Can you name all of the fuit of the Spirit? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Of all of the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5, most people would probably pick joy as being the one they want the most. If this was a buffet and they could pick just one fruit for themselves most would pick joy. How do we get it, how do we keep it and what does it look like?
I want to start by giving you an example of what joy is. I got to go golfing this past week with a preacher buddy of mine and we had a great time. We talked and laughed and cut up all day. Then about half way through, he was just about to chip up on to the green when we both noticed a funeral procession driving by. My friend stopped right in mid-swing, took off his cap, held it over his heart and bowed his head in reverence as the hearse drove past. I told him that was a remarkably nice gesture. I was impressed. He said, "Well, we were married for 25 years."
Some people have more joy than others, it's obvious. But he's a good example of someone who doesn't let circumstances define how much joy he has. In fact, that's the difference between joy and happiness. Joy is a gift of God and we will talk more about that but happiness is dependant on our circumstances. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be happy, but just realize that happiness is fleeting. It can come and go with the wind...or the heat...or the lack of rain like we are having.
I hope you have your Bibles. If you don't have yours you can find one close by. Turn to Galatians 5:22. Let's look again at the fruit of the Spirit. As you turn there I will remind you that this passage is about fruit. Not fruits. These are characteristics of every Christian that God gives as a bunch like grapes not like apples and oranges. Paul says in the previous verses that when we live by the Spirit we will manifest these characteristics. In John 15, Jesus says that He is the vine and we are the branches and branches can't bear fruit without the vine.
So let's read Galatians 5:22-23.
Last week we talked about love. It's no coincedence that love is mentioned first. Jesus said that the law could be summed up in that word. Paul said that love was greater than faith or hope. But we will also see that the others build on love. Joy has a lot in common with love as far as how to get it, keep it and recognize it. In fact, the secret to getting both is not trying to find them but trying to give them away but more about that later.
So, let's talk about joy. I want us to look at 2 basic things. What is joy? How do we get it?
First, let's look at what it is. The dictionary definition of a word is not always real helpful in fully understanding a word like this. Webster says joy is a feeling of great pleasure or happiness. We've already talked about how joy is different than happiness and we can all understand that joy is a feeling of great pleasure but I found it interesting when I looked it up in the original Greek. The word "chara" actually means to jump up or spin around.
Have you ever seen a little kid open a present on Christmas and it is the very thing he has wanted for all of his 4 long years on this planet? What does he do? He gets excited and may very well jump up or spin around. He doesn't care what other people think. Football season is just around the corner and while you will not see me jumping around when somebody makes a touchdown, a lot of folks will be. They are not drawing attention to themselves. They are celebrating. And if they can celebrate like that over some kid running down a field with a ball then how much more should we celebrate God's good and perfect gifts?
We learned in our Bible study on Wednesday that David will reign at the right hand of Jesus in Heaven. That's not a bad promotion from shepherd. David knew about joy. When he sinned he wrote, "Restore to me the joy of my salvation". Ps. 30, "...but joy comes in the morning... and you have turned my wailing into dancing." Ps. 32, "Shout for joy!" Ps. 71, "My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing to you." Ps. 100, "Make a joyful noise!"
Some of you are saying, "Oh, great, Todd's gone charismatic on us." No, but I'll be honest. The older I get the more I dislike the idea of saying that because I am a Baptist I can't do this or that. I want to know what the Bible says about it not what church people say and when it comes to joy it shows over and over again that it should be evident when people see us that we are different. How can we tell somebody that God gives us joy in difficult times if we look like we are going through difficult times all the time?! That's not very attractive to people.
Some of you may be thinking, "How do I get that kind of joy?" You may even be a Christian but you just don't feel like celebrating ever. "I understand what it is. I see what it looks like. But I don't really have it." Well, joy is there for us but sometimes our way to it seems blocked and it usually gets blocked by sin in our life. I said before that these fruit of the Spirit are given to us by God when we abide in Him as the vine and we are the branches. Sin chokes off that relationship and blocks our joy and it is not until we go to God like David did after Bathsheba-gate and say, "God forgive me and cleanse me and restore the joy."
Much like true love, true joy doesn't come at the expense of someone else. I told you earlier that you don't find joy by looking for it. In fact, just like love, you find joy when you give it away or when you give yourself away. Instead of praying that God would give you more joy, pray that God would reveal someone else that needs joy that you could help and see what happens.
The bonus to doing that is that when you help someone else it not only brings you joy but it also makes you more spiritually attractive to other people. In Acts 16 Paul and Silas are in prison for preaching the Gospel. Yea, imagine that. But what sets those two guys apart from all the other prisoners is what it says in verse 25, "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God..." They were vocal about their joy. They made it known from where their joy came and do you remember what happened? The jailer and his whole family came to know the Lord. Because Paul and Silas gave up their right to be angry and sad, because they gave up their right to complain and be bitter a whole family's eternity was changed!
Joy is a gift and I have a gift for someone. Dollar bill. It's free. Just come get it. When was that gift yours? When I gave it to you? No. I was giving it to you well before you came to get it. It was only yours when you got up and walked down here and took it. Now it's yours. Joy is the same way. It's there for you to take. But you have to accept it. Salvation is the same way. God has been offering you salvation forever but you can only get it by accepting it by faith in Jesus. You don't work for it. You can't deserve it. But when you agree with God that you are a sinner and you can't do anything to deserve heaven, that it's not because your good deeds outweigh your bad, it's not because you go to church or are kind to animals or anything else.
Salvation comes through a relationship with God through His Son Jesus when we admit that we are sinners and believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose again on the third day to pay for those sins and that it is by grace and through faith that we are saved and can have joy everlasting. Makes me want to shout!