What Wears You Out?
The Joy of the Spirit
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
I’d like to try to talk about the joy of God that he has for us, the joy of God. And I thought a good place to begin was Romans 14:17 or God thought a good place to begin. Romans 14:17, “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Joy in the Holy Spirit. And the introduction is useful for us to notice, “The kingdom of God is not food and drink,” Paul is talking you remember, about one person eating meat, another person eating vegetables, and all that kind of thing and that you should not do anything to make your brother stumble so really it didn’t matter on the whole because all things were clean.
I think it’s quite important to see that the kingdom of God is certainly is not food and drink and the kingdom of God is not just a matter of an efficient business community. Or, the kingdom of God is not just a nice home such as we have with nice cars. The kingdom of God is not even living with dear people that we love and good friends. The kingdom of God is not that plus nice holidays and able to go out to shows, and have really all the things when you think of it that the people of the world want and regard as good. The kingdom of God is not that.
And I think it’s important maybe to say that because it is very easy, I think anybody here would agree, it’s very easy to slip down into that and for your whole mind and all your life to be taken up with those things because you can be. You and I know that, we can go – you waken in the morning and from the moment you awake there’s something to do, at least brush your teeth, or put your clothes on and have your quiet time and then you have to get breakfast and you have to – you know it better than I do here. Then you get out into the car, and you have to get downtown at a certain time, and you get in – well, is there a moment, once you arrive at work is there a moment when you can even reflect? No, you go right to it and then people start coming into the business and you start serving them, and well you know. But the kingdom of God is not that and it’s very easy for it to slip into that.
And it varies a little in the stores, in the life in the stores, and to a certain extent you have a little more freedom in some strange ways than we have back in the office and back at home. But actually it can be the same thing, you get up in the morning, immediately your mind is working, you’re getting your breakfast, and you’re getting out and you’re meeting people all day and it is very easy for the kingdom of God to become that for us. That is the kingdom of God in the sense of quite a satisfying life. Quite a satisfying life not totally satisfying but quite a satisfying life in that it uses our abilities quite well and we work in pleasant circumstances and we certainly work with pleasant people who care about us and it’s very easy to say, “Well, we have so much more than the world has,” and of course we have because the world often is filled with loneliness and often has people that they’re competing with in their jobs and businesses.
So it is very subtle and very easy to begin to regard the kingdom of God as the good situation that we have here and that’s not the kingdom of God. And we need to awaken at times and see that. The kingdom of God is not food and drink and I think you would agree it can even deteriorate further with us; it can deteriorate into our little treats. “Alright, well the kingdom of God yes, it isn’t that but it’s that plus treats because after all you need something to lift you a little and if you can get a little chocolate chip ice cream and have a little something else then it makes life worthwhile.” But it is surprisingly easy for life to slip down into the kingdom of God being that pleasant kind of life.
All the time of course you feel there is something empty about it and indeed, I think we have often talked – certainly Myron and I have talked a lot and I’ve mentioned it here and I think we’ve all talked about it, that it is very easy for life to become just a constant drive. It is very easy to be part of a team that is obviously very successful. Anybody in the world would say, “You’ve got a very successful team here, a very successful family, a very successful business, a very successful community.” It’s very easy for that to be the driving force so that we are driven all the time by the needs that we have and the purposes and the goals that we fulfil every day. So much so that I think at times we’ve all felt probably a little frayed a times. Just felt a little, “This is driving, driving, driving and how do you slow it up? How do you stop it? It’s successful, it’s obviously successful, and it’s great.” But, there is s drivingness about it that makes it quite difficult to have fresh ideas. Indeed, we haven’t much time fresh ideas for you to come in we’re too busy; our attention is utterly and completely on what we’re doing.
