Let us pray: Dear Savior, send forth the Spirit to give us the necessary gifts to bring forth joy in our lives! Open our hearts to His outpouring and open our minds to better understand and show just how joy enlarges and enriches Your kingdom. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST WHO GIVES US EXACTLY WHAT WE NEED AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME!
TEXT: Galatians 5: 22: “But the fruit of the Spirit is…joy.”
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
Recently a friend my mine told me I needed more joy in my life. They were right. In fact after the last couple of years, we’re all lacking in joy, aren’t we? I’ve preached on the fruits of the Spirit before, but never on joy directly. So, it’s time to rectify that.
The gifts of the Spirit are recorded in I Cor. 12 at length. They include: wisdom, knowledge, faith, miraculous powers, and healing. They are direct blessings of the Spirit. These gifts are what give birth to various fruits of the Spirit—joy being one of them. In this, the Spirit’s gifts work in tandem with our bodies and minds to bear the wondrous fruits of: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” How do I know that? Recall Christ in John 15:5: “I am the vine, you are the branches, if a man remains in me and I in him, he can bear much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” So, joy is a fruit, born in and through us with the Spirit’s power.
What is joy? How does it manifest itself in our lives? Well, there are many aspects of joy. Can you be joyless when you’re filled with gratitude? It’s pretty hard, isn’t it? When God Almighty gives you gifts—the chief one being the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Christ—you’re amazed that God would love and care for you that much! You didn’t earn it. You don’t really deserve it. Yet, God showers you with a cleansed conscience. Joy and thankfulness erupt within!
Joy also has elements of a carefree, light-hearted demeanor. When joy takes over you don’t let gloom and doom thoughts predominate. Joy puts those fires out. Joyful Christians take the 8th commandment seriously and as Luther says: “they put the best construction on the words and actions of others. They “speak the truth in love” because they know that: “there but by the grace of God go I.”
Joy puts everything in life into a proper, Godly perspective. It celebrates whatever is: ”noble, pure, excellent, and praiseworthy” and also “thinks about such things” as Paul says. This has been especially difficult for everyone over the past months. Our sinful nature naturally dwells on the negative and ignores the positive. Think back to all the times dark thoughts and bad news pulled you away from Godly joy and/or diminished it? We all blamed it on the virus, but joylessness is something we do to ourselves. As God’s vine we let those bad branches suck joy right out of the whole plant. That’s why recognizing our situation and engaging in some self-pruning is a good thing. When God decides to prune you a little, don’t fight Him—He knows best.
I suppose this is why watching children play is so satisfying. Unlike us they don’t fret over the future. They live in the moment. They have fun. They have a zest for being care-free. They laugh a lot—far more than adults. Such laughter is medicine for both the body and the soul. Worries recede and inner peace takes hold. Stress be gone!
Scripture says “there is a season for every activity under heaven.” And then it categorizes the tough times of life and juxtaposes positive opposites to them. (Ecc. 3: 1-8) In other words, since the Gospel predominates in the Christian’s life, joy over it all should and must always win out in the end.
God’s prescription for a joyous heart is actually very simple. It starts with:”Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” It then follows “feeding your faith” via Word and sacraments. Asking Him in prayer to take dark, yucky thoughts away is also vital. Hanging out with disease-free vines is important, too, as joyless people can engage in super-spreader activities. “Let’s not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is.” But, in the end, joy stems from a thankful heart. So, let’s begin building an even more joyful life by constantly: “Praising God from whom all blessings flow!” Amen
THE PEACE OF GOD…..
Pastor Thomas H. Fox