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FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – JOY

Hi everyone. I hope you’re surviving the lockdown.

I love optical illusions. You may have seen this one. What do you see? A grumpy old woman? But watch what happens when we look at this picture from a different perspective and flip the image upside down. It turns into a beautiful young princess.

Isn’t it amazing that people can experience the same set of circumstances and yet interpret them differently? It all depends on whether you have a biblical perspective (which brings joy) or some other perspective which can bring cynicism & despair!

Welcome to our daily devotion: the Lockdown Lookup. We may be locked down, but in looking up we get a different perspective on our circumstances! Each day we have been looking at a different Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23. Today we want to talk about the fruit of joy which the Holy Spirit planted in us when we became Christians. But what is joy?

Definition of Joy: Deep & Abiding Happiness in Christ

The Greek word for joy is: chara (which means gladness, delight, happiness). We could describe joy as a deep & abiding happiness in Christ that is not dependent on our immediate circumstances. Joy is the fruit of God being the delight of our hearts. Joy is the gladness produced by an awareness of God’s love for us. The Holy Spirit’s work is to make the gospel real in our lives. He does this by convicting us and showing us our sin; He then shows us our need of Christ; He points us to the beauty of Christ’s person and work on the cross; the Holy Spirit magnifies God’s grace through the cross till we are led again to say: “What!? God loves me?” God’s grace should wow us every day!

Unchanging & permanent in Christ

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians (4:4): Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

We don’t rejoice in our circumstances which change like the wind, but we rejoice in the Lord who does not change like shifting shadows. “In the Lord” is like being “in an aeroplane”. Whatever happens to the plane happens to us. We are in Christ so because He never changes, our joy can be unchanging and permanent. The Christian lives at two addresses – we live in Philippi (so to speak) and we live in Christ Jesus. Paul addresses this church in Philippians 1:1 as those who are “in Christ” and “at Philippi”.

In my garden I have a tall Plane Tree that is decades old and probably about 50m tall! The tree lives in two places – above the ground and beneath. No matter what storms have come over the years it has stood firm so far! The fruit of joy is produced by the root of joy that runs deep into the soil of God’s love for us in Christ.

Jesus described the fruit of joy this way:

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

John 15:8 & 11

How do we cultivate joy so that it may grow to completion?

Jesus prayed to His Father in John:

“[Father] I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”

John 17: 13, 15, 17

There is a link between our joy and the truth of God’s Word. Circumstances often shout loudly and try to get us to take our eyes off Christ. We must remember:  “Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ; our future is secure; we know that in all things God is working for the good of those who love him.” These are the truths we must dwell on if we want to know a deep & abiding joy in the midst of trouble. Our sinful nature will fight against joy and seek to produce grumbling, bitterness and negativity.

In the Hebrew language, the root word for: “meditate” and “murmur” is the same! What you keep thinking about is what shapes your perspective. Psalm 1 talks about the blessed / happy / joyful man who is like a tree planted by streams of water who bears its fruit in season. He meditates on God’s law day night. Will you meditate on the truth and know joy? Or will you mutter (meditate) about your circumstances and know bitterness.

James writes,

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

James1:2-4

Your thoughts & emotions may be racing everywhere; you’re tempted to doubt & fear, but you must lead yourself to consider greater realities in Christ until they shape your perspective on your circumstances and bring a deep & abiding happiness in Christ!

“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.”

Hebrews 12:2:

Prayer:

Father thanks for the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Oh we long to experience an outpouring of the fruit of joy in our lives. May that joyful perspective bring hope & healing to those who only see fear & death. Holy Spirit enable us to experience Christ’s love and forgiveness in the midst of troubling circumstances. In the words of Peter we say: Oh Father though we have not seen Christ, we love him and even though we do not see him now, we believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for we are receiving the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls. (1 Pet 1:8)

Amen!

Yesterday I went to pick up my almost two-year old grandson, Ethan, from his play school. I arrived at the rambling house set in spacious grounds to find his classroom empty, but soon saw the clump of children sitting on the grass in the shade of a large tree at the far end of the lawn. Their teacher was reading a story to them. As I was trying to focus to see whether Ethan was in that group, a tiny boy clad in a bright orange T-shirt stood up, left the group, and came flying across the lawn toward me as fast as his little legs could carry him. It was Ethan! He has seen me before I had been able to pick him out of the crowd and was on his way to me at full speed. When he was a few meters from me I knelt down and opened my arms wide. He came crashing into me crying, “Pop! Pop! Pop!” and threw his arms around my neck. As I carried him toward the car he, prompted by my questions, told me about his day at school.

Throughout the rest of the day, and as I went off to sleep last night, I replayed that scene in my mind. It filled me with a joy I can’t describe, and I wondered, “When last did I run to God and give him that much joy?”