Luke 15:1-32 by Pastor Dan Walker
Most people are pursuing happiness in their lives. However, happiness is a feeling dependent on outward circumstances which go up and down. God's Word tells us about the possibility of having a joy that is not dependent on external circumstances, it is a joy that comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ. This joy can enable you to rejoice no matter what trials you may be going through in life. Once you have this joy, you will desire to spread it to others who are lost, but are longing to be found and have a joyful life.
Duration:35 mins 38 secs

Today, we’re going to talk about “The Secret to a Joyful Life.” Everyone alive would like to live a joyful life, but many have not yet found the secret The Declaration of Independence lists three inalienable rights given by the Creator: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

What is this happiness listed there? The dictionary defines happy as being delighted, pleased or glad over a particular thing. We see from this first definition that happiness for most people is dependent on external circumstances. I’m happy when life is going good. I’m unhappy when life is going badly. I’m happy when I get my paycheck, I’m unhappy when I get my bills. So therefore, happiness will come and go in a person’s life depending on the ebb and flow of their outward circumstances. Happiness is an emotional rollercoaster, sometimes up and oftentimes down.

The Bible speaks of something called joy that is quite different from happiness. Joy is not dependent on outward circumstances. Joy actually is a choice that a person can make.

James 1:2 (ESV) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,

This verse tells believers that when they face difficult trials in life, it should be an opportunity for joy.

Philippians 4:4 (ESV) Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

This verse commands believers to rejoice, so rejoicing is a choice. We are to rejoice always, this means both in the good and bad times. How is that possible? How can we have joy in circumstances that make other people unhappy? The answer is that joy comes, not through outward circumstances, but through an internal relationship with Jesus. Joy and rejoicing come from following God’s plan for your life.

John 16:24 (ESV) Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

When we pray and ask for things that are God’s will, God will answer our prayers and our joy will be full. This verse implies that there are levels of joy and that our joy can increase. True joy is possible only for a believer in Jesus, because true joy comes from God alone. The Bible describes a person without Jesus in their life as being lost. Lost from the most important relationship in life, a relationship with God.

A lost person can find momentary happiness, but never a lasting joy. When a lost person finds Jesus, they are no longer lost, but found and saved. They become a child of God and find joy in the family of God that will last forever. Today, we’re going to learn more about the secret to a joyful life. How you can discover joy for the first time if you’re lost. And how you can have increasing and full joy if you’re found.

Joy comes by repentance

Luke 15:3-4 (ESV) So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?

In the opening verses of this chapter, we read that the Jewish leader were accusing Jesus of being around sinners and eating with them. In response, Jesus told them the following three stories. Jesus’ first story begins with a man having a large flock of one hundred sheep. The man has a problem though, one of the sheep is missing.

He has a choice, he can just forget about the one and be content with the 99. Or he can leave the 99 in the open country, which may not be so save and go after the one lost sheep. In the story, the shepherd chooses to go after the one and search until he finds it.

Luke 15:5-6 (ESV) And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’

When the shepherd finally finds the lost sheep, he carries it back to the flock rejoicing. We see that the finding of the lost sheep brings joy to the shepherd who found it. When the shepherd returns home, he calls together all his friends and neighbors to rejoice with him. They rejoice because the lost sheep has been found.

Luke 15:7 (ESV) Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Jesus now turns to the meaning of the story that he just told. The lost sheep corresponds to a sinner who repents from his sin and believes in Jesus, the shepherd. When a lost sinner is found, there is joy in heaven, the shepherd rejoices and the sinner rejoices. Joy in heaven and on the earth. The 99 sheep in the flock correspond to believers who have already repented. There was joy when they repented, but the focus is always on the lost who have repented. Undoubtedly, the 99 rejoiced to have the one lost sheep returned to the flock as well. Joy comes to heaven and earth through the repentance of one lost sinner.

Jesus is the good shepherd who came to seek and to save the lost. He will go after every person far from Him an seek to bring them back to the fold. True joy then comes into the life of every sinner who repents. To repent is to turn away from their sin and put their faith in Jesus. The joy that comes into a sinner’s life will last forever, both on this earth and for eternity.

The eternal impact of one sinner repenting causes all of heaven rejoice. That joy that Jesus is talking about is available to every believer, simply by making a choice to rejoice. No matter how bad the circumstances in your life may be, you can rejoice because you are no longer lost, you have been found. You are part of the family of God, Jesus’ flock and He will always be your good shepherd. Lasting joy comes through repentance.

Joy comes by finding the lost

Luke 15:8 (ESV) “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?

