Summary: We develop joy in the body of Christ by looking beyond our circumstances and developing contentment in our lives.
Before I read our story from Home Town Tales, let’s take a moment to briefly review the three aspects of the fruit of the Sprit that we’re focusing on during this series:
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
1) Is demonstrated by being not doing
2) Is developed as Christ followers cooperate with the Holy Spirit
3) Is to be delightful to an unbelieving world
The way we do that as a body is reflected in two aspects of our life together in the body:
• The way we treat each other
• Our corporate worship
The story I’ll read this morning is titled “The Joy of Usefulness”
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IS…JOY
Before we begin to develop some principles that will allow us to develop the kind of joy that will be alluring to the world around us, we first need to define what we mean by joy. At first glance, that seems pretty easy, but the problem we often have is that we think of joy as being the same thing as happiness. But the Bible is clear that the two are not synonymous.
In fact, the Bible doesn’t refer to happiness much at all. Depending on your translation there are only somewhere between 14 and 30 times that the word happy, and its related words like happiness, are used. But the words joy and rejoice and their related words are used well over 400 times. So what is the difference?
The origin of the two words immediately gives us some good insight. The word “happy” comes from the root word “hap” which means “chance” or “luck”. We also get our English words “happen” and “happenstance” from that same word. All of those words carry with them the idea that things occur randomly by chance or according to luck.
The primary New Testament word for joy and the one used by Paul when describing the fruit of the Spirit is the Greek word “chara” which interestingly is also the root for the Greek word we translate “grace”. So Biblical joy is closely connected to the operation of God’s grace in our life.
Let’s use this chart to differentiate between happiness and joy:
[Contact me if you want the Word document with this chart]
Emotion Attitude of the heart
Conditional – based on circumstances Unconditional – based on confidence in God
Manufactured by man Gift of the Holy Spirit
This is most clearly evidenced in the life of Jesus and the sacrifice that He made on our behalf:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1, 2 (ESV)
Jesus was not happy about going to the cross. He understood what a painful process he would suffer through. But even knowing that, He could have joy because of His confidence in God. He could look past the circumstances to the eternal purposes of God that would be accomplished through those circumstances.
When the fruit of the Spirit is operating within the body of Christ with that kind of joy, then we can be assured that our joy will be attractive and alluring to the world around us where people quickly become disillusioned with the fleeting nature of their happiness.
So let’s spend some time this morning seeing if we can discover how to develop real joy in our relationships with each other and in our relationship with God. Let’s begin with…
• Developing joy in the way we treat each other
Like we’ll find with every aspect of the fruit of the Spirit, there are almost limitless ways in which we can develop joy within our body. But I’ll just focus on three which I believe are most relevant for us:
1) Look beyond our circumstances
The apostle Paul wrote these words to the Philippian church regarding joy:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
Philippians 4:4 (ESV)
Paul instructs the believers to rejoice. In fact, that is so important that he repeats the command again. And as I’m sure you may have guessed, that command is in the present tense, so we could literally translate it “keep on rejoicing”. And in the verses which follow, Paul provides his readers with some insight about how they are to live their lives in order to be able to continually rejoice. For time’s sake, we’re going to skip down to verse 10 and just deal with one aspect of his instruction: