Well this morning my message has been inspired by this little book; it’s called The Power of Joy, knowing God through the Psalms. Now you know that we have our own little, I guess you could call it a publishing company. We create and publish multiple materials. Its part of our ministry and this one is one of our own books. You can only get it through us, and it has this wonderful, wonderful photography by Ken Duncan and he’s one of our dear friends and many of you know his work. But this book inspired today’s message because as we get to know the God of the Psalms, then we know the secret to joy.
And today, my message title is “Joy: A Faith Lift when Life Gets You Down.” And I would like them to put on the Jumbotron a little picture for me please. Can you see that sad little pug face? Oh my goodness, gracious. I know, you know, actually he’s supposed to reflect the way you feel but everybody always giggles when they see him cause he’s just so dog gone cute. But do you ever feel like him? Do you ever feel like life has gotten you down, and look at the wrinkles in his face. I mean he’s just got this pathetic little face. Well, if you felt like him, today’s message is for you, “Joy: A Faith Lift when Life Gets You Down.”
You know I’ve spent many of my years, 14 to be exact, as an administrator with children in schools and education. And I have to tell you those have been some of the richest years of my life. And my very first year as a principal, my office door overlooked the school office reception desk and I could see and hear all the kids as they came and went all day. And one of the very first days of school, my very first year as a principal, this one darling little kindergarten boy, he had red hair and freckles and he was kind of a little rolly poley guy, and he just came walking up to that receptionist and I could hear him say “I’m here to get my medicine because I’m a very sick little boy.” My heart was just like oh, my gosh, this kid is so cute. And his little lisp made him so cute.
Well, I just wanted to share that because today I didn’t want you to think that I was lisping, although I might from time to time because when you get a faith lift, you do it by getting a face lift. But you know as we get older, we women, we start thinking about it. Some of us do it, some of us don’t but we all think it. What we wouldn’t do for a face lift. And I know I’ve done this, and there have been times when I’ve washed my hair in the morning and I’ve got the towel on really nice and tight and I go wow, you look pretty good, Sheila. And then the towel comes off and down they come, there are those wrinkles again.
So, the need for face lifts; it’s all gravity’s fault. And so I wrote a poem just for you today, and it’s called “Ode to Gravity.”
“Gravity, oh gravity, what in the world have you done to me? I’m not the girl I used to be. When I look in the mirror, I don’t recognize that face I see. My chins have grown and multiplied; It’s gravity’s fault, pulling my cheeks till they’re mortified. But it doesn’t stop there, the downward trend pulls everywhere. The arms, they wobble, right? The chins, they gobble. The legs, they hobble. Gravity, oh gravity, what in the world have you done to me? But just you wait and see. From now on, I’m living upside down. Then eventually, by the time I die, I’ll be a new me.” So that’s “Ode to Gravity.”
So we get a faith lift by getting a face lift. It’s free. You don’t have to pay for it, don’t have to go see a surgeon, in fact by the time we all walk out of here today, you’ll all have a free face life, faith lift, thanks to the Lord God Almighty and me.
When life gets you down, you get a faith lift through a face lift when you look up into the face of God. Let me say that one more time. When life gets you down, you get a faith lift with a face lift when you look up into the face of God.
Today, I want to be your trainer. I want to help you put some muscles on your faith. And you know I hired a trainer, I don’t know how much good he did me. That’s partly my own fault. I did my exercises but I went home and continued to eat the same way. But any rate, I still went to the gym and I still continued to get on, in fact, there’s my good friend Jack Katolico, he sees me at the gym, right Jack? Will you wave and say you see me at the gym? He does. And I’m always like oh my gosh I’ve been seen, you know at the gym, cause it’s never a pretty sight. But when I’m on that machine or I’m curling those.. they’re not big weights, believe me, but as I’m curling them, I think sometimes you know, this would be a lot easier if I were doing this on the moon. And when I step on the scale I always think wow, just think how little you weigh if you were doing this on the moon. And the idea is that things pull us down. Life pulls us down. We carry things with us: stress, discouragement, depression, and that weighs us down.
And I want to ask you today, what is weighing you down? For some of you its fear, for some of you its regrets, for some of you it’s a broken relationship. Some of you, its failure. But we all have things that weigh us down. But we can build our faith muscles to where we can lift heavy weight, we can, we can, and I’m going to show you how today. And the way you do it is by getting a face lift and looking into the face of God, but more than that, it is knowing who God is. The antidote to depression, the antidote to unhappiness, the antidote to all of the discouragement that people are feeling today is joy. Now there’s a difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is what you feel when things happen to you. Happiness happenings. Happiness happenings. They are interconnected, one without the other. They affect each other. Most of you can relate to a day like this, where I open my e-mail, wow, good news! I feel happy! I go into the office and I open some inner office mail, not such good news. Whoa, where did that happiness go? It’s gone, right? Then I go home and I check my voice mails and there’s good news on the phone and there’s that happiness again! And then I open my mail and there’s a bill that I forgot to pay and it has a big old horrible late fee on it. Where did my happiness go? Gone. Happiness goes up, down, up down, up down because it depends on the happenings around us. But joy is that contentment, that knowledge that everything’s okay, even when its not. Joy is smiling through the tears. I say it’s possible to walk on the moon even when life is dragging you down. I say it’s possible to have joy even when life is falling apart around you. And it comes with a faith lift through a face lift, looking into the face of God. But when you look into the face of God, some of you are saying I don’t know that I want to look into God’s face because I don’t know what I’m going to see. I might see disappointment. I might see anger. I might even see rejection.
