Summary: This is the third sermon in the Series on "The Fruit of the Spirit"
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IS JOY—GALATIANS 5:22-26
and Hebrews 12:1-3
I first heard George Fredrick Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” from THE MESSIAH when I was in the sixth grade. I had been promoted to the junior high band before the end of my fifth grade year. Now it was December, 1959; I was eleven years old, and the junior high chorus and band were presenting our joint Christmas Concert. Not yet being in junior high, I was not in the chorus, but the program ended with the chorus singing “The Hallelujah Chorus.” In keeping with tradition, the audience stood for the singing of Handel’s great classic.
I was included in the number of those who stood. I still can feel the goose bumps going up and down my spine, and the “Hallelujah Chorus” remains my absolute favorite piece of music to this day: “Hallelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. The Kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever. King of kings; and Lord of Lord; Hallelujah.”
The "Hallelujah Chorus" glorifies Jesus and gives me great joy. Peter Marshall shares this story about the circumstances Handel was enduring at the time he composed his masterpiece. “When Handel wrote the ‘Hallelujah Chorus,’ his health and his fortunes had reached the lowest possible ebb. His right side had become paralyzed, and all his money was gone. He was heavily in debt and threatened with imprisonment. He was tempted to give up the fight. The odds seemed entirely too great. And it was then he composed his greatest work—THE MESSIAH” [--Peter Marshall, Sr., “Who Can Take It?” Preaching Today, Tape No. 131.].
Joy is birthed and strengthened in adversity.Handel, a man of faith, is a testimony that “The Fruit of the Spirit is Joy.” Just what is Christian joy? Are joy and happiness the same thing? Oftentimes they are considered to be synonymous, but the Scriptures differentiate between the two! Usually happiness depends upon circumstances. The root word for happy is “Hap,” which means luck, good fortune, success, prosperity. At the very heart of its meaning happiness depends on favorable circumstances.
Christian joy never depends on circumstances. Oswald Chambers testifies, “The Bible nowhere speaks about a “happy’ Christian; it talks plentifully of joy. Happiness depends on things that happen, and may sometimes be an insult: joyfulness I never touched by external conditions, and a joyful heart is never an insult” [--Oswald Chambers in The Shadow of an Agony. Christianity Today, Vol. 37, no. 13].
Christian joy, the fruit of the Spirit, keeps our eyes fixed on Jesus and keeps us going through times of sorrow, misery, pain, suffering, illness, loss, misfortune, despair, grief, trouble, affliction, trial, and tribulation. Joy sustained Jesus, and it will sustain us as well. We stand on the promise of Hebrews 12:2-3, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and loose heart.” Did you catch it? Jesus endured the cross, scorned its shame, endured the greatest opposition from sinners because He new “the joy beyond the cross.” Jesus never grow weary; He never lost heart, because He looked beyond the cross to His Resurrection, Ascension, and His “sitting down at the right hand of the throne of God."
In times of trial and tribulation, the Holy Spirit empowers us to be like Jesus. He reminds us of the joy set before us. That joy is is rooted in our assurance that Jesus is returning to reign as “King of King of Kings and Lord of Lords forever and ever.” The joy that is set before us keeps us from “growing weary and loosing heart.” Peter testifies in I Peter 1:6-9, “In this you GREATLY REJOICE, through now for a little while you MAY HAVE HAD TO SUFFER GRIEF IN ALL KINDS OF TRIALS. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in PRAISE, GLORY, AND HONOR WHEN JESUS CHRIST IS REVEALED. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, YOU BELIEVE IN HIM AND ARE FILLED WITH AN INEXPRESSIBLE AND GLORIOUS JOY, FOR YOU ARE RECEIVING THE GOAL OF YOUR FAITH, THE SALVATION OF YOUR SOULS.”
The Fruit of the Spirit greatly rejoices even though “we suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” As Liz Curtis Higgs puts it, “Being glad is a decision of my will, not an expression of my emotions” [--Liz Curtis Higgs, Marriage Partnership, Vol. 13, no. 2.]. How can that be? It’s simple. We are already receiving the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls, and we know we are empowered by the Holy Spirit until the time Jesus returns as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” Although we suffer, we believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible a glorious joy.