Monday, October 24, 2011

Joy - Fruit of the Spirit

Fruit of the Spirit
Galatians 5:22-23

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (ESV)

The theme verse for the 2011-2012 academic school year at St. Paul’s is a familiar verse for many of us. We have heard often of the “Fruit of the Spirit.” These “fruit” will be what is used to find our “Student of the Month.” Each month we will be looking at one of the “fruit” and will be considering the student that best fits that “fruit.” In order for us to be prepared to make this decision, it would be good for us to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest these words for ourselves.

October – “JOY”

The Love of Christ has filled our hearts and lives through the month of September. Like grapes hanging on the vine, the fruit of the Spirit has been growing and maturing and we have picked the fruit called love. We now turn to the next fruit that we will cultivate and seek to harvest over the next month. (Yes, I know that it is the Holy Spirit who brings these fruit into the lives of the faithful but as teachers at St. Paul’s, we are given the task of cultivating the spiritual lives of the children with which we have contact. Each day we are called to continue to share the Word, knowing that the Holy Spirit works through that Word to bring the fruit of the Spirit to maturity.)

“Joy” is an often misunderstood fruit. It closely corresponds to happiness in the secular world. While these seem to be related and sometimes even seen as the same, they are not. The difference between “happiness” and “joy” is simple. Happiness depends upon the circumstances of life while joy does not. Joy is that fruit that comes from deep within the believers heart while happiness is that surface emotion that changes quickly with whatever direction the winds of the day blow. You can go from happy to sad to melancholy in a matter of moments. Joy continues no matter the situation of life.

Why? It is simple. Happiness is an emotion while joy is a state of being. Happiness is that which any may have in their life. Joy is that which comes from the relationship one has with their Lord Jesus Christ. Happiness puts a smile on the face while joy puts the smile in the heart. King David talks of this in Psalm 30: “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” (Psalm 30:11-12 ESV) David is able to say this, not because his life was so good and he never faced sadness again, but because the joy of the Lord filled his heart and changed his life.

What does fill the heart of the believer? It is the joy that comes from being in a relationship with their savior Jesus Christ. Joy comes even in the face of sorrow and sadness. It does not hinge on the circumstances of life as does happiness. Take for example the life of Christ. The disciples were filled with happiness when they were with the Lord. But they were filled with sadness when He spoke of His coming death and resurrection. They could find no joy in the words of the Lord. Peter would take the Lord to the side and rebuke Him and tells Him, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22 ESV) He could not fathom that the Lord would die. He would have the Lord continue to live so that his life would be filled with happiness (not joy). The Lord says, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:22 ESV) As you look at the Easter accounts, you see this very thing happening. Sorrow was in the hearts of the disciples because Jesus was dead and “someone had stolen Him.” When they came face-to-face with the resurrected Lord, their hearts were filled with joy, that inexpressible joy that lead them into a whole different way of life. In Acts 5 we read, “And when they (the Jewish council) had called the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.” (Acts 5:40 ESV) It would have been easy at that time for the apostles to be filled with sorrow and sadness for they had been arrested and beaten. But we are told, “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” (Acts 5:41 ESV) Joy filled their hearts, a deep joy that not even physical suffering could remove from them for they were in a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is this joy that many Christians display today. The cancer victim who rejoices each day for they have the wondrous gift of life in Christ. The prisoner whose chains have been loosed (even while he is still in prison serving his time) spends his days filled with a deep joy, for he has been set free by Christ Jesus. Why? The joy of Christ fills the heart and life. As our Lord says, “You will be sorrowful but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for the joy that a human being has been born into the world.” (John 16:20-21 ESV)

Does having the fruit of the Spirit mean that you will not be sad? No it doesn’t. There will still be sadness in this life. The joy of the Lord does not mean that the emotions will not be there. A Christian still has all the emotions that God has given to him/her. Those emotions do not change the joy that lies within the heart. There will be sorrow at the time of death, even while there is joy at the death of a Christian. There will be sadness when the news is not good yet the joy of Christ will still be in the heart of the Christian.

As we go through October, we will be looking for the student that exhibits the joy of Christ in his/her life. We will be looking for the student that has the joy of Christ leading them through the days. Indeed, we will all be saying with Paul, “Rejoice in the Lord always; against I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4 ESV)

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