Every believer used to be part of an angry apple orchard, just like the one in Oz. Our natural state was to grow bitterness, selfishness, deceit, pride, fear, and a host of other rotting things from the core of who we were, lobbing them at anyone unsavvy enough to pass by. Last week we looked at how the Spirit moves in and produces new fruit in our hearts, fruit we can’t manufacture on our own. We’ve covered love. Let’s turn now to joy: “a delight of the mind, from the consideration of the present or assured approaching possession of a good” (Webster’s 1828 dictionary).
As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart.
(2 Samuel 6:16)
Joy is a scandalous choice we make, and it requires a great deal of security to sink deeply into. It’s childlike and carefree and very undignified—and close to impossible for those of us with Michal tendencies. When the rejoicing king is confronted with how he “should” behave, he replies that he’s choosing to celebrate before the Lord. Those around us with right hearts understand and get in on the party. How can we not celebrate all God has done for us? The sheer weight of it should knock us off our feet. Joy is the only sensible response.
Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Joy is not at odds with holiness. We are to celebrate riotously because this day is holy to our Lord. We don’t serve a stuffy King; He cultivates joy in our hearts so that we can mimic His infinite depths of it. As we revel in His goodness, our grief runs and hides at the sight of this great strength.
You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Joy comes from being with God. We’re not talking about meager crumbs of happiness every once in a while if we’re good. We’re talking about heaps and piles and oceans of goodness dumped one after the other, our hearts so full they could burst. And then God crams a little bit more joy in. This is our Lord: Giver of abundance, lavishing His kids with more and more and more of Himself.
A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Joy turns us into fountains in a world full of drains. Our choice to surrender to joy impacts not only ourselves, but everyone in our vicinity. Think of the most joyful person you know. Don’t you feel refreshed around them? More buoyant and energetic? Yes, our joy heals our own weary selves, but it washes over those we come into contact with as well.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Joy is our inheritance. This verse depicts what we’re looking forward to for the rest of eternity. Everlasting joy. See, that’s the thing about this fruit—it lasts. Happiness is fun, but given a change of circumstances, it makes a quick exit. Joy, on the other hand, accompanies us every step of the way through this long journey of life and will remain our companion after we cross the threshold of glory. It settles deep into our frame and spreads wide, holding us up through health scares and dark seasons and broken relationships and battered hearts.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Joy is daring. It surprises you at the amount of risk you’ll take because your footing is now sure, solid on the finished work of Christ. When you can stand firm, you can jump farther. Why? Because why would a God who’s shown Himself so immeasurably good thus far withhold anything that you need in the future? It’s a reckless faith in His Daddy heart toward us. And as we take the next leap, we find that the only thing we’ve risked is a sad life of silent death.
“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.”
Joy is a change of priority. We used to be consumed with gaining the approval of others. But now we exult in the growth of a kingdom treasure we can’t see at the expense of everything we once held dear. Apart from the Spirit, this sounds certifiably insane. But if it’s true? The only insane thing would be to hoard human approval and lose what will last forever.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
Joy doesn’t make sense. When God begins growing this fruit in your soul, you’ll get some funny looks. My husband knew a pastor who would answer “Praise the Lord!” to everything. Christmas bonus? Praise the Lord! Tire blew out? Praise the Lord! Joy has a tenacity that refuses to release its grip, regardless of what the world’s version of reality says. If your tire is going to blow either way, wouldn’t you rather face it with an immovable core of joy, knowing how fiercely you’re loved, than with your fist raised to heaven, wondering why you’re not loved?*
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Joy brought about the possibility of salvation. Jesus knew there was something better on the other side of those wood beams, and that joy held Him steady through every excruciating breath. If joy can do that for God in the flesh, why would we consider it some lame, fluffy byproduct we’re stuck with when we come to Christ? At no point can you look at Easter and see joy as powerless. If it can get the kingdom to come through a bloody tree, it can get the kingdom to come smack dab in the middle of whatever you’re facing.
Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
(1 Peter 1:8-9)
Joy is the Spirit’s movement in us. Good luck expressing it with any kind of effectiveness to others (I’ve just tried and failed miserably through this post)—it’s inexpressible. But it’s also filled with glory. Every time you give in to joy, you get a taste of heaven. Just a taste. A little more working out of the salvation we’ve been given. This fruit is good stuff. Want some?
*You’re fiercely loved either way. But joyless cynics don’t get the experience of feeling fiercely loved, while joyful children can’t help but experience it.