Sermon Presented on 05-04-13


       Two weeks ago we looked at the Scriptural emphasis on love as a fruit of the Spirit of God.  This was in follow-up to our discussion on what it means to bear fruit as Christians.   We had seen earlier that bearing fruit demonstrates our being disciples of Christ and by bearing fruit we also glorify the Father.  We saw that the fruit we are to bear is associated with how we conduct ourselves before God and man.  We saw that the ability to bear fruit was related to allowing the Spirit of God to manifest itself in our lives.  Paul wrote to Timothy that God’s Spirit is a Spirit of power, love and a sound mind or the attribute of self discipline as some translations render it. 

       In Paul’s letter to the Galatian Church, he spoke of the Fruit of the Spirit.  Paul listed the fruit of the Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Last time we did a comprehensive examination of the attribute of love which Scripture shows is the most powerful and dominant expression of the Spirit of God.  So powerful is this Spiritual dynamic that it is seen as one of the defining attributes of God. While God is seen as Spirit (John 4:24) and as light (1 John 1:5), He is primarily revealed as love.


         Today we will look at the second fruit of the Spirit in Paul’s list and that fruit is joy. 

       Paul uses the Greek word kara.  This word is found in the Greek Scriptures 59 times and means to experience joy, and gladness.  Its equivalent meaning and expression in English is to experience happiness.  For us in America, happiness is actually mandated by our government.  The Preamble to the Declaration of Independence actually identifies happiness as a right.

       We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. —That to secure these rights Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

       Happiness is seen as central to justifying the very existence of government. The history of the human race can largely be characterized as a quest for happiness.  Mans history is a history of endeavoring to be happy.  People don’t want to be miserable.  People have always sought after happiness. They have done everything possible to find it.  Yet the quest for happiness is often unfilled. 

       The world is filled with sorrow and happiness often eludes us.  At the conclusion of my last sermon I quoted a line from a song in the musical Les Miserables.  In a song entitled “God on High hear my prayer,” the singer says that to love another person is to see the face of God, a very powerful statement.  There is another powerful statement in this musical that demonstrates how happiness is often difficult if not impossible to achieve. 

       In this musical a young girl named Fountain is fired from her job and becomes a prostitute in order to get money to pay medical bills for her sick child.  She sings a song entitled “I Dreamed a Dream.”  In this song she sings of the dreams of happiness that she once had only to see it all come crashing down.  She ends her song of grief by saying “life has killed the dream I dreamed.”  

       “Life has killed the dream I dreamed,” is a powerful statement that kind of tells it all.  We dream of accomplishing things in life that we feel will bring joy and happiness and then the circumstances of life often become a roadblock to fulfilling our dreams.  When the dreams don’t come to fruition, sadness rather than happiness is the result.  Most humans dream of experiencing happiness, joy and gladness.  Yet for many, life kills the dream they dream. 

       Yet the Scriptures show that we can and should experience joy even in the midst of trial and tribulation.  To experience joy and happiness when things are going well is not too difficult.  Experiencing joy and happiness when things are not going well is difficult and often requires a power from outside ourselves.  Often experiencing joy and happiness is equated with avoidance of suffering.  Suffering, however, is often a springboard to experiencing joy. 

       An athlete may put in a tremendous amount of time into preparing his body for the rigors of the sport he is involved with.  His training may be painful and exhausting at times.  Once on the field of play he may leave everything out on the field as the saying goes and he may come to the locker room totally drained.  But if his team won there is a joy that makes all the pain associated with the game worth it.  In this case joy is deferred.  It is something one attains only through suffering.

       Jesus is an example of joy deferred.  Jesus had to endure a great deal in His quest to become the savior of mankind.  He endured a 40 day fast and Satan’s temptations.  He endured ridicule during His ministry.  He endured the rigors of crucifixion.  Yet the end result was joy.  

       Hebrews 12:2: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

       For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross.  That joy would not have been possible if Jesus had not suffered what He suffered.  In one respect, Jesus was already experiencing joy while he suffered on the cross because He knew what the outcome would be.  While it may appear counter-intuitive to feel joy when experiencing suffering, yet if we keep our eyes focused on the results that can be gained by our sufferings, we will find joy even in suffering.  

       James 1:2:  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  

       Apostle James writes that we should be joyful in trials.  This may appear counter-intuitive but if you focus on the outcome of the trial, the experience can be one of joy.  James said the testing of our faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance develops as a result of fighting through a trial against all odds.  Even if you don’t win the battle, the fact you fought the battle will build perseverance which should actually be a joyful experience because of what is ultimately accomplished.  

       Apostle Paul is a great example of being joyful in the midst of suffering because of keeping an eye on the end result.  Paul suffered a great deal for the cause of Christ.  When Paul was initially called into the ministry he was told he would suffer greatly.  After being knocked off his horse and blinded, Paul was led to the house to which a disciple named Ananias was sent who had been told by Christ in a vision the following:

       Acts 9:15-16: But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."

