Fruit of the Spirit: “Joy”

 

Note: The photos show artwork created by a young congregation member during the message.

Fruit of the Spirit: “Joy”
A Message on 1 Peter 1:3-9

For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
June 3, 2018
By Doug Wintermute
dwinterm@yahoo.com

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NRSV)

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, 7 so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

 

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Today we continue our sermon series on “Fruit of the Spirit” by examining the second fruit listed in Paul’s list of fruit of the spirit from Galatians 5:22, “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

 

So today we are going to look at “Joy.”

 

Now my roommate from seminary, the esteemed academician and noted theologian Tommy Earl Burton, has been known to begin some of his presentations by using PowerPoint to show the congregation a photo of his “pride and joy.”

 

As a matter of fact he is so generous that he has shared that photo with me. Here it is:    (show photo of Pride furniture polish and Joy dishwashing soap).

 

What is joy? And why is listed as a fruit of the spirit?

 

I think of joy as being so happy and excited about something that you feel like you are going to explode. Think of a child who is about to open his/her birthday presents. Think of the spouse and children of a member of our armed forces who see their loved one running to them after serving overseas for a long time. Think of a young couple holding their newborn baby for the first time. Think of me holding up a 12 pound bass that I landed while fishing in my kayak.  (Okay, so that photo is actually of a 2-pound bass that I held up the camera in order to make it look bigger. Let’s just pretend it’s a 12-pound bass, okay?)

 

We each have our own definition of joy, don’t we. A more dictionary definition is “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” Here are some synonyms: delight, great pleasure, jubilation, triumph, exultation, rejoicing, happiness, gladness, glee, exhilaration, exuberance, elation, euphoria, bliss, ecstasy, rapture.

 

You get the idea. And we find can find joy in so many places if we will only look! For example, I had my first tomato sandwich this past week featuring a fresh, red-ripe-on-the-vine, never-seen-a-refrigerator tomato. Two pieces of preferably homemade bread, real cow butter (Yes, I know many people use mayonnaise, but try the butter. It’s better. Trust me on this.), the fresh sliced tomato, and then seasoned with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Mmmmmmmm, mmmmmmmmm good!

 

Living in the 21st century we often have distorted views of where we find joy. Our society screams at us that we will find joy in purchasing new things. We are told that joy is found in the newer, shinier, things. Now I’m not saying it’s wrong to purchase new things (if you can afford them, of course), but know going in that the joy is short-lived.

 

Last year our whole family upgraded our cell phones. The ones we had at the time were several years old (we keep them way after they are paid for) so we upgraded to the latest and greatest. I got a Samsung S8+. It was awesome after I figured out how to run it. It brought me joy. But now, a year and several months later, I still like it and use it regularly but I don’t have the joy I did when it was brand new. I don’t feel the exuberance that I did when it was new.

 

It is a difficult lesson to learn but true and long-lasting joy doesn’t come from “things.” It comes from knowing who you are and whose you are.

 

Some of the most joyous people I have ever met have also been some of the what the world considers to be the “poorest” people. Some of them lived in very difficult conditions, and yet the joy they had just exuded from them. You wanted to be around them, to get to know them better, and probably subconsciously hoped that some of joy would rub off on you.

 

And it will. Joy is contagious. If you are joyful, those around you will become joyful. Hang out with joyful people, and you will notice that you become more joyful, too! Joy is contagious.

 

The disciple Peter knew about that joy. He writes about it in the scripture we read today.

 

Peter didn’t have a cushy life after deciding to follow Jesus. Peter had good intentions, but his emotions often overrode the rational part of his brain. Peter is the one who drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant when they came to arrest Jesus. Peter is the one who pledged to Jesus that he would stay loyal and true to him to the death, and yet he denied him three times on the night Jesus was arrested and beaten.

 

So Peter knows difficulty. After Jesus’ death and resurrection he became the leader of the apostles and the one to preach on Pentecost. The Jewish people of the time didn’t like him. The Romans didn’t like him. He was persecuted and his life ended when he was crucified in Rome, and even then he insisted on being crucified upside down because he felt himself unworthy to die the same way as Jesus did.

 

So even in the midst of being persecuted Peter writes about, of all things, joy. In giving advice to the other followers of Jesus he writes, “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

 

Here’s the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases it in The Message: “You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.”

 

Laughter and singing. Indescribable and glorious joy.

 

The Bible is a book about joy. The word “joy” is used 267 times in the NRSV translation. That’s a lot of joy! There are so many scriptures about joy. I encourage you to go home, look them up, and read them. Just look in the condordance in the back of your Bible, or go to an online site like biblegateway.com and do a search for “joy.”

 

I think part of our challenge as Christians to fulfill the Great Commission to “go and make disciples” is that when unchurched people see us they don’t see indescribable and glorious joy. They see grumpy bears, they see Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh.

 

Who wants that?

 

What they should see in us is Charlie Brown’s dog Snoopy doing the happy dance! We should be joyous in knowing that no matter what the world throws at us the power of Jesus Christ can overcome it. Death can’t overpower the joy of the Lord. Cancer can’t overpower it. Financial crises can’t overpower it. Broken relationships with loved ones can’t overpower it. The joy of the Lord is our strength.

 

So my challenge to you this week is to be joyous! As children of the living God, as disciples of Jesus Christ, let our hearts and souls be filled with the joy from knowing that we are not ours, but the Lord’s. Abba Father takes care of us in ways we cannot even imagine, even in–or perhaps more accurately “especially in”–the tough times of our life.

 

Joy doesn’t come from worldly things. It comes from God. Let us “rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.”

 

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

 

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