Summary: Joy isn't happiness. It is so much more.
We’re in a series on the Fruit of the Spirit which I’m calling “Grace-Fruit: Jesus Living in Me.” Fruit is the outward expression of the inward nature. When you see a plum hanging on a tree, you can say, “That’s a plum tree.” When you see these nine virtues displayed in the life of a Christian you can say, “There’s a Spirit-filled Christian.”
There is one fruit of the Spirit, but there are nine flavors. We find the list in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Last week we talked about agape love, and I asked you to display the face of someone in your mind that you’ve had a hard time loving, and then let Jesus love that person through you. One of my friends, said, “It wasn’t just one person for me, I had to use a split screen.” Another friend was listening and said, “That’s nothing. Mine looked like the TV display area at Don’s TV!” Whether it’s one difficult person or 100, Jesus can love those unlovely people through you.
Today we’re going to talk about joy. I’ve always loved the word “joy” and the name “Joy.” In fact, my very first girlfriend was named Joy Thompson. I was in the 3rd Grade and Joy was Little Miss Peanut at the Peanut Festival in Dothan. My only trouble was that one of my friends, Alan Silverman, liked Joy too. There were only two Jewish families in Florala and Alan’s family was one of them. We competed for Joy’s attention, and she seemed to enjoy it. I’ll never forget the day that Alan Silverman said, “David, my mother said that I have to marry a Jewish girl, and Joy isn’t Jewish, so I guess you can have her.” Yes! I didn’t understand much of the Bible then, but that was the first time I said, “Thank God for the Jews!”
But joy is more than a name. It’s a powerful, positive reaction that we display when we’re filled with the Holy Spirit. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have something so rich and valuable that everyone in the world is looking for it. It’s joy.
Years ago some archaeologists were excavating around the ruins of the Mamertine prison in Rome. Thousands of Christians were imprisoned there before they were sent to the Coliseum to fight wild animals and to die as martyrs. The archeologists found a fragment of a letter among the ruins. It was written during the 3rd century, during the most intense time of persecution against Christians. We don’t know who wrote it, but the message of this letter is powerful: “It’s a bad world, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than the pleasure of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They have overcome the world. These people are the Christians—and I am one of them.”
It is a bad world—an incredibly bad world. But God offers to fill you with His joy. All these gifts of the Spirit are grace-gifts, that’s why I call this series Grace-Fruit. But of all the nine virtues, joy is the closest to grace. Grace and joy are twins, not identical, but they are born from the same root word. The Greek word of grace is karis and the word for joy is kara. You might say that Joy is grace enjoyed. In this message I want to talk about what joy is; then where you find joy; and then how you express joy.
I. JOY IS A CHEERFUL ATTITUDE IN EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE OF LIFE
Some confused souls believe it is the role of our federal government to make us happy and keep us happy. Our Declaration of Independence does mention three inalienable rights given to us. But these are given to us by our Creator; NOT by our government. And contrary to what some people assume, these three rights aren’t life, liberty, and happiness. They are life, liberty, and the PURSUIT of happiness.
And pursue it we do! Americans devote much of their time and energy trying to find happiness. Many surveys have asked Americans, “What is it that you most want in life?” And the overwhelming majority of Americans answer: “I want to be happy.” Then the survey often follows-up with this question, “What would it take to make you happy?” The #1 answer to the second question is, “I don’t know.”
What people need is JOY not happiness. Happiness comes from the word “hap,” which means “luck” or “happenings.” Happiness rises and falls with what happens in your life, but joy remains constant regardless of what happens. Joy is an inner attitude of cheer that manifests itself through outward celebration.