       So before Paul gave his first sermon or embarked on his first missionary trip, he already knew this wasn’t going to be easy.  He knew he was going to experience a great deal of trial.  Yet we see that he approached his assignment with joy. 

       Acts 20:22-24:  "And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, "except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.  "But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

       Paul was so filled with purpose, so filled with zeal for the Gospel that despite the sufferings he experienced, he remained joyful.  He always kept his eye on the greater goal which was to successfully complete his journey and reap eternal life.   

       While we are instructed to face trials and tribulations joyfully, we are also told that we can be happy by avoiding sin.  From time to time we sing a song based on Psalm 1, "Blessed and happy is the man."

Blessed and happy is the man
Who does never walk astray,
Nor with the ungodly men
Stands in sinner's way.

All he does prospers well,
But the wicked are not so;
They are chaff before the wind,
Driven to and fro.

       Not standing in the way of sinners goes a long way toward achieving happiness.  Much if not most unhappiness in the world is caused by failing to practice the law of love.  Sin produces much if not most of the unhappiness and lack of joy in the world. Even though Paul and Jesus maintained a joyful attitude while experiencing trials, those trials often came about because of the sins of those around them and not their own sin.  Jesus never sinned. Yet Jesus was certainly impacted by the sin of those around Him.  Sin, both our own and those around us often rob of us joy and result in life killing the dreams we dream.

       I earlier spoke of the character Fountain in the musical Les Miserables who said that life had killed the dream she dreamed.  In saying this she was saying the circumstances of life killed her dreams.  However, we often create the very circumstances that kill our dreams or others create circumstances that kill our dreams because of sins they commit against us.  Fountain had a child with a man that left her shortly thereafter.  She then became a prostitute, was abused by others and ending up dying at a young age.  Life killed her dreams because of sinful circumstances both she and others around her created.   

       Happiness should not be something we necessarily seek for but something that comes to us as a result of how we live our lives.  If we live our lives in harmony with the law of love we will experience happiness and joy.  Happiness often comes about as a result of helping and looking after the needs of others.  Practicing the agape love we talked about last time. 

       Happiness is giving of ourselves in service to others.  Contributing of our time and talents in the service of others is one of the greatest generators of happiness there is.

       Webster's New World Dictionary defines joy as synonymous with being happy, glad, and cheerful.  Webster further defines joy as being a very glad feeling.  While these definitions describe the feelings associated with the expression of joy, they fail to consider the causes of joy.  Behavior that is in harmony with the law of love will cause joy and happiness.  Causes that are in disharmony with the law of love often produce sorrow, sadness and death.

       However, this being said, there is a perverted sense of joy and happiness that can be experienced within the context of committing sin.  We human can and do experience the sensation of pleasure in doing things contrary to the law of love.  Experiencing joy, happiness and pleasure can follow from sinful behavior.  How we experience joy and happiness is actually a matter of choice.

       Hebrews 11:24-25: By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.

       Some time ago in the state of Texas a women was sentenced to death and executed because she had murdered several people. Her execution was well publicized because several groups appealed to then Governor George W. Bush of Texas to commute her sentence. When this women was being tried for the murders she committed she said that in her drug-induced state of mind, while killing two people with a pick-ax, she experienced a sexual thrill each time she drove the pick-ax into the body of her victims. She actually experienced joy in committing the murders she did. 

       It is very likely that the man who shot the school children in Connecticut, or the brothers who set off the bombs at the Boston Marathon experienced a certain level of joy in doing what they did.  Hitler and Stalin probably experienced joy at being in the position of power that allowed them to orchestrate the murder of millions.    

       As we saw in our discussion of agape love, such love is not Godly love in and of itself as it can be expressed in a self-centered behavior contrary to the will of God.  Likewise, joy can also be expressed contrary to righteousness.  The quality of the love or the joy we express is conditioned by the choices we make.  For example, some choose to be joyful over the misfortune of others.  They actually experience joy at seeing others struggle.  Scripture instructs us not to make that kind of choice.

       Proverbs 24:17: Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice.

       Like Agape love, being joyful in a Godly manner only occurs if we make choices that are in harmony with the will of God.  When we discussed agape love we allowed Apostle Paul to define for us what it means to practice agape love.  We did this by discussing Paul’s definitions of love as found in 1 Corinthians 13. 

       To really understand what it means to experience a proper sense of joy, we don’t have to go any further than the Beatitudes as given in the Sermon on the Mount.  Here we see Jesus showing what it takes to be blessed.  The Greek word rendered “blessed” is makarios.  Its basic meaning is to be happy.  Some translations render this word as "happy" in translating the Beatitudes.  Since happiness is virtually synonymous with being joyful, let's substitute the word happy for blessed in the Beatitudes and we will have happiness or joyfulness spelled out for us by Jesus.  We won’t have time to cover them all but by looking at a few of the Beatitudes, you will get the idea. I will read the Beatitudes from the Simple English translation of the New Testament and then comment on several of them inserting the word "happy" in place of "blessed"  in using the NIV rendering of the Beatitudes.

