fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

What has happened to all your joy?

smiley faceWhat has happened to all your joy? by Julie McAllen
The joy of the Lord is our strength. It’s in the songs we sing. Most likely you’ve said or heard this quote during a time when encouragement was needed.  I even have it written in bold letters on the front page of my Bible. “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Neh 8:10)
As I write this, I am aware that many of my brothers and sisters in Christ are undergoing trials. Not enduring the same trials myself, I fear my testimony to joy may fall flat. For no one minds hearing “the joy of the Lord is your strength” when all is right with the world, but when you are enduring the flaming arrows of despair, sickness, and pressures beyond your resources, to hear a friend speak of joy may sound more like nails on a chalkboard. But James admonishes ” Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2, 3) Joy, then, is something to be considered as we go through our trials.
Consider the importance of forgiveness. It does not depend on the situation.
Consider the value of prayer. It does not depend on the situation.
So it is with joy. We hear, “the joy of the Lord is our strength” and answer “yea but, you don’t know the situation…” Is forgiveness, prayer, or joy, dependent on the situation, or are we expected to maintain joy within the circumstances?
  16Be joyful always; 17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess 5:16-18)
 God’s will is that you be joyful always in any situation. If this command is having the appeal of nails against a chalkboard right now, take heart, the Bible also gives clues as to HOW that is achieved.
 The first lesson in joy is that you don’t have to be the one to produce it. That’s a relief in itself. God doesn’t need a cheerleader chanting “Hallelujah, rah! rah! rah!” for the sake of empty praise. Neither has God set us up for disappointment by telling us we never would experience the pain and suffering common to all men. In fact, we’re told frankly that because of faith in Him we will suffer persecution (Matt 5:11). He’s not surprised by our circumstances and knows our sorrows. So where does the joy come from?  Joy is a fruit of His Holy Spirit. It comes from Him.
 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23)
 And we know Jesus wants us to have joy. Not just joy, but ABUNDANT joy.
 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!  (John 15:11 NLT)
 What things has Jesus told his followers that would cause them to be filled, even over-filled with joy? As I scanned the gist of John 15 from which this verse was taken, I found some insight on how we might partake of Jesus’ joy.
 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. (John 15:3, 4)
 As I pause on these verses, I hear Jesus telling us we are “purified by the message.” What he is asking we remain in is the message through which we became believers and experienced that first joy of salvation. Do not forget that you are are child of God (John 1:12). You are forgiven and have everlasting life (Ro 6:22, 23) You are blameless and holy in the sight of God (Eph 1:4). The blood of Jesus purifies you of sin (1 John 1:7). Can you find a place of rest in that, even joy? Apparently, the early church in Thessalonica did, for Paul recounts their joy in hearing the gospel in spite of severe suffering.
 5because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. (1 Thess 1:5, 6)
 Joy being a fruit of the Spirit, one must remain in the Spirit in order to see it’s fruit. It has nothing to do with our outward circumstances and everything to do with remaining in God’s love which He has already demonstrated toward us. We received it by faith with joy once, now we must remain in it.
  5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. (John 15:5-8)
 You may ask for anything, and it will be granted! Our Father is ready, willing and able to grant the fruit of His Spirit called joy. Didn’t Jesus promise us,
 7“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
9“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matt 7:7-11)
 Through this formula of ask, seek, and knock we don’t want to assume God is a cosmic genie ready to dispense the desired object of our longing. Too often we interpret the fruit as the end product behind the door. Even in a ministry, we may conclude that the joy is in the end result. But Jesus corrected that attitude in his disciples when they excitedly proclaimed the results of their ministry claiming that the demons were made subject to them. Jesus responded with “do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20). Though the disciples had much joy in the end result, if that were the only time their ministry bore fruit, they’d soon lose their reason to rejoice. Jesus was giving them insight into how they can have joy in any and all circumstances. He reminded them of their standing before God. And we’re reminded of where the fruit of joy is grounded in us.
If we truly want the strengthening joy we think is lurking behind door number three, God has laid it out for us in a simple method: Ask, Seek, Knock. He is recommending prayer (ask), and meditating on His promises (seek), before we can walk in faith up to that door and knock.
 God wants to open that door for us, but our abundant joy comes from being filled with the Holy Spirit, not from what’s behind that door. It will open, he has promised, but the joy is found in following the pattern he laid out. Because within that pattern, we find the true object of our searching. We find the Presence of God in the asking and the seeking. As we submit ourselves to that, we make room for the King of our Spirit and find joy.
Keep yourself in God’s love,

September 28, 2009 - Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , ,

1 Comment

  1. Hi Julie,
    Thank you for such a wonderful reminder to keep joyful, even in times of struggle. Your message today was faith-strengthening.

    In Him alone.

    Comment by Linda | October 1, 2009

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