Surprised By Joy


Sermon By Terry Siverd

Cortland Church of Christ / April 07, 2019


Have you ever noticed that JOY sometimes comes to us in a variety of unexpected ways?


We typically think of certain happenings that facilitate the arrival of joy in our lives.



I read an account of a preacher named Chuck who is known for his penchant for weaving humor into his messages.

He shared a letter that he had received from a woman who heard him speak at a rather serious-minded conference.


Humor has done a lot to help me in my spiritual life.

How could I have reared twelve children starting at age 32, and not have had a sense of humor?

After your talk last night I was enjoying some relaxed moments with friends I met there.

I told them I got married at age 31.  I didn't worry about getting married;  I left the future in God's hands.

But I must tell you, every night I hung a pair of men's pants on my bed and knelt down and prayed this pray.

'Father in heaven, hear my prayer,  And grant it if You can;

I've hung a pair of trousers here,  Please fill them with a man.


The preacher noted:  “The following Sunday I read that humorous letter to our congregation, and they

enjoyed it immensely.  I happened to notice the different reactions of a father and his teenaged son.

The dad laughed out loud, but the son seemed preoccupied.

On that particular Sunday the mother of this family stayed home with their sick daughter.

Obviously neither father nor son mentioned the story, because a couple weeks later I received a note from the mother:


Dear Chuck:  I am wondering if I should be worried about something.  It has to do with our son.

For the last two weeks I have noticed that before our son turns out the light and goes to sleep

at night, he hangs a woman's bikini over the foot of his bed … should I be concerned about this?


The preacher went on to note that this young man found his special woman and later married.

Indeed, there is significant JOY when we fight our significant other.


There are other rather typical avenues of life when we anticipate finding joy.





(camping … vacationing … a trip to Disney World … etc.)



Although the above may come with numerous twists and turns, most of these roads lead to happiness.


But sometimes we are truly surprised by joy.

The Irishman C.S. Lewis wrote a book by this title, “Surprised By Joy:  The Shape Of My Early Life”.

Lewis was a highly-distinguished professor of English Literature at both Oxford and Cambridge.

He was a prolific author, having written many books, like:  The Chronicles of Narnia …

The Screwtape Letters … Mere Christianity … The Problem of Pain … etc.


I have not read the book, Surprised By Joy.  I mistakenly assumed that it was a reference to his belated marriage.

Rather late in life, in his late 50's, this English Literature professor who had been a long-time bachelor,

married Joy Davidman Gresham.  Sadly she died of cancer four years later.

Shadowlands is a wonder movie that tells this touching story.

In the fifty or so years before Joy Gresham arrived on the scene, Lewis' faith wavered. 

He became close friends with J. R. R. Tolkien and the two of them participated regularly in an informal

Oxford literary group named Inklings - - a group that discussed among themselves deep things - - spiritual things. 

His book, Surprised By Joy, tells of his renewed and re-found faith (credited in part,

at least, to Tolkien) - - and how surprised he was to find JOY in his relationship with Christ.




James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad, greetings.

Consider it all JOY, my brethren when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces

endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.


These words from Js.1:2/NIV - - consider it pure JOY whenever you face TRIALS of many kinds, strike us as odd at best.

We don't normally associated trials with the production of joy.


I want to share with us two arenas of life where we often come to be surprised by joy.


Jeannie and I have had the privilege of caring for our four parents in their last days.

In many ways it was a dreadful assignment - - no one wants to witness their loved ones passing away.

In 2004 we were with my father,Bodie, in his last days.

In April of that year we had taken a vacation with Jeannie's parents to Mississippi.

It was a beautiful setting - - Mississippi was bursting with flowers - - as we toured Jeannie's mom's hometown.

Our trip was cut short when we got a call that my father's health had taken a turn for the worse.

In February I had visited him and helped him get checked out by his Doctor.  To make a not-real-long story

 a bit shorter, we returned from Mississippi and my father passed away at the age of 73 few days later on May 5th.


In the late winter and early spring of 2008, Jeannie's mother and father died. 

They had come to visit in the Fall of 2007 and Jack died under our care on January 6th, at the age of 82.

His body was flow to Florida for the funeral.

Charlotte, my mother-in-law, returned home with us to recover and have surgery.

She passed away on March 4th (at the age of 78) in our care - - less than three months after Jack.


Finally, my dear mother, Gloria, passed away in our care in the spring of 2010 - - on March 4th, at the age of 79.


I cannot tell you how difficult these occasions were - - many of you know first-hand of which I speak.


However, neither am I able to communicate the JOY that accompanied these doings, especially in retrospect.


Two-thousand years ago the he apostle Paul wrote to the young preacher Timothy (1Tim.5:8) saying:

If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially those of his household,

he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.


There is not greater honor and joy in life than to be with and care for your parents in their final days.

This is especially the case when your dear parents are faithful Christians.


On the surface it may sound a bit macabre, but one of the highlights of my life - -

one of the greatest joys of my life - - has been caring for four parents as they departed this life.


As strange as it may sound, it was a genuine joy to comfort them and rejoice with them.

Maturity acknowledges that this is God's way - - we live for a while in the here and now and then comes the hereafter.


Knowing that I was serving as a good and faithful son continues to bring me a keen sense of satisfaction and joy.

That's not all that is expected of me, but in fulfilling that expectation, I derived (and continue to derive) great JOY.

Secondly, and somewhat inter-related - - another surprising aspect of life that brings us great JOY, is dying.

I know, we all joke, “everybody wants to die and go to heaven, but not just right now.”


There is something about wading into your latter days with confidence and a sense of security that brings JOY.

I'm not saying that we're all sitting around just waiting for the joy of dying.


But, when our time comes, and it will for all of us, how wonderful it is to depart with SHALOM - -

an inner peace that comforts us and reminds us that all is well with our soul.


Some of us may depart suddenly - - perhaps due to a sudden stroke or swift heart attack.

Others of us will die more slowly - - called upon to stare death in the face and we count down of last days.

Such was the case with all four of our parents.


And such was the case with our dear brother in Christ, Elwood Stone.

Repeatedly, Elwood told others, “I'm ready to go.”


This is that inexpressible JOY that Paul spoke about in 2Tim.1:12-14 - -

I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able

to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.  Retain the stand of sound words

which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.

Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.


There is a keen sense of JOY that comes with being able to go down with the ship,

with a deep and abiding relationship with Christ Jesus as our Lord and Savior.


To be able, in our final days to say with Paul (2Tim.4:7) - -

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith...


There are other venues where we derive unexpected joy.

We are sometimes surprised to discover joy in specific acts of suffering.

Trials & tribulations and hardships & heartaches of all sizes and shapes transform us.

There is something about learning to lean on Jesus that transcends various other forms of joy.


As they say, when we're down we are driven to look upward.

And when we look up, we realize more and more that our God is both sovereign and loving.

What a joy it is to trust in His tender loving care.

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