       Matthew 5:3-11 ``The people who are broken in spirit are happy, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. 

       The people who are crying now will be happy, because they will be comforted. 

       Humble people are happy, because the earth will be given to them. 

       People who are hungry and thirsty for what is right are happy, because they will be filled.

       People who give mercy are happy, because they will receive mercy.

       People who have pure hearts are happy, because they will see God. 

       People who make peace are happy, because they will be called the sons of God.

       The people who have been persecuted because they were doing right are happy, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them}.

       You will be happy when people insult you, persecute you, and tell all kinds of lies against you because of me. You should be full of joy and be very glad, because you will have great rewards in heaven.

       Let's now look at several of the Beatitudes as seen in the NIV translation where we will substitute the word "happy" for "blessed.'

       "Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

       To be poor in spirit is to be of a contrite heart. To be humble before God is to always recognize it is only by the grace of God we live and have our being and have opportunity for living beyond this physical existence.  To be poor in spirit is to admit to our spiritual poverty and destitution outside of the life giving power of the Spirit of God.  

       Psalm 40: 16-17: But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, "The LORD be exalted!" Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God.

       “Happy are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” 

       Even in morning we can be happy from the standpoint that we will be comforted.  A valuable blessing of mourning can be the drawing of attention to past mistakes and then making the necessary corrections to avoid repeating those mistakes. 

       1 Corinthians 5:1-2:  It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?

       The Greek word translated grief is the same word translated as mourn in the Beatitudes.  In the KJV and other translations it is translated mourn here in 1 Corinthians.  Here Paul is saying you should have mourned over the sin you were witnessing which would have led you to reject this sin.  So one blessing or happiness that morning can bring is to awaken us to the need to change our way of behaving.  We should be grieved at our sins and over the sins of others and rejoice when repentance takes place.

       Happy are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 

       The Greek word translated meek means mildness of disposition and gentleness of spirit.  Jesus is recorded in Matthew as saying, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Here Christ uses the same Greek word He used in the Beatitudes.  He says learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.  Christ said “learn from me” and then goes on to show how He is of a gentle nature.  In the Beatitudes Jesus instructs that we be of a gentle spirit.  In doing so will experience happiness.

       Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  

       We have all experienced hunger and thirst.  We experience these physical cravings every day.  If you go without eating for several days, the desire for food increases intently.  Going without water for any length of time produces an even greater sense of deprivation.  We will do anything to obtain water when our body cries out for this liquid so essential to life.  Once we find water and begin to drink it we experience great joy at having our thirst quenched.  The same thing is true when we eat a meal and experience the relief from hunger pangs.  Now we go through this process every day, don’t we?  We feel thirsty and we drink a glass of water. We get hungry and we grab a bit to eat.

       Here we have Jesus saying that happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  If we are to analogize this instruction from Jesus to our physical need for food and water, we should be experiencing spiritual thirst and hunger pangs on a daily basis and we should be seeking to be filled.  Christ said if we hunger and thirst after righteousness we will be filled.  He also said that those who do this are blessed or happy as the Greek implies.  In other words, happiness is a natural outcome of hungering and thirsting for righteousness and being filled.  Well it certainly is true that when we quench our physical thirst or satisfy our physical hunger we are happy.  Are we experiencing the happiness that comes through being filled with righteousness?  

       Happy are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 

       In all likelihood Jesus spoke in Aramaic, and the idea behind His statement about mercy came from the Hebrew/Aramaic word chesedh.  William Barclay's Daily Study Bible commentary on Matthew states this regarding this Hebrew/Aramaic word:

       ‘It does not mean only to sympathize with a person in the popular sense of the term; it does not mean simply to feel sorry for some in trouble. Chesedh means the ability to get right inside the other person's skin until we can see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel things with his feelings.  Clearly this is much more than an emotional wave of pity. This kind of mercy clearly demands a deliberate effort of the mind and of the will. It denotes a sympathy which is not given, as it were, from outside, but which comes from a deliberate identification with the other person, until we see things as he sees them, and feel things as he feels them.

       This kind of mercy equates with the Greek word for sympathy which means to suffer with, to experience things together with the other person, going through what he is going through.  Jesus said if we practice this kind of mercy we will experience happiness.

       We have seen that humans can express love and joy in ways that are self-centered.  When we experience and express love and joy as defined in the Scriptures, we are manifesting the Spirit of God.  Remember, Paul instructed us to stir up the Spirit of God and not quench it.  When we choose to express love and joy in harmony with the law of love, we are stirring up God’s Spirit and in so doing we manifest the fruit of the Spirit.  Next time we will examine “peace” as another fruit of the Spirit.