Fruit of the Spirit Joy Steve by ktTJpV

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									                                          Fruit of the Spirit – Joy

Isaiah 12:2-6
2
    Surely God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid,
    for the LORD GOD is my strength and my might;
    he has become my salvation.
3
    With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4And you will say in that day:
    Give thanks to the LORD,
    call on his name;
    make known his deeds among the nations;
    proclaim that his name is exalted.
5
    Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously;
    let this be known in all the earth.
6
    Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion,
    for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.


John 15:8-11
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  My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. 9As the
Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments,
you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his
love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be
complete.

                                                      †

A colleague told me the story of a certain dance that Christians have done for years. It is called
the “tripudium”; it’s a simple dance of three steps forward and one step backward. It enacts what
they believe God is doing in their life.

While we deal with setbacks, we believe that God is moving us forward. With that trust we have
a deep, renewable resource called “joy”.

And yet “joy” has not been a common charge against Christians.

Oliver Wendell Homes, Jr., was a member of the US Supreme Court for 30 years. He was quoted
as saying, “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergy men I knew had not looked and
acted so much like undertakers.”1



1
   Quoted in Michael Zigarelli’s “Restoring Joy to Your Life”, Christianity                Today,   located   at
http://www.christianitytoday.com/workplace/articles/issue15-restoringjoytoyourlife.html.


                                                      1
The world would perceive Christianity differently if there were more loving and dedicated
servants like Mother Teresa, and if Christians lived with the joy that is ours by faith.

We might be tempted to think that only saints have an abiding joy…or the incredibly fortunate in
life. Some may have a jump start on us, but joy as Jesus knew it was for ordinary people like you
and me...folk with little kids and little sleep, folk with aging parents, people with problems at
work and struggles at home, and those who have medical issues that just won’t go away.

When Jesus was talking about abiding in his love and persevering in the faith, he was hoping his
followers would have joy. He said, “11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in
you, and that your joy may be complete.”

Joy in you, not as a fleeting experience but as an abiding presence – joy in you that is complete.

The New Testament Scholar William Barclay writes, “The one thing that all [people] need to
learn about joy is that joy has nothing to do with material things, or with a [person’s] outward
circumstances. It is the simple fact of human experience that a [person] living in the lap of luxury
can be wretched, and a [person] in the depths of poverty can overflow with joy.”2

Billy Sunday was an evangelist to the hard hewn common folk of the American frontier. He said
famously, “If you have no joy in your religion, there’s a leak in your Christianity somewhere.”

If every day is drudgery for you, there’s a leak in your Christianity.

If you habitually expect rain on your parade, there’s a leak in your Christianity.

If you think you’re alone in this life, there’s a leak in your Christianity.

Christianity and joy go together like

           Forgiveness and joy
           Gratitude and joy
           Hope and joy
           Purpose and joy
           Rest and joy

Someone captured Christian joy well:

           Joy is deeper than pleasure, bigger than excitement, it’s something more calm, more
           powerful, longer lasting. Joy is the awareness that something unbreakably beautiful has
           happened, that the world has changed for good and forever, and we can celebrate, not
           just for a moment, not just as long as the party lasts, as long as the drink or drug holds
           out, but every day, and all day, and with everyone.



2
    William Barclay, Daily Study Bible, Philippians, p. 88

                                                             2
To some of you such joy may seem a farfetched ideal, but some people give us glimpses of
genuine joy.

Martha Dotts was a spritely woman who stood all of 5 feet tall…in heels. As she aged, her face
increasingly was crisscrossed with wrinkles. I fully believe that those wrinkles were not so much
a genetic inheritance, but were instead the consequence of her frequently used smile and her well
worn laugh.

Every gathering I attended seemed to be a party when Martha was present: church picnics,
funeral luncheons, worship planning…it was all a delight with Martha there. Over the years I
heard Martha respond to people who would comment on her short stature. She’d say, “I use to be
six feet tall but my husband worked me down to this.”

Martha’s spirit was resilient. One great sadness in her life was that she was unable to have
children. Later in her life, her husband, Lynn, contracted bone cancer, then her brother-neighbor
died of stomach cancer, and some years later she lost her eyesight. She did not deny the pain;
still, her joy remained. I spoke with someone recently who had visited her in a nursing home.
“Martha is still Martha” she said.

