Summary: Joy is a Spirit gift; a power that provides supernatural ability to not only endure but to experience hope; to know in your soul the reality of heaven.
I’ve had some happy days in my life. I was very happy when the Denver Broncos won Superbowls in 1997 and 1998. I was happy they day I married Kristi, and of course when my kids were born I was happy. Last Friday night when Jared came home from the hospital from his last chemo treatment, I was ecstatic. NO MO CHEMO! Some of you came and shared in his homecoming and we are extremely grateful for you. That was truly a happy moment, we’ll never forget it, and that moment will always be a significant memory marker for us. You’ve had happy moments too. Everyone can relate to these kinds of happy and fun experiences.
But I’ve had sad days, too. I’ve experienced anger, doubt, insecurity and even frightened moments. I’m sure you have too. As human beings we experience a wide range of emotions during the day. Most of the time, our emotional reactions are defined by situational experiences. For example, if our boss compliments us, then we feel happy about ourselves, we experience a boost to our confidence. But then we get home and we are confronted by an unhappy spouse who angrily says something to us, and all of a sudden our happiness and confidence from work fades away. Every day our emotions range from anger, to happiness, from frustrated to confident, from bitterness to elation, and while most days are probably not this dramatic, much of this depends on personality, too, but you get the point that our emotional state can change quite a bit, even during the course of a day.
If Joy were an emotion, if the Biblical word “joy” was defined as happiness, then it would be impossible for us as human beings to experience joy in the way that God defines it. Simply because we don’t always feel happy; But Spiritually, we can always experience joy, no matter what situation we find ourselves.
Paul speaks to this in Philippians 4:12-13, “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ,who gives me strength.”
Paul isn’t just discussing how to be content. Paul is sharing his experience with the Spiritual power of Joy, he’s sharing in a practical way what this power helps him do. The power of Joy enables Paul to be content in every situation. How do I know? Because a few verses earlier Paul says this, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” Philippians 4:4. The strength of Christ that Paul is discussing here is the Power of Joy. Spiritual Joy is a gift from God, a power that is provided for every follower of Jesus.
We’re talking about Spiritual Joy this morning and the first thing I want to discuss is what is it? What is Spiritual Joy? The first place we need to look is Galatians 5:22, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. “ The first thing we should notice is that all of these words are included in one singular fruit. The word isn’t plural, it’s singular. There is one fruit of the Spirit.
We discover this same analogy of bearing fruit in the teaching of Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” John 15:1-4
We have a tendency to look over the list of the fruit of the Spirit and line item each of the gifts. For example, I’ve been in Bible studies or discussions on this subject and folks will talk about each of these as singular items. I used to have a similar understanding, I would say something like, “I think I do a good job with love, goodness, maybe gentleness, but, I admit I really struggle with patience.” We leave a study of these fruits believing that this is the Scripture that teaches us that we have growth areas.
Believe me, I have areas in my life I need to improve. Like Paul, I too have “thorns” constant and lingering struggles in my life that I’m constantly seeking the Spirit of God to deliver me from. And like Paul, I praise God for His mercy, grace and love for me in spite of my flaws. “God’s grace is sufficient in my weakness.” I know you can relate, you’re not perfect either. But this particular verse, Galatians 5:22 is not about areas where we are confident and areas where we need to improve. Paul teaches us something profound about the Holy Spirit.