Now, what we need to see is the fault is not with what God has set up graciously. The fault is not with success. The fault is not with all the wonderful things that we have. The fault is actually with our eyes. Our eyes have started to get used to those things as the kingdom of God. And when somebody says to us, “The kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink but it is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost,” we say yes well we do have some measure of peace, and we certainly have joy. We have joy in all the things that we do and all the things that we’re achieving, and we have joy too at times when we get little treats and we have joy at times when we’re with each other. We do have joy. Joy in the Holy Ghost, well I think that will come to us probably in our later years and as we get on we’ll have more joy in the Holy Ghost.
But it is joy in the Holy Ghost that is everything. It is the key to everything. It is the source of all God’s creativity and life and I think often we leave no room for the joy of the Holy Ghost because of course the joy of the Holy Ghost is something that the Holy Spirit himself brings into us from Jesus’ heart. We do not create the joy of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings that joy from Jesus’ heart into us. Sometimes it’s a serenity, a deep quiet serenity. Sometimes it’s a bubbling thing that is just bubbling inside us. It bears some relationships to animal spirits but it isn’t animal spirits. I don’t know if little Irish boys are always like this but of course, eight, nine, 10 year old I would delight in coming down and clunking my mum you know and then pulling her apron strings, “Hi, mum.”
Well, those are animal spirits, it’s nice and you can’t hold it back you know, it’s just there. You can’t think what to do to let it go except tell her to shut up, but there’s just delight inside. But that’s not joy because actually all of us know that isn’t under control often. Often it isn’t even under our control but if it was under our control it’s certainly not under Jesus’ control and there’s nothing – there’s something in it that’s fun but it hasn’t the sweetness and the fragrance of the joy of the Holy Spirit. And so when I say the joy of the Holy Spirit is bubbling underneath all the time it’s like a power and a life that is coming from somewhere else. So it’s the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings joy, brings joy into us.
I didn’t go too far in the meaning of it at all. I didn’t look up much it’s chara but it’s chara mia mine and it’s obviously it’s chara – then if you did charismatic so it obviously ties up with the gifts and of course, if you look into the saint’s lives the key mark of the saint’s life is joy. Joy that is just there all the time whatever you’re doing whatever your situation is, whatever your circumstances are, there’s just joy that you don’t know where it’s coming from but it’s just there. It’s a delight in all of everything in the bad and the good. It’s a delight in God.
You can’t just say in God as if he’s just an invisible being, it’s the whole thing. It’s somehow the classic philosophers used to talk about the spheres as having a music you remember, and you get it in John Milton you know, his poetry, the music of the spheres and the whole belief was that there was a harmony, such a harmony in the universe as the spheres as the different planets and stars turned and orbited. There was a music they created, a harmony in the universe. It’s something like that. There’s a joy and very harmony of all that God has done and that is given by the Holy Spirit.
To whom is it given? Well, Matthew 13 gives – there are some of these clues that we know from Sunday school days but we somehow forget them or think we’ve gone past them. Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven,” you see the kingdom of God, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” The Holy Spirit gives joy, now we learned this from Sunday school days, the Holy Spirit gives joy to the person who finds treasure hidden in a field and then sells all that he has to buy that field. And I mean, we all remembered that and we say, “That’s what we did when we gave our lives to Jesus. We saw that we’d to give everything up for him only.”
But I think as we walk on after our Savior we get distracted with all kinds of other things and we forget that and it’s so easy to fall into all this and heaven too. And then all this becomes more important than heaven and before you know it you’ve ceased to sell all that you have and you’re beginning to try and get back some more things for yourself. And the Holy Spirit cannot give joy to anyone of us that looks for the many substitutes for joy that the world has and that Satan has. And we need to see it here. It’s easy to think, “Oh, but we’re all traveling to Zion and we’re all walking together in Jesus, surely we cannot be tempted to some other substitute joy?” Of course we can.
We live in the world and we live in the midst of these substitute joys. Moreover, because we’re in business we’re involved in chocolate covered cherries. We’re involved in all the things. We’re involved in cars, and motorbikes, Fire Blades, and BMWs and all the other things so of course, we’re walking in the midst of these things. We’re smelling them every day. It’s very easy to step back from the position you took when you first met Jesus where you were ready to sell everything and you did sell everything in order to buy that field so that you could have that treasure but it’s very easy to begin to treasure other things as well as that and then it soon becomes treasure other things more than that and the Holy Spirit has to withdraw himself and has to withdraw the joy of Jesus.
And so further along you wonder why life has become dry and that’s the mistake probably we make, we tend to say, “Well it’s the work. That’s it, we’re working too hard,” or, “Well, it’s too organized,” or something else but it’s none of those things. It’s that we have taken our eyes off our Savior and things and really what we need to do is go back – my two ladies were Mrs. Keith and Miss McDonald, they taught senior infant Sunday school, go back into Mrs. Keith’s class, go back into your Miss McDonald’s class, whoever yours were, and hear again Jesus telling this parable and saying that, “You must give up everything in order to have him.”
And I think that is where the joy goes. I think that we begin to satisfy ourselves with our cameras, or satisfy ourselves with our cars. Just washing the cars, you may say, “Is it the comfort?” No, it isn’t the comfort of the cars at all, just operating all of these things is fun. Just doing the things that we do, working the computers, selling the jewelry, it’s very easy to get
satisfied with those treating ourselves as if we’re little monkeys that get our satisfaction out of hitting little keys on computers, or putting little jewelry pieces into boxes. But that’s not what we were made for. We were made for Jesus and only when we turn away from those substitute satisfactions will the Holy Spirit begin to pour into us again the joy of Jesus.
So the next verse here again you’ll know it from your Miss McDonald’s class or your Mrs. Keith’s Sunday school class, Verse 45, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” And we all know it, we think that’s what do we call it in America, Philosophy 1 or whatever, but that’s course number one, that’s a basic class that we all did when we met Jesus, you have to sell all your pearls to buy the one pearl of great price. But then we begin to – we buy that pearl and then we begin to see other little pearls and we think, “There’s no harm in picking up those little pearls,” and we don’t really think we’re getting much of our satisfaction from those little pearls but bit-by-bit they become satisfying and we begin to be satisfied with either the exercise of our own powers, and abilities, in an operation as full and as complete and rounded as this one, or we begin to look for other little things that we haven’t got. That’s often a measure of where we are in regard to this, are you satisfied or are you dissatisfied?
You know, do you find yourself – you obviously don’t find yourself trying the old marijuana, but do you find yourself trying to get other little things, “Oh, if I could just get a little something, a little something that would give me satisfaction. Maybe I’ll try this, maybe I’ll try that.” All you’re doing is you’re starting to look for other little pearls and the truth is that the Holy Spirit gives the joy of Jesus only to those who have nothing else, who have made no other arrangements, who want only the joy of him and that only and they turn away from all other joys. If you say to me, “Does that mean you have to stop being married? Does that mean you have to stop going out with each other as friends?” No, no, no it doesn’t mean all of that but it does mean you settle in your own heart what you cannot do without.
And it’s easy enough to find out that because if you still feel some resentment, some dissatisfaction, a little bit of discomfort when somebody doesn’t do exactly what you want them to do, or go out with you when you want them to go out, then that’s indication, alright that unrest comes because your joy is coming a bit from that and you’re dissatisfied because you’re losing that. That’s why the next verse is one again, that we know well, Luke 9:62. Luke 9:62, “Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’” And I think that’s what happens, we put our hand to the plow and we surrender all to Jesus and then we look back and we see something and we think – we don’t think that’s bad. I don’t think we would touch it if we thought it was bad, but we look back and see, “Well, that was quite nice, that I had before I gave everything to Jesus and it’s not bad so I think I’ll enjoy that a little. Jesus would want me to; he wants me to enjoy all good gifts.” And so we look back at something that we stopped thinking of years ago, or months ago, or weeks ago and we look back and we begin to hanker after it again and we’re turning back from the plow and the Holy Spirit is grieved and withdraws the joy of Jesus, because, the joy of Jesus is delight in his Father.
