happiness is elusive.

Remember the paradox that says if you seek happiness, it will elude you.
And it goes on to emphasize that real happiness comes to you when you're simply
doing your duty and not making happiness your goal.

Through the ages people have sought happiness only to fail to find it.
Today, countless young people are in a similar situation.
They are already bored in early high school by the usual pleasures, and they try to find
excitement and satisfaction in drugs, perversions, or violence.

But the law of diminishing returns guarantees a let down.
Since the second piece of cake is less satisfying than the first, and the third piece even less so.
Those who pursue a life of thrills eventually get a big letdown.

People seek happiness in the wrong places.
People often reason, "if I had money, land, stocks, three cars, a swimming pool, a yacht,
a private plane, then I would be happy."
The have-nots think that if they could strike it rich they would be satisfied.
The have's know that this isn't so.

Ernest Hemingway's suicide perplexed his biographer, who in his foreword listed
what this famous writer had going for him.
He had won both the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes.
He had a resort home in the Idaho Sawtooth Mountains.
He had an apartment in New York city.
He had a specially, rigged yacht to fish in the Gulf.
He had apartments at the Ritz in Paris, and the Grette in Venice.
He had a sturdy marriage; and had friends everywhere.
Yet this literary genius put a shotgun to his head and killed himself.

His biographer and close friend for 14 years did not know why.

Millionaire Jay Gould said when dying, "I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth."

Pleasure doesn't last.

Pleasure, when rationally controlled, has its proper place.
Even sinful delights yield a degree of pleasure. (Hebrews 11:25)
But such pleasures are short-lived, disappointing, and limited.

The party-goer lives it up.
Everyone thinks that he is happy.
But is he?
Often the morning after a night on the town, his mouth has a rotten wood taste,
his head feels as if it will explode, and his liver acts up.
Yet the next night he dives into another round of sensual gratification.
Far from experiencing happiness, he is inwardly disgusted with himself.

Power isn't the answer.
Many think conquests, position, and power can bring inward satisfaction.
In his early career, Mussolini exclaimed, ";I am obsessed by one wild desire.
It consumes my whole being.
I want to make a mark on my era with my will
."
Mussolini was later executed -- a miserable man.

The daughter of Stalin (Svetlana) said of her dictator-father,
"I believe that the conqueror himself was not happy at all.
On the contrary there came complete loneliness, unhappiness, disappointment, and suspicion
in and all around him
."

According to the New York Times, Sir Winston Churchill in his last sentence uttered,
"I am bored with it all."

Drugs and drink are not the answer.

Many think that a party is dull without drinks.
These intoxicants temporarily stupefy and drown out troubles, true joy is not found in a bottle of liquor.
Just consider the problems that drugs have caused prominent athletes, and celebrities
who evidently are unhappy despite their fame and wealth.

In his book on the ministry of Teen Challenge, director David Wilkerson reflected on the thousands
of drug addicts who came to his ministry.
He said: "Not a single one has ever told us that he or she had found that deeper meaning
through dope, or that drugs had given him or her that happiness, the kicks, or thrills
that he or she had sought.
What's more, never have I heard of anyone, anywhere who was happy that he had become addicted
."

If ever a person was qualified to pass judgment on the ability of earthly goods, games,
and glory to satisfy the human heart, it was King Solomon.
He tried mirth, magnificent mansions, might, money, music, material possessions, and mistresses.
He indulged in every pleasure, sparing nothing to try to fill the emptiness of his life. (Ecclesiastes 2:1-10)
But his conclusion was "all is vanity." (2:11; 1:2)
it was all emptiness.

America's prosperity has not brought true happiness.
Never has a generation been bombarded by a more sophisticated network of media
to eat more, play more, and buy more.
With the highest per capita income in the world, and its countless gadgets,
United States citizens should be supremely happy.
Instead, we consume massive quantities of tranquilizers and other drugs.

An American was describing the glories of the United States to an African leader.
After the recital of America's industrial genius and material prosperity, the unimpressed
Africans solemnly asked, "But are your people happy?"

There is no happiness unless we get to the root of the problem.

Our sleepless nights are often disturbed by such questions as:
"Where did I come from?
Why am I here?
Where am I going?
How may I get right with God
?"

Man cannot live by bread alone, nor by money, nor by fame, nor by power, nor by pleasure.
God designed salvation through Jesus Christ to satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart,
and to give an abundant life to all through Jesus Christ.

As Augustine put it, "Man was made for God and will not rest until he rests in God."
Until man finds that divine satisfaction, he will remain basically unhappy and unfulfilled.
Every man and woman and child needs Jesus.

The mother of Billy Graham wrote:
"Upon what do we depend for our happiness?
Is it bright sunshine and clear skies? No!
Fine clothes and lovely homes? No!
Is it money? No!
Is it fun? No!

Fun is a passing experience and does not always express joy.
Joy, for the Christian, is the result of an inward sense of peace which comes from
a right relationship with God.
Our first joy is the consciousness that Christ is ours.
Homes and houses don't create happiness.
Christ has to bring it
."
– From Decision Magazine

Jesus Christ came to earth to do a work that makes possible the filling of that vacuum
in human hearts that only God can fill.
Because of His sacrifice on the cross, we may have our sins forgiven,
and have strength for daily living, and have the guarantee of future happiness.
That brings real joy!

"I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy
Down in my heart
Down in my heart
Down in my heart
I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy
Down in my heart
Down in my heart to stay.

And I'm so happy
So very happy
I've got the love of Jesus in my heart
And I'm so happy
So very happy
I've got the love of Jesus in my heart."

Other lyrics include:
I've got the peace that passes understanding down in my heart...
I've got the love of Jesus, love of Jesus down in my heart...

Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White