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June 12th, 2008 at 1:33 pm

The Fruit of Joy

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy…..”

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a melancholy temperament. I am inclined toward sadness, and yet, I feel the most intense happiness that I can imagine, usually regarding things that may seem silly to others – a good blues riff, a breeze in my face on a warm afternoon, a poignant line in a good poem, nuzzle nosing with a big dog, the delighted laugh of a little child. But underneath and behind it all sadness lurks. It’s my lot.

Joy as a fruit of the Spirit is not the same thing as my bolts of happiness. Nor is it counter to my streaks of sadness. In fact, it has little to do with our state in life, our circumstances, or our temperaments. There are people (I find them annoying) who are born chipper, and who like to excoriate the rest of the Christian world for not having the “joy of the Lord.” I’m not sure they have it either – they just have a certain temperaments. I often wish they would get a really good dose of sadness so they could relate to humanity a little better, and just be quiet.

What is this Christian joy, this fruit of the Holy Spirit being at work in us? If it doesn’t really have to do with our circumstances and it isn’t grounded in our temperaments then what is it?

Christian joy is rooted and grounded in the news that 1) Jesus is alive and well, 2) He reigns, 3) He has died for my sins (and thus I am forgiven), 4) He has defeated sin, death, and the devil (and thus I have been and hope of being truly changed), and 5) He is coming back to make things right once and for all (which means that I will receive anew body and live with Him forever in a New Heaven and a New Earth).

Thus Christian joy is rooted and grounded in the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ. I can no longer look at things the same way as before. I can no longer drown myself in my sorrows and woes. I can no longer evaluate my condition the same way as I did before. Everything has changed for me. Everything (even if it looks like nothing).

Life comes at you, and it is hard to dwell in joy. Bitterness, envy, jealousy, malice, pain, trials, struggles, anger – all these crouch at the door waiting to steal our joy. Our “flesh” easily defaults back to these attitudes of heart and mind. Afterall, many of us have had a lifetime to nurture them.

Joy sees beyond. Kill me if you will; I have an inheritance that will never spoil or fade. Bring on the pain; a day is coming when there will no more curse, and every tear will be wiped from my eye. Hate me and betray me if you must; I have a Savior whose love is deeper and wider and longer than I have yet begin to fathom. Be better than me, that’s fine, you’ve earned it; my God will take care of me, we’re cool. Try me as you must; all you’re doing is helping me become more like Jesus, which is the most important thing in the world.

That’s joy talking, when the Holy Spirit is at work. We will have many more times to look at joy this summer. It makes me happy just thinking about it.

I leave you with the lyrics to a song that we sang this past Sunday called “Trading My Sorrows.” At first glance it may feel like some sort of prosperity gospel thing – it isn’t. It is a song about the fruit of joy, and the decision to cooperate with the Holy Spirit.

Trading My Sorrows

I’m trading my sorrows, I’m trading my shame,
I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord.
I’m trading my sickness, I’m trading my pain,
I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord.

Yes Lord, yes Lord, yes yes, Lord.
Yes Lord, yes Lord, yes yes Lord.
Yes Lord, yes Lord, yes yes Lord. Amen!

I am pressed but not crushed, persecuted not abandoned,
struck down but not destroyed.
I am blessed beyond the curse for His promise will endure,
that His joy’s gonna be my strength.

Though the sorrow may last for the night,
His joy comes with the morning

Darrell Evans, 1998, Integrity’s Hosanna! Music, CCLI # 698112

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