Developing the Spirit's Fruit of Joy

Dr. Steve Viars March 25, 2000 Galatians 5:22

- How many of you have heard or read something by Mark Twain?
- probably all of us have.
- in American history, Mark Twain is one of the best known and best loved humorists.
- what I didn’t know until reading some of his biography is that Twain also was well known as a public speaker...and people thought of him as an individual who could make the audience laugh and therefore forget about their troubles.
- it is interesting though, to compare that to what the biographers say about his personal life.
- you would have thought that personally, he’d be a laugh a minute....but the truth is that his friends considered him to be a very melancholy person, who was often given to discouragement and despair.
- in fact, when Twain’s daughter Jean died, he told a friend, “I’ve never really envied anyone but the dead.  I always envy the dead.”

- do you see the point....
- here’s a man who could make everyone laugh....
- he was the life of the party...
- he could tell a great joke.....
- but apparently much of that was superficial and made up, because on the inside, he wished that he could be dead.

- there’s a Bible verse that goes with this, it’s Proverbs 14:12-13 - There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.  Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.
- I wonder how many people, if they were honest, would say that they find themselves too often at the end of verse 13.....
- Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.

- now what’s the opposite of that?
- its what the word of God would call “joy”.
- and the beauty is that the Scripture holds out the distinct possibility that human beings can have, not just happiness, not just euphoria based on outward circumstances going one’s way...
- but the Scripture holds out the distinct possibility that in the inner man, in the heart, in that part of you that no one else knows or sees, but that controls everything you think, everything you say, everything you do, everything you feel....
- its possible in the inner man, to have real, genuine, and lasting joy.

- Can I ask you a question about that?
- do you have that kind of joy?
- would those who live around you, and those who work around you...think of you as a joyful person?
- I didn’t say giddy, I didn’t say superficial, I didn’t say “having a sorrow-free life”....
- I’m asking about whether you’re a joyful person....

- by the way, if its any consolation, I’ve asked myself those kinds of questions, and I’m not sure I like all the answers....
- in fact as I look down over the different topics that are coming up in this series, I’m thinking....Oooh, that ones going to hurt, or I need to study that one....
- many of us would probably say the same thing about the concept of joy.....

- with that in mind, I’d like to invite you to open your Bible to Galatians chapter 5.
- if you’re new to studying the Bible, Galatians 5 is on page 149 of the back section of the Bible in the pew in front of you.....
- several weeks ago we began a series entitled  “Developing the Fruit of the Spirit”
- we’re looking at this marvelous list of nine characteristics that the Holy Spirit of God wants to be developing is us, and wants us to be developing through Him.
- the last couple of weeks we’ve been studying the first characteristic in the list, how God wants us to be people who are growing in Biblical love.
- this morning we’re talking about “Developing the Spirit’s Fruit of Joy.”

- let’s begin by reading through our key verses --- READ Galatians 5:13-26
- in the time we have remaining, I’d like us to see 3 elements of growing in biblical joy.

I. Know the Definition of Biblical Joy.

- if I asked you to stand to your feet right now and define joy, how well would you do?
- isn’t it amazing how many words or concepts we speak about without really stopping and asking, “exactly what does that mean?”
- perhaps it would be best to start by contrasting biblical joy to ideas outside the Bible.
[A. In contrast to ideas outside the Bible]
- in the time the Bible was written [just like today], many people talked about joy.
- but invariably the conversations focused on an emotion that was dependent on outward circumstances.
- in other words, its a good feeling that comes from pleasant circumstances, good health, plenty of money and material things, or some outward circumstance going my way.
- so in this scenario, the human being is passive, and their joy or lack thereof is dependent on things outside their control.
- which is why, in Bible times, a common greeting to people on the street would have been a word that we would translate into English as joy....
- but what that secular person would be saying with that particular greeting would be, I wish you all the material things, all the comforts, all the health and wealth that will bring you joy.
- there’s a huge problem with that, isn’t there?
- the circumstances around you are outside your control.
- if your joy is dependent on the weather, if its dependent on the economy, if its dependent on other people treating you properly, if its dependent on the stock’re setting yourself up for failure for a variety of reasons, including the fact that you can’t control any of those things.
- and as a result, we’re going to be up and down, and up and down, and up and down.