Well everybody here, I’m sure, has heard the name CS Lewis and he’s written this marvelous series of books called The Chronicles of Narnia, and they’re parables. And in The Chronicles of Narnia, Jesus Christ is represented as this great golden lion, named Aslan, and he’s fierce and he’s strong and he’s powerful. And he’s the hope of Narnia. And there’s this little boy named Edmond who did a very naughty thing, and as a result, all of Narnia was in chaos. And he was in big trouble. And Aslan, the big fierce lion king, calls Edmond to come see him. Well you can just about imagine how Edmond felt. A little boy with a fierce lion. With fear and trembling, he goes in, he kneels before him, and he can feel the breath of the lion. He doesn’t dare look up into his face because what will he see? Finally, Aslan says “Edmond, my beloved boy Edmond, look up and look at me. Look at me. Look at me.” And Edmond finally looks up, what do you think he saw? CS Lewis writes it this way: “He saw great golden lion tears.” He saw the love of Christ.
And so today, I want to introduce you to the God of the Psalms because when you look up into the face of God, you are going to see a God who loves you, a God who cares about you and a God who has great, great God tears of love for you.
I have a little quiz for you. Won’t take long. God has a word for every one of you today. You are not here by accident. You are here by design because He has something He wants you to hear today. And there are different words for different people.
So as you listen, you’re going to find out what your word from God is. Okay? Word one: Is your back up against the wall? Are creditors calling? Are fellow workers gossiping about you? Have family members cut you off? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then this is God’s word for you. Take refuge, God is your refuge. God says “I am your refuge.” So be glad and sing for joy because I the Lord spread My protection over you. When you look up into the face of God, you will see a God who is a refuge for you, a protector.
Okay, here’s quiz two: Are you lost? Confused? Don’t know where to turn? Which path to take. Get more education? Start your own business? You have troubled relationships and don’t know which step to take? Any of you answer yes to any of those questions? Don’t raise your hand. This isn’t confessional. But if you did, here’s God’s word for you. I the Lord God will make known to you the path of life. I will fill you with joy in My presence. That’s God’s word to you today.
Maybe this is you. Are you weary? Heartsick? Worn down by life’s challenges? Then if you answered yes to any of those, here’s God’s word for you. I the Lord your God am your strength and your shield. Trust: put your trust in Me the Lord God. I will help you and will give you joy.
One more quiz. Are you in the miry pit of loss or depression? Are you struggling with anxiety or mourning the loss of a loved one? Then this is your word from God today. When anxiety is great within you, My consolation, the consolation of God, will bring you joy. Those are promises. They’re promises of just a few here in this little book, but the Psalms are full of God’s promises for joy. And as your trainer, if you want to put, you want to build your weight muscles of faith, go to the Psalms, go to the Psalms, read one or two or three a day, and you will find that you are going to discover and get to know the God of the Psalms. And He is a God who loves you. He is a God who forgives you. He is a God who cares about you. He is a God who will not let you down.
My husband and I have four sons, as we’ve said, and one day we took our youngest with us next door to help bring in the mail and feed the dog of one of our neighbors who was gone on vacation. I’m sure most of you have done this from time to time. And Nicholas was, I think about four, three or four years old, just a toddler, not quite pool safe. We didn’t have a pool. I didn’t want a pool, not with children. I’d seen and heard too much in ministry and walked with too many families who had lost children in a pool. So we were very careful with our children, and we went next door and honestly I didn’t see or hear a thing. But all of a sudden my husband turned and this big pool, he was down at the deep end and there was a pool cover over the pool, and all of a sudden I saw him reach down underneath that blue pool cover and yank up my son Nicholas. I had no idea he was down there, almost drowning in the deep end of a pool where I couldn’t see him, I couldn’t hear him, I didn’t know. His father happened to see him because his father was keeping a more careful eye on him than I was. But the point is, some of us feel like we are in the deep end of a pool, and the waters over our head are getting pretty close and there’s a pool cover and we don’t see any way out.
But today God wants you to know that right now He has thrust His hand, He’s got a hold of you and He’s yanking you up. He’s taken a hold of you dripping wet, holding you close, He will not let you go.
I want you right now if you would please, to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and exhale slowly. And I want you to just think what’s getting you down. Are you afraid to look into the face of God? Are you afraid that He will let you down? Are you afraid that you’ve done something to make Him mad? Or worse, disappointed? Like Edmond, keep your eyes closed, however, I want you now to lift your face, lift your face all the way back, stretch that chin till you can feel the sun coming through the glass roof of this cathedral onto your face. And look into the face of God. You may not see an actual face but you can feel Him. You can feel Him. You can feel His love.
Thank You Lord, heavenly Father, for being a God who is faithful. A God who is a refuge to whom we can run when life becomes too scary. A God who provides direction when we are lost and confused. A God who is strength when we are weak. A God who consoles when we mourn. A God who is a rock of salvation. This knowledge lifts us up when we are down. This knowledge gives us joy that no one can take away from us. So we praise You and thank You for being You. How we love You Lord, Amen.