Jesus made all the elements that we haven’t yet discovered. Jesus made all the planets that we have not yet seen. Jesus made the Pacific Ocean; he made the ski slopes in Switzerland and in Colorado. He made all those things, he knows they’re nothing. He knows his Father is the heart of everything and all joy and Jesus’ joy is in his Father. And when we turn back to something stupid that we have turned away from years ago, we’re turning back to foolishness and stupidity away from the king of glory. And the Holy Spirit cannot of course – you can’t have the joy of Jesus unless you have the
attitude of Jesus. You can’t have the joy of Jesus in his Father if you are treasuring something that he regards as a little nothing that he turned out in a millisecond. And so when you turn back from the plow it seems to me the Holy Spirit withdraws the joy of Jesus.
And then do you see Luke 18:16, “But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’” And a little child, we’ve said it often, a little child, when you were a little one that’s five or six years of age you did not care what John Major did or didn’t do, or what Roosevelt did or didn’t do, or what Heath did or didn’t do, you didn’t. And you didn’t worry, “Well, I’m worried about where my next meal is coming from, that’s my problem.” As a five year old or a six year old, you were just delighted. Your dad and mum took care of everything and the big thing was where are you going out to play today and life was filled with trust in your dear father and mother, and that’s what Jesus wants. “My joy,” he says, “Is given by the Holy Spirit to those who treat life the way a little child does. You’re children of my Father, look at the lilies of the field, they toil not, neither do they reap and yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Look at the birds of the air, they don’t sow, or reap, or gather into barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them will he not much more feed you oh men of little faith?”
And so when we have that attitude of a little child the Holy Spirit gives the joy of Jesus to us and I think a lot of our trouble can come from we have enough money but really it’s not the amount of money you have, sure it’s not it’s whether you’re pressing that to the limit and if you’re pressing it to the limit then you haven’t enough money. And it doesn’t matter how much money you have, if you press it to the limit you really don’t have enough money and you’re always hoping for some more. And a little child is not like that, whatever his dad gives him that’s great, it’s just wonderful. It’s just wonderful, it doesn’t matter how silly it is in the world’s eyes, if his dad gives it to him that’s great, that’s just what I want. And that’s part of where the joy of the Holy Spirit comes from.
I’ve tried to put down a couple of things that I thought made it very clear. The joy of the Holy Spirit is given to a person who has summed up what life is about who has got to the bottom of life, a person who has died and whose life is hidden with Christ in God. A person who has summed up what life is about, who has settled what life is about, and who has got to the bottom of it. This means a person who does not hope for anything from life but looks to God alone for whatever he is pleased to give. This means a person who does not hope for anything from life but looks to God alone for whatever he is pleased to give.
And I think when you are looking for something from life I think you will not be able to be filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit. I think when you’re still looking for something. If you say to me, “You mean, when I do a sale I shouldn’t even feel satisfaction that I did that sale?” Well, to tell you the truth probably even that is dangerous but the big thing is sure, maybe you have some satisfaction in that but if you dwell on that you soon begin to exclude the joy of the Holy Ghost and you soon begin to substitute for the Holy Ghost’s joy your satisfaction in making that sale. And us being human beings as we are, it’s not long after we take our eyes off of Jesus, that we’re beginning to not only be satisfied with a sale but to think, “Pretty clever I was, pretty clever, pretty capable.” And it’s not long after that before your eyes go to the figures and the additions for the week and then for the month and then it’s all downhill after that.
So yes, I suppose there is a momentary satisfaction but it seems that if you let your eyes remain on
that joy it’s not long before Satan has a way of stealing from you then the joy of the Holy Ghost. This means a person who does not hope for anything from life but looks to God alone for whatever he is pleased to give. A person who no longer thinks of himself the way his relatives and friends do but regards Christ only and cares only for his wishes and desires. A person who no longer thinks of himself the way his relatives and friends do but regards Christ only and cares only for his wishes and desires.
