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But the fruit of the Spirit is… joy… - Galatians 5:22 (NIV)
As Children’s Minister, I had the incredible job of leading worship for our preschool kids at Southland in our “Wee Worship” service nearly every Sunday for a decade. One of our staple songs was “Peace Like A River,” which included a verse that said, “I’ve got joy like a fountain.” By the end of the song, we were singing really fast, really loud, and everyone was smiling. You could not go to Wee Worship and not be happy. I enjoyed every second of it.
Kids are great at expressing joy. I think God hardwires us to have a joyful approach to life so that we can enjoy every second of it. Somewhere along the way, stuff happens, and our joy gets hammered out of us. But joy isn’t about circumstances. Happiness is determined by circumstances, not joy. Happiness is the result of what happens to us. But joy? Joy is the result of what’s happened in us. Joy is determined not by our circumstances but by Who inhabits us.
In Galatians 5, we learn that when the Holy Spirit is living and active in us, there’s evidence. One piece of evidence is joy. This world may push the joy out of us as we grow up, but God restores our joy when we surrender our life to Jesus and become a home for His Spirit. Joy is like a fountain that explodes from us even when we don’t feel joyful. Joy is not an emotion; it’s a fruit of God’s Spirit alive in us.
Can we be frustrated, sad, mad, lonely, and yet joyful at the same time? Yes!
As we dive into this week, let’s learn to “Twist and Shout” our way through life no matter our circumstances so that we can enjoy every second of it.
I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. - Luke 15:7 (NIV)
My family and I were walking down the busy streets of New York City a few years ago when I found a wallet on the ground. I called the police to turn it in. My wife, Sharon, and my mom went on up the street while my son, my dad, and I waited. After 20 minutes, the officer showed up, and while I was talking to her, I heard a man yelling from far away as he ran towards me. It was his wallet, and my wife ran into him several blocks away while he was digging through a trash can saying to his wife, “I have no idea where it is.” Sharon then asked if he had lost his wallet, and the rest is history. He couldn’t stop hugging me and shouting. On a crowded city street filled with thousands of people, what was lost, had been found.
Jesus says that lost people matter to the population of Heaven. In Luke 15, He tells stories of a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. All had been lost, and all were found… and then, there was rejoicing. All of Heaven becomes a fountain of joy every time one person chooses to follow Jesus—when the Holy Spirit takes up residence in a new life and they find the hope of Heaven.
Every time Heaven gets a new citizen, we should twist and shout with joy, just like Heaven does, because what was lost, has been found.
The Holy Spirit produces joy in us because of the hope that we have of the life promised to us on the other side of this world. Today, make a list of the things that have stolen your joy. Next to each item on your list, write, “but Heaven is coming.” Then say a prayer of thanksgiving for the hope God has given us. And choose joy.Share Tweet
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. - Romans 14:17 (NIV)
I was in a meeting several years ago with a guy whose business was getting ready to profit from a pretty significant business deal. The intensity ramped up to a fever pitch with all kinds of vision of what was to come. All the lights were green. The risk was almost nil, and it was going to change the lives of a lot of people. Everyone in the room was on the edge of their seats when the gentleman said, in a very calm, cool, almost bored tone, “Well this is very exciting.” (I wish I could speak these words so that you could fully understand how unenthused this fella was… but you’ll just have to believe me.)
What would normally have someone speaking in an “I-just-won-the-lottery!!!” tone, had this guy speaking in an “I-just-cleaned-out-my-belly-button” tone. I couldn’t believe it. Several of us had a good laugh after the meeting about it, and I will still use that line and tone in meetings with those guys today for a good laugh.
Christians should be the most genuinely enthusiastic people on the planet. Yet often, we aren’t. We don’t engage in a worship service. We don’t celebrate the successes of others. We don’t bust at the seams to share about Jesus with our friends. Heck, oftentimes, we don’t even smile! “Well, this is all very exciting.”
Paul reminds us in Romans 14 that the Kingdom of God is not a matter of belly button lint. It’s about righteousness, peace, and JOY in the Holy Spirit. It’s about the edge of your seat. It’s about win-win. It’s about hitting the lottery. It’s about busting at the seams with joy because of what’s been done in us. As a member of the Kingdom, find your joy today, and tell your face about it!
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 (NIV)
Today is my and Sharon’s 27th wedding anniversary. I know, I’m shocked that she’s been able to put up with me for that long, too. She’s a patient saint! We’ve had our ups and downs like any other couple, but we’ve had a truly beautiful marriage. I’m blessed.
There’s a line that I use in every wedding I perform: “Your wedding is beautiful. But the time, energy, and resources you’ve invested to make a beautiful wedding pales in comparison to the time, energy, and resources that you’ll invest to make a beautiful marriage.” Marriage is work. A beautiful marriage doesn’t just happen. It takes effort. When things get hard, you don’t bail; you invest what it takes to make it beautiful.
The Holy Spirit is alive and well in the life of every Christian who has submitted to Jesus. But there is some work that we do to unleash His power, His fruit, and, for this week’s message, His joy. We don’t become followers of Jesus and then shift into auto-pilot. We practice disciplines that fan into flame the work of the Holy Spirit. We pray. We serve. We sacrifice. We die to our selfish desires. We study our Bible. We worship. We share our faith. All of these disciplines and so many more fertilize the life of the Spirit in us so that He can develop His fruit through us.
A beautiful wedding is not the same as a beautiful marriage, and wax fruit is not the same as real fruit. If you are not seeing fruit, specifically the fruit of joy growing in your life, you may need some more water.
…for the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. - Hebrews 12:2-3 (NIV)
The two days before I leave for the beach, I get more work done than I do in a whole week in the middle of winter. I roll through challenging work that I might normally procrastinate. Just knowing the ocean is a few hours in my future causes me to get through some difficult tasks.
Now, I love everything about my job. So I feel a tad awkward comparing my daily work to the work Jesus did on the cross, but go with me here.
The author of Hebrews reveals what was in Jesus’ heart and mind as He endured beatings, nails, and death. In the midst of all of that awfulness, He chose joy because He knew what was coming. He knew that what He was enduring would overcome death and lead to the hope of life for millions of people. And that joyfully drove him. Incredible. Then, the author wraps up that verse by telling us to follow Jesus’ example.
Hopefully we’ll never have to endure the literal Hell that Jesus went through to bring us life. But we do face some really painful trials that seem impossible to be joyful in the midst of. But Jesus proves it’s possible to have joy in the midst of pain. That should give us hope. That should move us to trust Him more. That should lead us to choose joy in all things. As you unleash the Holy Spirit to produce joy in your life, remember that the ocean is just a few hours in your future. Heaven is in sight. Thank you, Jesus.