Sent For Our Happiness
Rev. Bryn MacPhail
I have received a lot of feedback regarding our current sermon series--more so than
from any other series I have done in my tenure here. One of the most interesting
comments I have heard was from an individual who said to me one Sunday, 'Bryn, your
sermons are scaring me'. I'm still not sure if I should take that as a compliment or a criticism.
While I am not sure if being scared is the ideal response to God's Word, I am sure
that apathy towards God's message of salvation is not an appropriate response to
the preaching of God's Word. And, unfortunately, apathy to the preaching of God's
Word has become all to common.
When confronted by what God's Word says, there is a sense where our knees should buckle.
There is a sense where we should be overwhelmed by God's power and glory. Yet, while
Scripture constantly exhorts us to fear God, it also exhorts us not to be afraid
of God. The reason God's power and glory should not scare us is because, for the Christian,
it is exercised on our behalf
Another individual, commenting on last week's sermon, asked me if I had something
against family dinners at Christmas. The short answer to that question is no, but
I offered that individual an analogy to explain why I provide warnings about Christmas
family dinners, Christmas decorations, and even carol singing.
Picture a child at Christmas opening a present. Upon opening this present, the child
becomes consumed with the gift to such a degree that they neglect to even thank the
parents who gave them the present in the first place. The child then goes on to play
with the gift for hours at a time, paying no regard to the parents who worked hard
to provide the gift.
This is what we often do at Christmas. The Lord has blessed us with material resources,
with a loving family, and with precious friends, yet we often fail to acknowledge
the One who has given us all these things. What we end up doing is counting our blessings without ever thanking the One who has blessed us.
In theory, this mistake should be difficult to make at Christmas when we consider
that the primary gift God gives us is Himself
. On top of the gift of family and friends, God gave us Himself in Jesus Christ--
"born for us
", the prophet Isaiah explains(9:6).
Listen to how Isaiah begins this announcement: "there will be no more gloom for those who are in anguish
"(9:1). 'But you don't know my anguish--my gloom is not easily extinguished', you
say. Many of you here know the pain of losing a precious friend or family member.
Many of you know the pain of broken relationships. How can this promise of Isaiah
belong to me? "There will be no more gloom for those who are in anguish
Isaiah gave this promise to people who knew pain and hardship. The people of Zebulun
and Naphtali were the first from the promised land to suffer under Assyrian control.
Their plight was indeed gloomy. But now, Isaiah was holding out a hope--that "in the latter time (God) will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the
Jordan, Galilee of the nations
The prophecy of verse 1 is fulfilled in Matthew 4:13-16 when Jesus begins His ministry
in these regions--causing Matthew to quote Isaiah, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land
of deep darkness--on them light has shined
"(Isa. 9:2; Mt. 4:16).
It is not simply that the people of Zebulun and Naphtali have seen the "light
" of Christ, but all who have entrusted their life to Christ have seen the "light
". Is that true of us? Have we really seen the light? Has the light of salvation truly
shined on us?
If the light of Christ has shined on us than Isaiah's description of what God will
accomplish when He shines His light should apply to us, "You have multiplied the nation, you have increased their joy; they rejoice before
you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder
"(9:3). Or, let me put the question to you more plainly, 'Is your life characterized
by God produced joy?'.
When God shines His light, the joy of His people is increased. When God shines His
light, we should find ourselves rejoicing in Him the way we rejoice at the harvest
and at the division of spoil. Putting that in modern terms, does your joy in Christ
match the joy you have when you receive your Christmas bonus from work? Does your joy in
Christ match the joy you have when you get a dividends cheque from your stocks or
your mutual funds?
It is clear from Isaiah 9, that among the many purposes for which Christ came to earth,
one of the purposes was to "increase our joy
". Jesus came to bear our sins. He came to forgive us. He came to shepherd us. He
came to make us righteous. He came to glorify His Father. And, in doing these things,
our Lord purposed to "increase our joy
". The wonderful truth of Isaiah 9 is that Jesus was sent for our happiness
In verses 1 through 5, Isaiah promises victory and increased joy. And, in verses 6
and 7, Isaiah establishes for us the basis of our confidence in gaining victory and
increased joy: "For a child has been born to us, a son given to us; authority rests upon His shoulders;
and He is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with
righteousness from this time onward and forevermore
Isaiah prophesies, once again, the birth of a special child--a child with "authority rest(ing) on His shoulders
". This is no ordinary child either--this child shall be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
This is a message Isaiah would repeat throughout his book--God is coming
. God is coming to set things straight. God is coming to establish His heavenly kingdom
on earth--for His glory and for our happiness.
We, therefore, contradict God's purpose for us when we live our lives devoid of joy.
Isaiah promises that "there will be no more gloom for those who were in anguish
", yet, we look around us and we see Christians in anguish. Notice that Isaiah is not
promising a trouble-free life, but only a gloom-free life. We know--many of us first
hand--that Christians suffer like anyone else. In fact, Christ promises persecution
and hardship for those who follow Him. Christ did not come to earth 2000 years ago to offer us a life without trouble. Jesus
came, rather, to offer us satisfaction and joy in the midst of a life filled with
This is how the apostle Paul can say, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice!
"(Phil. 4:4). Even though Paul has endured countless beatings, and even though he
is once again in prison, Paul is still rejoicing. How can Paul do this? Paul can
rejoice at all times because the basis of his joy is the Lord and not his circumstances.
Paul knows what it means "be glad
" in the presence of the Lord(Isa. 9:3).
Is there anyone one here who doesn't want to be happy? That is a silly question--of
course we all want to be happy! What is even sillier is that Jesus Christ promises
to be the source of our happiness and yet we pursue happiness in everything but Him.
What is silly is that we expect worldly things to bring us lasting joy.
Don't get me wrong, worldly things can make us happy, but only for a season. The joy
we gain from worldly endeavours is fleeting. But you know that already --don't you?
We must learn to enjoy God's Christmas gift--Jesus Christ-- "born for us
", Isaiah says. Let us not make the same error, however, that our children often make.
Our children enjoy their Christmas gifts for a time, and then, before too long, the
gift is tucked away in a closet or an attic and forgotten.
Jesus is not a gift to be enjoyed once a year and then put away with the rest of our
decorations. Jesus is the gift that satisfies all year long. If you want to be happy,
make it your goal in life to learn what means to enjoy God. For true joy can only be found in Him