Jesus turns from talking of 100 sheep to 10 coins, of which one was missing. What was missing was something of value, a silver coin. Undoubtedly the woman had plans for what that silver coin could provide. But somehow, we are not told how, it had been lost in her home. So, the woman turns on all the lights and begins to use a broom to sweep the entire house. She searches for that lost coin diligently and doesn’t give up until she finds it.

Luke 15:9-10 (ESV) And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

When she finally finds the lost coin, life does not just go on as normal. She calls all her friends and neighbors to a party of rejoicing because the lost coin has been found. Jesus then tells us that the angels in heaven rejoice over every sinner who repents. We learn that the angels in heaven are aware of what is going on in the earth.

It’s like they are watching a baseball game and they cheer at every run scored. Well, life is much more important then a baseball game. The angels erupt into rejoicing every time a sinner repents and crosses the plate into eternal life. Joy comes by finding the lost.

In this story, the woman diligently searching for the lost coin is an example for us. As believers, God desires for us to be diligently searching for the lost to be found. To seek for the lost to be saved is not just for the church to do, it is for every believer. To have a priority of seeking the lost is not just one of many priorities. It should be the top priority in your life as a believer.

Each of us has different areas of responsibility in our lives. We have our families and relatives, our jobs and workmates, our homes and neighbors and friends. Are you sure that everyone in your circle of influence has been saved? Just because they think they are a believer does not mean they are. Every day, wherever you go, God desires to work with you to reach the lost.

When you find them, when they believe in Jesus, there will be joy for all, extending into heaven. Our greatest responsibility in this life is seeing the lost saved. If you are saved, then you know enough to help someone else be saved. Joy comes by finding the lost.

Joy comes by welcoming the lost home

Luke 15:11-12 (ESV) And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them.

We now go from 100 sheep, 10 coins to 2 sons of a man. The younger son was very rude, he asked for his inheritance while his father was still living. The father gave he son his one third of the inheritance without correcting him.

Luke 15:13-14 (ESV) Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.

This younger son took all his new-found wealth and travelled as far away from his family as possible. In this far country, he wasted all his wealth in sinful living of the worst kind. Not only did he manage to waste his inheritance that had been saved up for a lifetime. He always used that precious inheritance to pay for an exceedingly sinful lifestyle.

When the money was gone, all his friends in sin were gone. The son was in financial need and couldn’t even feed himself. He took a job feeding food to the pigs. He wanted to eat the pig food, but his boss would not even let him do that. Finally, the Scripture says that he came to himself, he began to think clearly.

Luke 15:18-19 (ESV) I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’

The son knew that his life was a mess and decided to return home to his father. He decided to repent, acknowledging that he had sinned against God and his father. He didn’t expect to be treated as a son, but wanted to return simply as a servant.

Luke 15:20-21 (ESV) And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

I am sure that the son wasn’t sure how his father would respond, he had sinned so greatly. However, it seems that the father was watching for his son to return. When the father saw him coming down the road, all disheveled and dirty, he ran to him. The father embraced and kissed his son and the son repented for his sin. The father called his servants to bring a robe, ring and shoes for his son. He issued a command for a fattened calf to be prepared for a great celebration.

Luke 15:24 (ESV) For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

The sin of the son was forgiven and forgotten. He was dead but had come back to life. Lost but found and the celebration of joy began. The father was filled with great joy at the home coming of his lost son.

Now the son’s older brother was not happy at all at his younger brother’s return. He knew the story of all the sin and reckless living his brother had done. He couldn’t understand why his father was celebrating the return of this no-good brother of his. The older brother was the only one in these three stories that was not rejoicing. The father said to him …

Luke 15:32 (ESV) It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

The father understood that the important thing was that the son was in the family. He had been dead as it were, but now was alive. He had been lost but now found. It was to be a time of rejoicing Joy comes by welcoming the lost home.

In this last story, the father corresponds to God the father. He never gives up on someone as long as they’re alive. The father serves as an example for us as to how we should welcome the lost into the family of God. The son stumbling up the road was not a pretty sight. But the father welcomed him with open arms. As the father waited, praying, anticipating, believing.

So, we should wait, pray and believe that those in our life who are lost will repent come into the family of God. We must welcome them into our church family, into our homes. We must rejoice and celebrate their return to the God who had created them. Of course, as in the other stories, the angels in heaven rejoice with us.

We must not be like the older son, who was so disgusted with his brother’s sin, he refused to welcome him and celebrate. When sinners come into God’s family, they are not instantly mature. Parts of their old life may cling to them for a season. We must be patient and loving with them and rejoice, like the father. Joy comes by welcoming the lost home.