[B.  Key ideas in God’s Word.]
- now when we compare this to the word of God....we find that biblical joy can be defined with ideas like....
- the deep-down sense of well-being that abides in the heart of the person who knows all is well between himself and his Lord.
- feeling of happiness that is based on spiritual realities.
- is not dependent on an absence of adversity [in fact at times, a Christian’s joy is at its fullest in the midst of adversity].
- so the differences are obvious....
- we’re talking about an issue of the inner man, not the outer man.
- we’re talking about we’re talking about a focus on spiritual realities, not external or temporal matters.
- we’re talking about something that lasts, not something that is fleeting.
- and we’re talking about something that can stand up to tough times without disappearing.
- a good summary verse is I Peter 1:8 - and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,
- see, there’s nothing in that verse about the weather.
- there’s nothing in that verse about the treatment of others.
- there’s nothing about health or wealth.
- the emphasis is clearly on spiritual realities.

- now, there’s two other ideas we need to add to this in order to round out our definition.
C.  Spoken of as a gift.
- if you’re thinking, oh great, now I somehow have to manufacture this thing called joy in of my own strength, [I can’t even program my VCR, how in the world am I supposed to do that?].
- well, remember, we’re talking about the fruit “of the spirit.”
- and that’s why joy is often spoken of in the Bible as something God gives you.
- one of the clearest passages is when Jesus was teaching his disciples at the last supper....
- John 15:11 - "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
- there is a very real sense in which biblical joy is something you receive from Christ.
- now, please hang on to your hats....because the other side of that is....

D. Spoken of as a command.
- there are many other places in the Bible where believers are commanded to be growing in joyfulness.
- Philippians 4:4 - Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
- now I hope that doesn’t trouble you because the Scripture speaks in many places about believers in Jesus Christ cooperating with the Spirit of God in the work He seeks to do.
- and if you said, well, Pastor Viars, please fully explain the relationship between divine sovereignty and human responsibility....
- I hope you’re not disappointed to hear me say that I don't fully understand such matters.
- I just know that both are true....and sometimes you see them side by side in God’s Word.
- so you have a passage like Philippians 2:12-13 - So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for  His good pleasure.  [develop]
- a quote that has helped me with all of this is from a theologian named John Murray who wrote, “...the pilgrimage to perfection [in the eternal state] is not one of quiescence and inactivity.  It is not ‘let go and let God.’  The journey proceeds apace with the most intense exercise on our part . . . Our working is not suspended because God works, and God’s working is not suspended because we work.  The one is not superseded by the other.  They are complementary . . . Our working is grounded in God’s working.  Our working receives its urge, strength, incentive, and cause from God’s working in us.”

- so it's both a gift and an attribute that we’re supposed to cultivate.
- when you step back and look at that....its really a two edged sword, isn’t it?
- on the one hand, if you’d say --- I’ve got work to do at cultivating this aspect of the Spirit’s fruit, the good news is that God has promised to bless and energize your efforts in this matter.
- on the other hand, if you’d say, I’m not nearly as joyful as I ought to be by this definition...
- well, if its something I do and the Holy Spirit does, and its not happening, who do you think isn’t doing his job?
- would any of us say, “You’re right PV, the Holy Spirit ought to get busy.”

- now, can I ask you before we move on...are you a joyful person in light of this definition?
- if we’re talking about “the deep-down sense of well-being that abides in the heart of the person who knows all is well between himself and his Lord”,
- “feeling of happiness that is based on spiritual realities”, entirely disconnected from outward circumstances or....does that characterize the way you live?....and would others agree with your assessment?

