Defined By Joy (The Fruit Series)

I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy, 
Down in my heart, 
Down in my heart to stay. 

You’ll have to forgive me as this old children’s melody (I’ve Got The Joy) seems to pop into my head as I consider today’s topic.  It’s amazing how we recall songs we learned as kids and that those truths stick with us into old age.  I’ve probably got the song now playing in your head as well and hopefully that’s not a bad thing!  Moving onward with “The Fruit,” we are mindful that joy is where we land today. 

Lately I’ve been considering joy a lot, what it means and what it looks like.  On top of that, I’ve observed the fact that the world we live in seems to be so joy-less.  Even as Christians, this one fruit seems to be hard to develop and actually live out on a daily basis.  What we so often feel is what overrides our perspective for the day.  If we are happy, then life is good.  If we are sad, our whole countenance reflects it.  Anger, anxiety, elation, disappointment, the list goes on…every emotion brings forth a response with an accompanied outlook on things. 
But I’ve been challenged to look at joy as something bigger than an emotion; ideally it is a state of being.  It is a mindset that we continually live in and are called to walk in as we follow Christ.  Despite the highs and lows, joy must remain as a true mark of the believer.  Joy is what sets us apart from an unbelieving world and bears witness to Christ.  In reality, joy is what sustains us and points us onward.  Without it, there is little hope.  With it, we have all the hope in the world.  Again, Christ is our guide and best example.  Today we look at how joy was a key factor in His life. 

1.  Love for Jesus inspires joy 

I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.  John 15:11 

As I go through the fruit of the Spirit, it interesting to note how much each fruit translates over into another fruit.  Each attribute is influenced by other attributes and seemingly, one cannot possess just one of the fruits without possessing them all as a whole.  Joy is one such example, being something birthed out of love as Jesus explains in John 15.  Jesus is explaining that as the Father and Him have love, so we must have love and keep His commands as result.  This brings about His joy in us and that joy being made complete. 

Thinking about this for a moment, realize that if we aspire to look and love like Christ, we are going to possess joy because it is wrapped up in Him and in keeping His commands.  His commands are not burdensome for us; rather they bring life and joy to all who keep them.  The love between the Father and the Son is a joy-inspiring love and we cannot help but be joyful if we are followers of Christ.  It should exude from us; being on full display despite any season of the soul. 

2.  Christ’s joy was not determined by His circumstances 

…who [Jesus] for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.  Hebrews 12:2 

I never understood this verse in Hebrews until I did a little more digging into its meaning with Bible study aids and commentaries (something I recommend if you struggle with a passage).  It always seemed weird to me that Christ took any joy in the cross.  And I believed for a long time this was just a hard verse and something I had to get over.  But here’s the deal:  Jesus was not joyful in the cross itself, but in what lay ahead beyond it.  He was looking to heaven and to eternity and that was “the joy laid before Him.” 
What this means for us is that Christ endured through joy and because of joy.  What a hope for us in a world of increasing persecution, turmoil, and strife!  Jesus' joy was not based upon what He saw before Him.  Ours is not either.  We have a joyful hope and a peace that comes upon us (more about peace later in this series!) and that keeps us going.  Remember our first blog this year (In It For The Long Haul)?  If you do not possess joy, you won’t make it in this life.  Joy is about more than this life.  Joy is about being able to see the finish line and picture eternity with our Lord and Savior. 

3.  As Christians, joy sets us apart from the rest of the world 

Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.  1 Peter 1:8 

If there’s a bigger application piece to joy, it is this final point.  When you and I live in joy, we are showing the world around us something different that does not make sense.  Last week, we saw how love motivates us to act like Christ:  loving the unlovable and reaching out to our enemies and those who have wronged us.  Just as that serves as our witness, joy in our daily walk does as well. 

When you are going through a rough season (health, finances, family, etc), people watch how you handle it as a Christian.  Will you buckle under?  Will this break you and tear you apart?  If you can cling to joy and see past the moment of what you are in, people will take note.  They will ask either silently or out loud, “How are they are able to withstand this…?”  And if they are curious enough, they will approach you on it.  That’s the moment you have to point to Christ and say “I could never have done this without His Spirit filling me and giving me the strength to stand.”  In a world where that sound bite never gets any airtime, you will have spoken loudly to those around you who are without hope. 

My desire today is to scratch the surface and peel back a bit of the concept of joy.  I truly believe we don’t understood joy correctly often out of a lack of knowledge.  Because of this, we don’t know how powerful it is to walk in joy.  But when we express love for Christ and want to keep His commands, His joy fills us.  I can’t explain how it comes upon us; it really is out of nothing we have done.  All I know is that when joy fills you and I up, we cannot mistake its presence.  And we cannot mistake His Presence.

Guys, I said this would be challenging to all of us.  It is rocking my world to consider the fruit each week and my apparent lack of it in various aspects of my life.  Today I am convicted to ask:  Despite the unknown around me, am I able to walk in joy?  Can I be held together in Christ because there’s nothing in this world that can shake me from Him?  If you and I get that, we are on mission and He is able to proclaim Himself through our lives.  Joy is worth it, always worth it. 

I love you guys! 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13 

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Other blogs in this series: 

The Fruit - An Introduction
Compelled By Love

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