FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 9, JOY, Part Three

 JOY – EFFERVESCENCE EVEN IN CHAOS

PART THREE

Last week we looked at Paul and Silas as they praised the Lord while they were in prison, locked down in stocks.  Then we considered the early Christian church as they experienced joy even in horrific persecution.  Now, let us think about joy, depression and what we have to be joyous about in 2016!

What does Scripture say?

Recall that the basis for our joy is the work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33.

 

Because of His victory, the real basis for our inexpressible joy is that, as believers in Jesus Christ, our names are written in heaven!   For this reason the prophets, apostles and even Christ Himself command us to rejoice and be glad.  

 

We are not to rejoice in great acts that are accomplished here, even if they are done in the power of the Lord.  See Luke 10 where we read that the disciples returned after going out to minister to others in the power of the Lord, and they did marvelous things.  While they were telling Jesus of the results of their mission, I envision Jesus smiling, perhaps nodding His head, and then He issued this warning:

 

“Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” 

Luke 10:20

 

We are told to be joyful in both the Old and New Testaments.  For example, in 2 Chronicles 29, that King Hezekiah took action and restored the service of the house of the Lord that had been neglected for many, many years.  In the next chapter, the King sent couriers to all the people inviting them to come to Jerusalem and keep the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread in celebration of the worship of the Lord.  Scripture tells us:

And the people of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness, and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day by day, singing with all their might to the LORD. … So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.  

2 Chronicles 30:21, 26.

 

In the Psalms we are repeatedly told to be “joyful in the Lord.”

Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD, exulting in his salvation.

Psalm 35:9

 

Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!

Psalm 97:12

 

Not just the Psalmist speaks of joy — Isaiah describes joy in Isaiah 61:10:

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

 

In the New Testament, in Philippians 4:4, Paul says:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” 

 

Here, joy is so important that Paul repeats himself, in the same sentence!

 

God does not like doubt and dejection.  He hates dreary doctrine, gloomy and melancholy thought.  God likes cheerful hearts; His very work in freeing us from the bondage of sin is evidence that joy is His desire.  Notwithstanding this truth, we need to pause and recognize the reality of depression.  Remember that despondency is not the fruit of the Spirit.  It can come from many things — satanic temptation, unbelief, some harbored sin, or perhaps indigestion or a medical condition.  The fruit of the Spirit is Joy not depression..

 

Beware!  Don’t set too much store by your own feelings as evidence of the grace given to youThe fruit of the Spirit is joy but you may not at this moment be conscious of joy.  We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ through the Word of God which is a sure testimony to the work of Christ for us.  That is what we should trust, not emotions or feelings.

God is sovereign, and He is in control.  He sends both prosperity and adversity, for His purposes which are often unknowable to us.  Don’t let the adversity take way your confidence in God.

In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

 Ecclesiastes 7:14.

 

C. H. Spurgeon noted:

Precious as the fruit is, do not put the fruit where the root should be.  Please do remember that joy is not the root of grace in the soul, it is the fruit and must not be put out of its proper position.  “The fruit of the Spirit is … joy” and it is brought forth in believers not alike in all or at all times, but to all believers there is a measure of joy.

 

Spurgeon who himself struggled with depression, also said:

Constantly looking within you own self instead of looking alone to Christ is enough to breed misery in any heart.    Do not covet the counterfeit of earthly joy. … The Spirit of God is not barren … If he be in you, He must and will inevitably produce His own legitimate fruit, and the fruit of the Spirit is … joy.   We experience Heaven’s joy even here, on occasion, … and we can say with David “happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.”  (Psalm 144:15)

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

What prompts this joy in the Christian?

 

The ways that this Joy is touched in your heart are innumerable, but here are just a few suggestions that you might want to consider.  You likely will be able to come up with others and, when you do, praise the Lord for His grace and send a comment letting us know how He brings Joy to you.

 

  • The Christian is joyful because she is certain of her pardon for God has told her that she is not condemned as she is accepted by God for she is justified by faith.

 

  • Joy comes when we hear the Word in worship. See Isaiah 52:7.  Think about Israel and the celebration they had when their worship was restored!  Do you long to worship, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, to study and hear the Word?   (Just a note:  the reason people grumble at long sermons is because they do not feed on them.  Very seldom do the hungry gripe at having too big a meal!)

 

  • Joy comes when we think of God Himself.

“More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Romans 5:11.

 

The Psalmist asks in Psalm 8:4: “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”  God, Himself, answered that question 2000 years ago when He made it possible for us to spend eternity with Him through Christ our Savior.  That is way more than merely “mindful”!