Many of you know such a joyful person, a friend of our church. Roy Humphrey. Roy has a sense
of joy about him that is expressed in dry wit. Perhaps you’ve heard him introduce himself. “Roy
Humphrey” he says. He then spells out his last name: H-U-M-P-H-4-R-E-Y. “4?” people ask.
“Yes,” Roy says, “the 4 is silent”.

Friends in Christ, the good news is that the Spirit of God, given to you in baptism, is working in
your life to produce the fruit of joy.

This passage from John is particularly important for us if we are to progress in joy. Jesus said, I
have said these things about following me so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may
be complete.

So the goal is not occasional joy, periodic joy, but complete joy. And the joy that the Spirit is
working in us is not the fleeting joys of the world (which may be delightful); the goal of the
Spirit is Jesus’ joy. So that will be our focus today – Jesus’ joy and how we may be fertile
ground for the Spirit’s joy bearing in our lives.

                                                   †

First, through Jesus, there is joy in our salvation.

In Jesus Christ, we are saved from doomed efforts to justify our existence by trying to be good,
trying to excel, trying to be famous, trying in a thousand ways to say “I’m important”, “I’m
special”, “I’m worthy of your respect”. Jesus us meets us as he met the tax collector, the
adulterer, the woman who had been hemorrhaging for years; he accepts us, touches us, heals us.
When Jesus wraps his arms around you there’s no room and no need for trying to prove
ourselves.

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In Jesus Christ, we’re saved from a go-nowhere life. As we spoke last week, we are created for
loving God and loving one another. Whatever we do, we can do small things with great love for
God.

In Jesus Christ, we’re saved from a present that is determined by past mistakes. The pillars of our
past remain in our lives, but we are not tied to those posts. Jesus has forgiven us and God has cut
us from that bondage. We are freed in Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to pursue
the life God intends for us.

In Jesus Christ, we are saved from ignorance of our future. This week we have four memorial
services. “What will become of us?” we wonder. We certainly do not know all the details of
what is to come, but the promise is this…that the Good Shepherd who guides us in this life will
guide us into the next…and that there is a next life yet to be revealed.

One of my favorite Scriptures remains Jeremiah 29:11 – “…surely I know the plans I have for
you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

We have joy in our salvation.

Remember the angelic proclamation? “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that
will be for all the people.” Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you who is
Christ the Lord.”3

Peter said it in a few more words:
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            Although you have not seen [Jesus], you love him; and even though you do not see him
           now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9for you are
           receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”4

If you’ve never said “yes” to God it is likely that the joy of a forgiven, god-loved, forward-
moving, hopeful life has mostly alluded you. Jesus’ call then as now is an invitation to follow. If
you’ve never said “yes” to God, accepting God’s love and these holy gifts of God, I invite you in
the quiet of heart to say “yes” now.

Say “yes” to God’s love and the holy gifts of forgiveness, freedom, and a future with hope.

“Christian joy is one that endures trials and is not dependent upon earthly happiness. Christian
joy is about the presence of Christ in your life.”

                                                  †

Looking at the joy of Jesus we realize that there is joy in suffering.

3
    Luke 2:10-11
4
    1 Peter 1:8-9

                                                  4
We read in the letter to the Hebrews

        …let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus the pioneer
        and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the
        cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of
        God.5

We’re not masochistic and elevating pain and suffering to a spiritual summit. God save us from
inflicting upon ourselves or others unnecessary pain. But, as a wise Christian once said, “The
Bible teaches that the absence of suffering does not produce joy, nor does the presence of intense
pain exclude the possibility of joy.”6 The absence of suffering does not produce joy. How many
people with great material blessings have been empty, hopeless, lost souls?

And how many people in pain have exhibited great joy. For 28 years, my son Matthew has lived
no further than 2 hours from home. I didn’t see him weekly. Sometimes months would go by
without seeing him, BUT I could go whenever I wanted and have lunch, or a walk in the park or
throw the Frisbee.

Last week he and his wife moved to Colorado. On Saturday, as I stood with my bags at the
Denver airport, I hugged Matthew and felt the sadness of leaving him so far from
Pittsburgh…and yet I had a great sense of joy that he is now an adult man and getting on with his
life.

Childbirth is another example of pain not excluding joy. In childbirth, suffering and joy go hand
in hand.

