In this sermon, Pastor Neil continues his series on the fruit of the Spirit. Here, he talks about the spirit of joy. Here are some excerpts:
In our Scripture reading, Peter tells us that if you know Jesus as the Savior and Lord of your life; if you have grasped what God the Father has done for you through Him, understand what your inheritance is as a child of God; if you know you’re headed for heaven, your life has been changed by His amazing grace; In His great mercy if God has given you a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; then your life will be “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1:8). Your life will be marked by a quality of joyfulness that words cannot adequately describe.
The word “joy” itself is hard to define. Eugene Peterson, in The Message, describes it as an “exuberance about life” (Galatians 5:22). In the Bible, it is a sense of confidence, contentment, and pleasure in God. Unlike happiness, which comes from the same root word as “happening”, joy does not depend on what happens to you. It is not dependent on your circumstances in life.
Happiness comes and goes because it is based on what happens to us. Joy goes deeper than that, as I hope you will see. It can last because it is based not on your circumstances but on the presence and grace and love of God in your life. These are things that do not and will not change. So, if you want to cultivate this fruit in your life, don’t base your life on your circumstances. Don’t base it on externals. Base it instead on the promises and grace of God…
G. K. Chesterton said that joy is “the gigantic secret of the Christian.” I think he meant that the joy of the Lord is something you can’t fully understand until you experience it personally. Until God’s grace takes hold of your heart and plants the seed of true joy there.
Peter, of course, is not the only New Testament writer to talk about joy. Paul says in Romans 14:17 that joy is one of the distinguishing marks or evidences of God’s gracious and sovereign rule in a person’s life. And, for that matter, in the life of a church. He says: “The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking” [It is not a matter of what you eat and don’t eat; it is not a list of rules and regulation and rituals you have to follow] “but of righteousness” [being rightly related to God], “peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…”
Here is where grace comes in and plays an indispensable role. True joy is a matter of appropriating and living in the grace of God. Even the New Testament words for grace and joy are closely related. The word for joy (chara) comes from the Greek word for grace (charis). Where does joy come from? It comes from God’s all-sufficient grace poured out into your life. When your life is rooted in God’s abounding grace, the “happenings” of life – good, bad, or somewhere in between – cannot rob you of your joy.
… The point is not to feign happiness when you’re dealing with difficulties or disappointment or problems or pain, but to have a positive, hopeful, joyful outlook because of the sufficiency of God’s grace and what those trials can produce in your life. God can use hard times for good. For your good and for His glory. Through our times of testing, He can make us strong. Your perspective can make all the difference.
Nothing can rob you of the spiritual fruit of joy unless you let it. If you keep your eyes on Jesus, your circumstances cannot rob you of it. But there are ways you can lose it.
Sin will rob you of the joy of the Lord. Circumstances alone can’t do it, but the choices you make can, if you choose to turn away from God and His way in some area of your life. Sin may give you pleasure. It may bring you pleasure for a season. The pleasures of sin can exert a powerful pull on your life. But unrepentant sin will always douse the fire in your heart. Choosing to go against God’s way will never bring you true joy, because true and lasting joy is found in willing surrender and obedience to Him.
If you’ve lost your joy and you wonder what happened to it, take a good look at your life and see if there isn’t some sin that has cut you off from the Lord. Make David’s prayer in Psalm 139 your own:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive (sinful) way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)
Renounce your sin, whatever it is. Confess it to God. Turn away from it. Then you will know again the incredible gift of the joy of the Lord in your life.