How to Walk in the Spirit of Joy
An old friend from former days approaches you in dire straits.
You haven’t seen this person in awhile, but you had fond memories with him.
You happen to be in a position to help out at that moment, but you’re on a tight budget and will need that money back.
You tell your friend that, and he tells you he’ll be able to pay you back before then.
Some time passes by, and you never hear from him.
Then you remember what he was like in school, never repaying others for things he’s borrowed.
And you realize you’ve been had.
Well, sin is just like that, isn’t it?
It promises joy, but in the end only brings sadness.
Where can we find joy?
People try to find joy in all manner of places.
As we talked about at the beginning of the month, we have an American right to pursue happiness, to pursue joy.
The trouble is so many things promise joy and happiness, but can never deliver just like that old friend of yours.
Cigarettes for example:
You see ads for cigarettes and it’s always beautiful people smiling and laughing.
They get you hooked, and what’s the end result?
Was it joy and happiness or hospital bills and an early grave?
I know that’s rough, but where’s the lie? Many of you know that firsthand.
And the works of the flesh are no different.
In fact, joy is promised in all the works of the flesh, but like a bad debtor, it never pays up—and yet we keep falling for it!
Today, we are going to consider:
Where We Can’t Find Joy.
Where We Can Find Joy.
Where We Can’t Find Joy – Works of the Flesh.
Recall all those works of the flesh we talked about a few weeks ago.
Is there joy in adultery and fornication?
Oh sure, it’s glamorized in TV and movies, and there are even websites dedicated to it.
One such website advertises with the slogan: “Life is short. Have an affair,” implying that you are missing out if you don’t commit this terrible sin!
That website, as of 2019, has 60 million users!
Others are dedicated for fornication and other sexual immorality, and they are too numerous to mention here.
They promise joy, but all you get in the long run is sorrow and pain.
Lord Byron, noted romantic author and poet and hedonist, once wrote, “The worm, the canker, and grief are mine alone” – you reckon he was the joyful sort? Did he find happiness?
No, and that’s true with all the other works of the flesh as well.
How can you be joyful if you have hate in your heart for another?
That hate poisons you and brings you down.
That’s the same for jealousies, outbursts of wrath, envy, and murder.
Another quote that has been attributed to many people: “Resentment is like swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die.”
That’s not joyful or happy, is it?
As for selfish ambitions,
We see this quote from Alexander the Great after weeping in his tent, “There are no more worlds to conquer.”
Millionaire and robber baron of the Guilded Age, Jay Gould, said on his deathbed, “I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth.”
Benjamin Disraeli, British writer and politician and two-time Prime Minister of England, wrote, “Youth is a mistake; manhood a struggle; old age a regret.” Do you think he was a happy man with all that he had?
They achieve wealth, fame, and power, and where did it get them? A miserable life devoid of happiness or joy.
They couldn’t find it in these things.
Well, can we find joy in idolatry and unbelief?
Again, such actions are glorified everywhere.
“No religious convictions, no guilt, do whatever you want.”
Except life doesn’t work that way, does it?
Renaissance writer and philosopher, and noted skeptic, Voltaire wrote, “I wish I had never been born.”
Does this sound like a joyful man?
Job, actually, said something similar in Job 3, but he was in a moment of deep despair.
Voltaire did not recant, but Job did later in his book.
We can’t find happiness and joy in these things, but there is one way we can truly find it.
As C. S. Lewis once said: “Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition. [And] when infinite joy is offered to us, [we are] like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a [trip to the beach]. We are far too easily pleased.”
And there, Lewis mentions three sins among the works of the flesh: drink, sex, and ambition.
Let’s get ready for that trip to the beach, leaving our mud pies behind.
Where We Can Find Joy.
There are four main situations in Scripture where we find the Greek word for joy being used (Finding Jesus, Faithful Brethren, Frightful Times, Faithful Word).
The first time we see this Greek word for “joy” in the NT is in Matt. 2:10 (Magi see the star a second time).
When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.
Luke 2:10 – Angels bring good tidings of great joy about Jesus!
“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”
Matt. 13:20, 44 – Parables: Stony Soil and Hidden Treasure.
“He who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy.”
Acts 8:8 – Samaritans rejoice at the gospel coming to them.
And there was great joy in that city.
Acts 13:52 – Gentile disciples on Cyprus rejoicing.
And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Not just that, but joy over hearing others being saved.
Luke 15:7, 10 – If heaven rejoices when a sinner repents, shouldn’t we?
Acts 15:3 – Rejoice over the conversion of the Gentiles.
So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren.
There are so many passages that talk about the joy we ought to have with the brethren.
1 Thess. 2:17-20 – Joy at seeing these faithful brethren.
But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire. Therefore we wanted to come to you—even I, Paul, time and again—but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.
2 Tim. 1:3-5 – Paul is joyful hearing of the faithfulness of Timothy.
I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you …
2 John 12 – John wants to come speak to them face to face, so “that our joy may be full.”
3 John 4 – Joyful to hear of faithful children.
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.
Even in the times when one would expect sadness to overtake us, even in the tough times, we ought to find joy in it.
In fact, as Christians we are the only people on earth whose suffering has an eternal purpose.
Of course, it can to the potential Christian, too, but only if they convert.
James 1:2-4 – such trials produce patience, another fruit of the Spirit.
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
Paul talks of joy amid affliction and poverty (1 Thess. 1:6; 2 Cor. 7:4; 8:2), even to the point of his own death (Acts 20:24).
And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit …
… I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.
… that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.
Even Jesus endured the cross with joy (Heb. 12:2), and we are called to follow His example in suffering (1 Pet. 2:21).
… looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.
We can find joy in His faithful Word.
Jesus’ words were spoken so that our joy may be full (John 15:11), and those words were dripping with love (John 15:9-10, 12-13).
While we cannot hear these words straight from Jesus’ mouth, we can read them or have them read to us, such that “these things [were written] to you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4).
And though we “do no see Him, yet believing, [we] rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of [our] faith—the salvation of [our] souls” (1 Pet. 1:8-9).
We can take joy in the words of our Lord written down, which informs our faith that we might be saved!
While some consider joy to be an elusive thing, true joy is actually not hard to find.
It is found in the words of Jesus, in the words of Scripture, and among our brethren.
It is found when trials come—and we have no shortage of those on this earth.
It’s not found in the works of the flesh.
The passing pleasures of sin might give some semblance of joy for a moment, but it’s not lasting, not like the joy found in Christ.
We’re like those children playing with mud-pies turning down a trip to the beach.
As a 3rd century man was anticipating death, he penned these last words to a friend:
“It’s a bad world, an incredibly bad world.
But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret.
They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life.
They are despised and persecuted, but they care not.
They are masters of their souls.
They have overcome the world.
These people are the Christians—and I am one of them.”
Wouldn’t you like to be one of those who have found that true joy?