THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
NUMBER 2: JOY
“WE WILL, WE WILL ROCK YOU!”
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
INTRODUCTION: FRUIT WILL HAVE AN IMPACT
The story goes that Newton was sitting under an apple tree when a fruit from that tree fell on his head. The impact of that fruit was to lead to the discovery of gravity. Fruit always has an impact
If the “fruit of the Spirit” is what comes out of us and shows the world that we have something special – then it MUST be seen to have an impact. It must grow in us and then fall off us – figuratively hitting others “smack on the head” and having a life-changing effect on them.
In this session we are moving on to the second manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit – joy – and will see how it literally rocked people with a seismic force, out of their disbelief, in the Bible story
PAUL AND SILAS “ROCK THEM” IN PRISON
Paul and Silas had arrived in Philippi in Macedonia. Having thrown an evil spirit out of a servant girl they were hauled off to the magistrates by an angry mob who saw their livelihood gone. They were stripped and beaten with rods and then thrown into the inner cell of the prison where their feet were fastened with shackles. This was NOT very nice – made worse by the fact they were being punished for doing a good thing.
The story then goes on (Acts 16: 25-34):
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!’
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’
31 They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.’ 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptised. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole household.
So, what have we here? A story of two men in the most horrible of circumstances – yet they are singing praises to God. The upshot is that there is a mighty earthquake that throws open all the cell doors. The jailer is shaken himself and realises that God is on the move, that God is very much present in the lives of the two men singing in their suffering and so realises that he must have what they have – that he must be saved.
How could they be singing? How could they be so happy? Well, the answer is that their supernatural happiness came out of joy. And there is a BIG difference. Happiness is a feeling that comes out of pleasure. It is determined by our circumstances. If life is good then we are happy. If life is not good then we are not.
Clearly we see the shattering truth that Paul and Silas had a joy that was NOT based on their circumstances. There is, therefore, a very important difference between happiness and joy.
Happiness is NOT a fruit of the Spirit. Joy is. So…what is “joy”?
THE EARTH-SHATTERING TRUTH OF JOY
James drops an earth-shattering bombshell right at the start of his letter – in chapter 1:
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Joy is clearly not the same as happiness. We are not called to be some kind of masochist – happy when we are suffering.
And the people of the first century church to whom he was writing were certainly suffering – they were being persecuted, dragged off to prison, struck down by the sword and killed, and forced to leave their homes and flee for their lives. And he has the gall to tell them to “consider it pure joy”!
His words clearly explain the fact that we can have joy even in the midst of great suffering.
The Greek word used time and time again for “joy” is the word “chara”. It is not a “feeling” that comes and goes with circumstances. Rather it is an “emotion” that is the enduring and on-going reaction to a certainty of “victory” through relationship.
It is the emotion that comes after the victory of battle – there is pain (rather than happiness) at the loss but joy in the knowledge that victory has been won and that all will be well.
It is the emotion that comes out of the certainty of a relationship. When Adele and Aaron got married yesterday they were happy. But they are not always going to be happy with each other. But, God willing, they will always have the joy of knowing that they have each other and the love which is so strong between them. Even in this sense there is “victory” – that of “we now have each other and we have each other for good”.
So, James is saying to the Christians that there is joy for them even in their terrible trials. For these troubles will lead to their benefit. Out of their persecution will come the certain victory – if God is for us, who can be against us? All things work together for good. God will do good for and through us. Joy is the ability to look beyond our circumstances to the certainties that all will be well and that we are daily becoming more like Christ. Joy is the certainty of knowing that God loves us and has a plan for us despite all – whether we are happy or sad. It is supernatural. It is a gift of the Spirit in us and when it shines through us it has seismic effects on others – it is the fruit that falls down and bumps others on the head!
Happiness and joy ARE closely allied – let no one tell you otherwise. However, “happy” is based on circumstances while “joy” is based on status – it is that on-going delight and pleasure that is given to us by the Holy Spirit as a result of our status with God and is NOT dependent on our immediate circumstances in life.
And so, back to Paul and Silas.
EARTH SHATTERING FOR PAUL AND SILAS
How amazed they must have been! The Romans knew how to make you suffer! This prison was not a nice place with an exercise yard and a TV. This was horrible. Yet they were so full of joy that it just had to come out – and, in their case, it came out in singing.
Their joy came not out of happiness but out of relationship:
- They know that God was with them
- They realised it was an incredible privilege to actually suffer for Him
- They knew that victory was theirs in any case
Now, I don’t know whether they had the singing voices of angels or of “tone-deaf” men – but this I do know. As they evidenced the fruit of joy it had a huge repercussion…it caused an earthquake!
THE FRUIT OF JOY ALWAYS IS EARTH-SHATTERING
In Paul and Silas’s case there was a physical earthquake as the reaction to their joy in the midst of life’s troubles.
Here is the spiritual truth…”Joy rocks people”!
Spiritual joy makes no sense to someone who does not know God. How can you be full of joy even though this is happening to you? Even though you are sick and even dying? Even though you have lost your job? Even though you have run out of money? Even though your wife has left and your kids are on drugs? Either you are crazy…or you have something that is supernatural. And if you are not crazy then what you have is what I want!
And suddenly joy changes everything – for you and for others. Joy demonstrates what words alone cannot do. There have been plenty of times when people have been told Jesus loves them but the teller is so miserable that the one being told replies that if this is what being a Christian means then “I would rather stay an atheist!”
But, when they see joy, despite the circumstances of life, then they see the Spirit falling off you like an apple falling off the tree – and it is life-changing. Joy rocks their lives – and like the jailer in Philippi they will never be the same again. He saw – and heard – with amazement that two men, in the most awful of circumstances, were possessed with a joy that made no natural sense. He literally experienced the shock waves of that joy as the prison was broken apart by an earthquake. He was then open to hear the words of these joyful men who told him what he must do to receive the same joy that he saw in them: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved – you and your household” (Acts 16: 31). He saw their joy. He experienced the power of the Spirit and he was now able and willing to hear their words and know that he needed to be saved. He believed the words because of what he saw – the power of the Spirit working through the disciples. He believed, he was baptised. He became a disciple.
CONCLUSION: JOY ROCKS SOCIETY IN A DIFFERENT WAY
Where does this joy come from that should shine out from us? We cannot manufacture it. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit within us. But, we can cultivate it through seeking the Kingdom of God first. We cultivate it through “waiting” on God. We cultivate it through spending time in prayer and in seeking Him. We cultivate it by immersing ourselves in the Word of God and feasting on all His love and teaching that we find therein. And the closer we get to God – the deeper our relationship with Him, the more seismic is going to be the earthquake caused by the joy that naturally exudes from us.
In a society that is rocked by unhappiness, the absence of joy, fear, anxiety; let it be us who rock it by our joy which should be seen through us in all circumstances – and this fruit of joy will change people’s lives.
What was the effect of the earthquake on the jailor? Yes, he was saved…but then he too was filled with the Spirit. How do I know this??? Because the last thing we are told about him is this:
“he was filled with joy” (Acts 16: 34)
The fruit of the Spirit was growing on him…what about you? What about me?