Surprised by Joy

June 16, 2020

Last week we talked about living adequately and helpfully in a world of chaos and struggle. We realized it starts with surrendering control of our spirits to God. We allow the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, to control us and shape our actions, reactions, and even our conscience. We become humble and teachable. For instance, right now in this horrible holocaust or racial division, a Spirit-filled person, whether white or black, will be nudged by the Spirit to be non-defensive. They will not insist, “I am not racist,” but will be willing to listen, learn, and live by the Spirit’s direction.

We remembered that being led by the Spirit is the only way we will quit reacting defensively and even aggressively when our thoughts or actions are challenged. We will quit acting the ways that come naturally—foolish ways—and begin to live by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit will develop the fruit of the Spirit in us as we grow toward God. Remember, it is not that in our human effort we gut it out and try. It is that the Holy Spirit through our surrender and willingness makes us able and wanting to do so. The way our world is impacted positively is not by skillful arguments or debates, but by the Holy Spirit working through us.

The first fruit of the Spirit is LOVE. It is the fuel that makes the other fruit possible. For instance, if you don’t have love first, you won’t be patient, have self-control, or experience joy. So, we started there. The second fruit listed is joy.In the chaos of life and the true and deep problems that surround us, sometimes joy seems like an impossible goal. How can that be?

The joy that is spoken of in Galatians 5 is the deep-down joy in our soul because we are in relationship with God. It’s not a temporary sense of happiness because everything in our lives is lining up. This is spiritual joy in relation to God; it is the joy we sense from being made right with God, being in communion with Him, and having the sure hope of heaven. When we are living in the Spirit, we have this joy always.

This joy does not change with circumstance or the problems in our lives. Even the chaos of COVID-19 and the racial disparity and consequent national chaos cannot cause this to be quenched. We too often say and feel, “Oh, I have lost my joy.” In these difficult moments, for our own good and the good of the world that so badly needs Spirit-filled, joy-filled Jesus-followers, we need to remember I Peter 5:8: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Our troubles and the struggles of the world distract us from the Source of joy, and our enemy the devil knows this. All of the problems of life can cause me to take my eyes off of Jesus. Lost any sleep lately? Right. You know what I mean. But Jesus is our example for Spirit-filled joy even in the hardest times. “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame (Hebrews 12:2). His joy involved a cross and shame—not things we believe are compatible with joy. But in the difficult circumstances, Jesus was able to endure because His relationship with the Father gave Him a depth of joy that could not be destroyed. He anticipated the joy of accomplishing our redemption, finishing the mission for which He came into the world, and returning to the welcome and “well done” of His Father in heaven. That deep, inner joy, His oneness with the Father and the Holy Spirit, carried Him through hard times with an attractiveness that drew people magnetically to Him.

Our world needs the attractive witness of Jesus-followers who have that compelling joy from deep within despite their circumstances. We need that deep joy that only the Spirit can give that keeps us from joining in the hopeless wailing and lament of those around us in these challenging days.

Since the 1920s, believers have taught their children to sing these words written by George Willis Cook: “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart! Down in my heart to stay!” Simple happiness can come and go, but the deep-down joy that comes from the fruit of the Spirit-filled life is possible when we keep ourselves in the place of surrender where joy grows. This joy cannot be forced or fabricated, but it can flourish even in difficult days.

Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.” Luke 6:22-23
His brother James added to this thought: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3

This deep, unmatched joy that will keep us strong and attract the world is possible as we live in God’s presence, surrendered to the Spirit. Think of this blessing to the people of joy!

“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. Jude 1:2-5

Think about it. What challenging circumstance can you face with love and joy today because you have Jesus-joy deep down in your heart? How can you give an attractive witness no matter what, because of your joy? You can reignite your joy by reigniting your relationship with Jesus and surrendering to the Holy Spirit. Here comes joy!