Summary: Being joyful is more than just being happy. We’ll focus on the true meaning of joy and look at several “joy-busters.”
Journeying to Joy
Rev. Brian Bill
June 15, 2001
Our family spent this past Wednesday at a Water Park up in God’s Country. We had a blast! There were lots of smiles and laughter. The girls really liked the wave pool and we all enjoyed slides with names like the “Corkscrew,” “Twister,” and “Kamikaze.”
After a while some of the rides became predictable and a bit dull so Emily and I decided to try out the “Dragon’s Tail.” This slide was huge and had three dips in it! We should have known better because there was no long line of people waiting to go down it.
As we were making our way up the steep staircase, we heard a guy scream when he was coming down. It made me want to go back to the bumper boats but I didn’t want to lose face with my daughter. When we finally got to the top I nervously looked around and realized that I was going to have to do this. I asked the lifeguard how many people chickened out and went back down the stairs. She smiled and said, “A lot.”
Emily confidently sat down in the chute and took off. As I watched her race down the tail of this monstrosity, I secretly hoped the water pump would break or a storm would suddenly appear so they’d have to shut down the slide. When that didn’t happen I laid back, crossed my arms and feet, and said a prayer. I immediately knew I was into something that I had no way out of. I started screaming. My heart was racing and I stopped breathing. I would have given anything to get off that slide!
When I got to the bottom Emily was laughing and I was crying (I’m glad I was soaked so she couldn’t see my tears!). My swimsuit was stuck in my teeth! Other than the last 30 seconds of sheer terror, I had a great time at the Water Park. It was one of the most enjoyable things we’ve ever done as a family.
This morning we’re going to take a plunge into the pool called “joy” as we continue in our series based on the Fruit of the Spirit as found in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…”
It’s safe to say that joy is one of the most elusive fruits for us as believers. Like the Dragon’s Tail, it’s not a very popular fruit and doesn’t get near enough use today. Part of the problem is that joy is often misunderstood.
We tend to equate “happiness” with joy but they are two totally different ideas because they each spring from a different source. One comes from the world around me. The other originates directly from the Spirit of the Living God. Happiness is conditioned by and often dependent upon what is “happening” to me. If people treat me good, if things are going well in my life, then I’m happy. If my circumstances aren’t favorable, then I’m unhappy – that describes me as I was flying over the back of that dangerous dragon!
Joy, on the other hand, throbs throughout Scripture as a profound, compelling quality of life that transcends the events and disasters which may dog God’s people. Joy is a divine dimension of living that is not shackled by circumstances. The Hebrew word means, “to leap or spin around with pleasure.” In the New Testament the word refers to “gladness, bliss and celebration.”
To have the fruit of joy ripen in our lives is to recognize the journey involved in getting there. It takes time, diligence, patience, and hard work to make a grapevine produce grapes. Fruit is not instantaneous because it has to overcome weather, bugs, weeds, poor soil and neglect. Likewise, in our journey to joy we’re faced with the waves of apathy, the currents of pessimism, the deluge of doubt and the waterfalls of despair. There is no way we can manufacture this fruit on our own.
If we want to see this fruit ripen in our lives, we desperately need the Holy Spirit to prune away whatever it is that hinders our joy and then empower us to make some choices that move us closer to a lifestyle of rejoicing. We need to guard against three common Joy Busters and we need to cultivate some Joy Builders into our lives.
Before Paul wrote to the church at Galatia about the Fruit of the Spirit in chapter 5, he asked a very penetrating question in Galatians 4:15: “What has happened to all your joy…” That question needs to be asked in the church today. What has happened to all my joy? What has happened to all your joy? William Barclay has said that “a gloomy Christian is a contradiction in terms, and nothing in all religious history has done Christianity more harm than its connection with black clothes and long faces.” Let’s look at three common joy stealers that often give us long faces.