- now, the second element of growing in Biblical joy is:

II.  Learn to Find Joy in the Right Source.

- I’d like to ask you now to turn to the book of Ecclesiastes.
- in your pew Bible, you’ll find that on page 480.
- this is the story of Solomon, looking back on some of the more secular times in his life, and talking about the vanity that came from trying to find his joy in the wrong place.

- and I believe all of us would do well this morning to ask the question from our hearts....what makes me joyful?
- what is the source of my happiness?
- and for some of us, the answer too often might be, not so much things that are intrinsically wrong....but things that are intrinsically shallow if that is in fact my highest source of joy, or my primary source of joy.
- for example, is there something wrong with finding joy in your basketball team winning?
- of course not, but if that’s the greatest thing we have going....we’re on a level that is far from what God desires.
- and you say, how would I know if something like that was my highest source of joy?...
- here’s one answer....what would have happened if your team would have lost>
- and if the answer is --- I still would have rejoiced in my relationship with Jesus Christ, because that source is much more important to me in a very real way -- great.
- if the answer is --- I would have moped around and been joyless....there’s something wrong.
A.  Avoid the wrong alternatives.
- read Eccles. 5:10

- what’s the first wrong alternative?
1.  Money.
- for some people, their joy revolves around dollars.
- if they have them, they’re happy, if they don’t, they’re depressed.
- friend, if that’s the way you‘re living, money has gone from being a tool to being a god.
- money is a wonderful slave, it is a terrible master.
- is money or material things your primary source of joy?
- this week we were reviewing the budget for the new building.
- the building committee has been getting together every Tuesday afternoon to plan the schedule, make decisions, and stay on top of the budget.
- at one point in the meeting, Pastor Lopez was able to report that one of the vendors he’s working with is going to be able to provide the glass for $4500 less than we thought.
- so we saved $4500 dollars.
- would it disappoint you to know that I was happy about that?
- but I said to the guys [knowing that I would be preaching on this today], if that becomes the highest source of joy for me today, there’s something wrong with me.
- and the depth of that wrongness may not come out until, something costs more than we expected....which I believe was about 30 minutes later in the meeting.

- please look over at chapter 2 verse 22 --- READ 22-23
2.  Work
- some folks find their ultimate source of joy in work.
- and I will tell you, I like to work.
- but if that’s the highest source of joy, we’re in trouble....
- in fact, Solomon recognized that....[READ 24-25]

- by the way, what’s the danger of making work one’s highest source of joy?
- what happens if there’s an economic downturn and you lose your job?
- what happens if you’re injured and you can no longer do that job?
- what happens when you retire?

- its not wrong to enjoy your work, but it wrong for your labor to be your highest source of joy.

- please look up at chapter 2:3 - READ verse 2 and verse 10
- what’s the source of joy here?
3.  Pleasure
- some folks live for the weekend
- they live for the next vacation
- they live for amusements....

- and again, nothing wrong with those things....
- but if that’s it, its not biblical joy----there’s a whole other kind of joy available.
- please look at verse 12 --- READ 12, 15-16
4.  Education
- and the argument becomes the same....
- its not that these sources are intrinsically wrong....its that they’re intrinsically shallow....
- if that’s all there is, then finding joy in spiritual realities is missing, and that will come home to roost when the money, or the job, or the pleasure are not available.

- if you want to see the hopelessness of all of this, look at chapter 3 verse 19 - READ
- now, what’s the other side of this?
B.  Find your ultimate joy in the Person and work of God.
- for sake of time, we’re going to put this next series of verses on the screen.
- but look at how much God’s Word says about this:

1.  Psalm 35:9 - And my soul shall rejoice in the LORD; It shall exult in His salvation.

2.  Psalm 43:4 - Then I will go to the altar of God, To God my exceeding joy; And upon the lyre I shall praise Thee, O God, my God.

3.  Isaiah 61:10 - I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

4.  Luke 1:47 - And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

5.  Romans 5:11 - And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

6.  Philippians 3:1 - Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things  again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.