 

God’s Joy is an abiding sense of happiness – an emotional pattern that enables Nehemiah to write “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”  (Nehemiah 8:10)

 

The musical offering below is from the Silver Anniversary Concert of The Centurymen, Buryl Red, conductor.  Listen to “Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee” and let the Lord’s joy envelop your heart and mind.  Then let the Holy Spirit fill you with joy as you go through your day.

 

 

Put Jesus first.  Follow His commands.  Rest in the joy of His Word.  Worship Him. Listen to the Helper, the Holy Spirit as you face difficulties, and have confidence in your salvation through Christ’s atoning work on the cross for your sins.  Remember your reconciliation with God the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord.  His Joy will come!

 

Next week we will begin our study of Peace.

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.

SPRING – A TIME FOR GROWING IN BEAUTY!

Much has already been said about spring, and it has been said by authors ever so much more erudite than this writer. Suffice it to say, spring is a beautiful time of year when the apparent death of winter gives way to new life. How fitting that Easter is, usually, in the spring of the year!

 

My focus here is not Spring in the broad sense of the word, it is one type of flower that I see as I turn the corner to leave our subdivision … Wisteria.

 

Wisteria blooms
Wisteria vine along the front yard fence.

 

I am definitely not a gardener. So, I don’t have any intrinsic knowledge about this beautiful plant, other than I love seeing it in full bloom along the fence line. I have lived in the same house for almost 30 years and have enjoyed these flowers each year. The vine uses any available support, here it is the fence, but it is also now climbing a neighboring tree and the telephone pole!

 

Wisteria blooming vine
Wisteria fine on the fence and growing up and onto the neighboring tree and telephone pole.

 

The wisteria vine makes my wandering mind turn to our Lord’s statement in the Gospel of John about the Vine and the branches.

 

Jesus was talking to His disciples, that is not only the original followers of Christ but us as Christians 2000 later, and He said:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. … Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:1, 4-5.

 

Read that again – Jesus does not say that when we abide in Christ we might be fruitful! He says that when we abide in Him and when He abides with us, we WILL bear MUCH fruit. The distinction between unfruitful and fruit-bearing is made clear in the next phrase: “for apart from me you can do nothing!”

 

With Him, we can do all that He commands – we are fruitful. Without Him, we can do — nothing. Not even a little!

 

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was preaching on the fruit of the Spirit, specifically on joy, and he said:

Precious as the fruit is, do not put the fruit where the root should be. Please do remember that joy is not the root of grace in the soul, it is the fruit and must not be put out of its proper position.

 

While the fruit is important, and we are called to bear much fruit for our Lord, the fruit is not the source of power or of encouragement or of strength for the Christian journey. We must look to the Vine as the root of “grace in [our] soul”.

 

In England we saw this building with wisteria climbing up the front of it, the blooms simply beautiful as they decorated the façade of the building.

Wisteria house in England
Wisteria on a building in England.

 

We are the branches. We are the ones who overcome the obstacles, even if they seem insurmountable, and cover them with love and the fragrant blossoms of the fruit of the Spirit. We are the ones who grow and twist around the people we encounter as we wrap our arms around them and reach out in love with the life-giving words of Jesus Christ. We are the ones who bear fruit for our Lord.

 

Be careful though — John 15 verses 2 and 6 contain a warning:

“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. … If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”

 

Just as with the wisteria vine, for those branches that do not bear fruit, the Vinedresser comes with His shears and cuts them off. In his Commentary on the Bible, Spurgeon says this about John 15:2:

If there be any, who are only nominally in Christ, and who therefore bear no fruit, their doom is to be taken away; for, in order to final perseverance and eternal safety, there must be fruit-bearing.

 

As for John 15:6, Spurgeon further notes:

That is all that can be done with fruitless vine-branches. You cannot make anything of them.   … It is useless if it is fruitless; and so it is with us, if we do not bear fruit unto God, we are of no service to him whatsoever.

 

This is a sobering thought. It is one thing to say that we are to bear fruit for Jesus, but quite another to recognize that if we refuse to do so, the Father will remove us, as one does an unproductive stick.

 

I must heed the warning when He is asking me to do something that is too big, that is outside my comfort zone, or that I simply don’t want to do. Rather than refuse, or drag my heels, I have to rely on Jesus’ promise that he is the Vine and that my power, my strength, my nourishment comes from Him. Then I can carry out His command in love, allowing His Spirit to control my words and actions so that His purpose will control.

 

Father, when I see the wisteria vine, I see beauty even through the twisting and turning of the vine’s branches.  I pray that when my Lord sees me, He sees a branch that is growing through His strength and in His power as I read and rest in His Word and then obey His commands.  Holy Spirit, enable me to do the tasks assigned for me in the strength of your power. May all my actions, thoughts and words be to the glory of my sovereign God.