So it is – you can see it’s a radically different life. You no longer think of yourself the way your friends and your relatives do or the way even the other people in this family do but you care only for Jesus and for his wishes and desires. Now, here’s what I want to tell you, to such a person the Holy Spirit gives this joy and there is nothing like it. It is everything. It is everything. The joy of the Holy Ghost is everything and it is what we were made for. We were not made for all these other little substitute things, even how – you know, I have to repeat what that dear Mrs. Stinson quoted, “I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” I dare not trust the sweetest frame, the Greg Leitschuh that I married. I dare not trust Martha, the sweetest friend I have. I dare not trust Marty, the dearest man. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
Not because we don’t love each other but because only Jesus is reality. He is behind everyone. Martha is just a little – has her beauty from Jesus. Marty has his beauty from Jesus. It is Jesus that is behind each one of us and when our eyes are on him, the Holy Spirit takes the joy of Jesus and infuses it into us. Now, out of that comes beauty and creativity, and energy, lightness of heart, brightness of eyes and mind, tirelessness in whatever situation. Out of that joy comes the sweetness that takes away the dryness of routine work. From that joy comes the deep satisfaction that wipes away all the sense of being driven. This joy alone will take away the drive out of our lives, the driveness.
Do you see that that gentleman does not want the driveness anymore than you want the driveness? I’m willing to take it on myself, when I drive I don’t want the driveness anymore than you want the driveness. But only the Holy Spirit can bring into us the joy of Jesus. The peace and joy in the Holy Ghost that is the kingdom of God. What is the kingdom of God? Well, I mean you know it but dominus is the Latin word, that gives us dominate. Oh, I’m sorry dominus is Lord, dominate. So you know, you can see it yourself king dom, it’s the dom of the king. It’s the domain of the king; it’s the rule of the king. So, the kingdom of God is the rule of Jesus in our hearts and our lives.
And you can see the rule of Jesus in our hearts can only take place where we have stopped ruling them ourselves or where we have rejected the rule of Satan in our lives, or the rule of candy, or the rule of human fulfillment or satisfaction, or the rule of pleasure in our bodies or pleasure in our feelings. Where we have rejected those rules then the king himself comes and rules, the kingdom of God comes and the kingdom of God is not food and drink but is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. And the joy of the Holy Ghost is what brings a sweetness and a fragrance.
Martha, every one of us, there isn’t one of us here that does not feel at times we get into ways that we do not know how to get out of. They aren’t even obviously evil ways, they just seem driven ways and we don’t want them. The joy of the Holy Ghost. So each of us individually has responsibilities. You can’t bring it about by fear; you can’t change it by just deciding here. Each of us here, each of us here has a responsibility to get back to selling all our pearls to buy the one pearl.
Let us pray. Lord Jesus, we fill our lives with teas and meetings, and work, and books, and computers, and things to do. And we see Lord, that all these things can so preoccupy us that we have no time for you yourself. And we see Lord, that you are right when you refuse to give us your joy just because we seek you for half an hour, or because we make an effort and give two or three hours to meditating. We see Lord that you are right, you always do the right thing, and you are right not to reveal yourself to us unless we are ready to sell all the pearls for the one pearl of great price, unless we are willing to put all these things back into their proper place, to do them but to give our hearts to you, to look to you only for satisfaction and happiness in this life and the life to come.
Oh Holy Spirit, we ask you to help us now each one of us, we hardly know what we’re praying about but Holy Spirit, you know. And you know how to lead us into the joy that you bring from the heart of Jesus into anyone who will give up all substitute joys and seek Jesus only. Holy Spirit, we know the joy of Jesus is there and is indeed all around us and through us at this moment but we need eyes to see and we need to open our mouths to receive.
We ask you Holy Spirit, to lead us in so that that word may become true for us, the kingdom of God is indeed righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.