Our joy in suffering comes from knowing
    that God is present with us always,
    that God provides what we need,
    that God’s loving will, will be done, and
    that our ultimate destiny in life is not this earth, but God’s heavenly kingdom.
Against this knowledge, the worst of life need not diminish our confidence, our hope, our joy.

A Chinese pastor was held in prison because of his faith. His joy in the Lord was not diminished
when in prison he was assigned the job of cleaning the cess pool. How we wonder? Simple for
him; as he cleaned he sang the words of the gospel hymn:

        I come to the garden alone,
               While the dew is still on the roses;
        And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
               The Son of God discloses.
        And he walks with me,
5
 Hebrews 12:1-2
6
 John A. Huffman, Jr. “The Fruit of the Spirit is: Joy”, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Newport Beach, CA, May
10, 1998

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                 And he talks with me
          And he tells me I am his own
                 And the joy we share, as we tarry there
          None other has ever known.

Jesus did not live in some spiritual fantasy world. He knew that there would be suffering for his
followers, but he also knew that he was giving them something that the world cannot take away.
He said “So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one
will take your joy from you.”7

                                                   †

Jesus’ joy which he intends to be complete in us is also the joy of serving.

It has been said that there is no more miserable person than a selfish person.

Someone who works with people who have chased their every fantasy reports that they do not
show up for help feeling tired from all their fun; they show up feeling empty.

Henry Drummond was a Christian evangelist and he knew the joy of serving others. He said, “I
defy any [one] to do something for somebody, comfort them, help them, and not come back
happier and full of joy. This is cause and effect and anyone can get joy in this way.”

Delight in the joys of this life are a blessing, but if your only source of joy is this life, you will
likely wind up tired and empty. We are a black hole of wants and wishes and desire opens its
mouth wider and wider.

Knowing the love of Christ for you and for the world, do something out of that love for another,
without expecting anything in return, and the joy of Christ will grow in you.

                                                   †

As we consider these fruits growing in us we remember that in the plant world, there are aphids,
and fungi and disease that can kill a sprout. In the life of faith where the Spirit would grow joy in
us, there are “joy killers”. And it’s worth mentioning now, that the leak in your Christianity may
be killing the joy that would otherwise be growing in your life.

Here are a few:

          Unconfessed and unrepented sins hang like a weight around a person’s neck and strangle
          life from us. Find someone you can trust (your pastors stand ready to listen to you) and
          confess your sin and then turn from it. Like an abscess that requires lancing, sin can fester
          in us without confession and repentance.


7
    John 16:22

                                                    6
           Relentless resentment also kills the spirit in a person. It is like taking poison and
           expecting the other person to die. Revisit the wound. What caused the injury? Why did it
           wound you so deeply? What was your part? Take steps to change what you may need to
           change in your life and take first steps towards forgiving the other person. Sometimes
           you can do this on your own. Sometimes it takes the help of a good counselor. But
           resentment can be resolved.

           In our day, weariness and exhaustion kill joy. It can be felt as stress, physical exhaustion,
           or emotional burnout. Sometimes we just need a break. A walk in the park, giving
           yourself permission to waste an evening or to take a soak in the hot tub may give you the
           renewal you need. If you are chronically depleted, changing your life patterns may
           require inward reflection or outward conversation as well as some changes in your daily
           habits. But you can be certain that a burned-out person is most often a joyless person.

Jesus intends us to have joy and live with joy…and the Spirit is at work in us to cultivate and
harvest such joy. These are a few ways we can help the Sprit’s work thrive and mature in us.

                                                            †

A famous theologian once asked this penetrating question. “Is our lack of joy due to the fact that
we are Christians, or to the fact that we are not Christian enough.”8

Joy is not only possible for you, it is Jesus plan for you. He wants his joy to be in you and your
joy to be complete.

Joy that is not the here-today-gone-tomorrow feeling, but the abiding, life-celebrating force is the
byproduct of the goodness of life lived in Jesus Christ.

                                                                                                Steve Wilson
                                                                                  Oakmont Presbyterian Church
                                                                                     415 Pennsylvania Avenue
                                                                                          Oakmont, PA 15139

                                                                                  swilson@oakmontpresby.org




8
    Paul Tillich, The New Being, New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1950, p. 42

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