7.  Philippians 4:4 - Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

8.  Romans 14:17 - For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

- see, friend, God wants you to find your source of joy in the cross of Christ...
- He wants you to find your ultimate joy in His wonderful attributes....
- He wants you to be joyful about your salvation....
- He wants you find joy and delight in His Word....
- nothing wrong with some of these others things in their place, but we ought to seek to find our ultimate joy in our growing and vibrant relationship with Him.
- and the beauty of this approach to life is that it is resilient to outside forces.
- you can have this kind of joy when the seas are calm and when the seas are raging.
- you can have this kind of joy when the medical report is good and even when its not.
- you can have this kind of joy when your friend or your spouse is treating you well and when they are treating you poorly.
- in fact, here’s the amazing thing.....sometimes the greatest joy in Christ comes in the midst of the worst circumstances.
- can I ask you to turn back to John chapter 16 for a moment [page 86 in the back section of the pew Bibles]
- Jesus is telling His disciples about his upcoming death, burial, and resurrection.
- please notice what He says in verse 20 [read verses 20-22]

- don't you love that phrase, “your grief will be turned into joy”.
- only God can do that.
- and the illustration He uses is a marvelous one, that of a mother giving birth to her child.
- the pain and the difficulty of that experience is superseded by the joy of the baby...
- to where the mother would say....if I had to go through this pain to receive this blessing, I would gladly endure the pain.
- that’s why believers can even rejoice during trials, because we know that great joy can come as our knowledge of God expands, and our relationship with God increases as we walk though that trial together.

- now, we probably need to add along here somewhere that all of this requires a very thoughtful approach to living.
- you’ve heard me say before --- Christianity is a thinking man’s religion [or a thinking woman’s religion].
- the world wants to ridicule believers as being shallow and unwilling to think....
- our view of topics like these puts that charge to rest.

- a number of years ago, the Dayton Ohio newspaper ran a story about a clinical psychologist who promoted himself as a “joyologist”.....[read article]

- friends, biblical Christianity can do better than blowing bubbles in the traffic jam.
- and we can do better than simply being happy when the circumstances are going our way.
- the question is --- are we growing in the Spirit’s fruit of joy?

- perhaps a more fundamental question is....friend, do you have a personal relationship with God?
- all of this assumes that there has been a definite time in your life when you’ve admitted you sin, you’ve admitted that your sin has separated you from a Holy God, you’ve admitted that you cannot be reconciled to God by your own good works, and then you came to Christ in repentance and faith, trusting Him as Lord and Savior.
- can I ask you this morning, are you sure that you’ve made that decision?

- and then for those who do know Christ....are you disciplining your mind to find your ultimate source of joy in Him?
- or is it possible that your lack of joy is because you’ve been trying to find it in things beyond your control?

- now, there’s one more element I’d like us to consider this far we’ve said that we must:
I. Know the Definition of Biblical Joy.
II.  Learn to Find Joy in the Right Source.

- the last idea I’d like us to think about quickly is:

III.  Take Steps to Cultivate Biblical Joy.

- there are a number of verses of Scripture that link “joy” with “something else” in a way that give us some specific steps to take.
- for sake of time, we’ll put the verses on the screen:

A.  Look for opportunities to serve.
- 1 Chronicles 29:9 - Then the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly, for they made their offering to the LORD with a whole heart, and King David also rejoiced greatly...
- 1 Chronicles 29:17 - Since I know, O my God, that Thou triest the heart and delightest in uprightness, I, in the integrity of my heart, have willingly offered all these things; so now with joy I have seen Thy people, who are present here, make their offerings willingly to Thee.

B.  Seek to raise your children for the Lord.
- Proverbs 23:24 - The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, And he who begets a wise son will be glad in him.

C.  Pray with expectation.
- John 16:24 - ...ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be made full.

D.  Show interest in the work of God.
- Ezra 3:12 -Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers' households, the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy;

E.  Be a doer of the Word.
- Psalm 119:35 - Make me walk in the path of Thy commandments, For I delight in it.

F. Hold “things” loosely.
- Hebrews 10:34 - For you showed sympathy to the prisoners, and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one.

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video