Advent – Joy
Today we are going to be looking at Joy. Joy what does that actually mean? I’ve heard it sung J O Y J O Y surely that must mean Jesus first, Yourself last and others in between. There we are sorted, preach done, we’ve had a christmas jingle and we have had a definition of Joy. So that’s it, done. No of course not.
The dictionary definition of Joy often seems to reflect around happiness which is what we might immediately assume Joy is happiness. The dictionary definition would probably say great happiness or great delight. But we understand that actually there is something deeper about joy when we think of it in a spiritual context, there is something much much deeper when we look at it spiritually. So often we find ourselves quoting a little verse of scripture that comes from the old testament that says
…for the joy of the Lord is your strength(Nehemiah 8:10 NIV
From which we get this sense that joy is something that can empower us, that can give us the ability to move forward when things are tough. We can take great courage from that, great strength from that The joy of the lord is your strength. It suggests that there is far more to joy than perhaps just great happiness. The verse that that comes from in the old testament, in the book of Nehemiah, a little bit before that i thought was really interesting. It says:
Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy some choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”Nehemiah 8.10 NIV
Don’t you just love that bit that comes before. I thought wow! That’s a great verse for Christmas especially after the year that we have had where many of us have experienced a sense of grief. But here we are, let’s take this to heart, let’s go and enjoy some choice food and sweet drinks. Let’s remember those that don’t have anything prepared and let’s enjoy this time of year. Joy, the joy of the Lord is your strength.
It’s all very well me saying that, where can we find joy? Where is it that we find joy? I know from my own experience that there has been in coming into that close relationship with my father God through the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit that I have come to experience and really understand this deep and intimate joy and it’s beyond anything i could have imagined, beyond anything that I could have expected in my life before I knew Jesus. It’s God himself who invites us into this close intimate relationship, He really longs for that with every single one of us, He wants that close friendship.It’s God himself who invites us into this close intimate relationship, He really longs for that with every single one of us, He wants that close friendship. Click To Tweet
If you look at the verse in Jeremiah 33:3 God says:
Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.Jeremiah 33.3 NIV
It’s an invitation here to come into a relationship with Him, to come into dialogue with Him, to ask Him questions: where is it that I can find joy? Where is it that I can come to know and understand these great mysteries? It’s in God himself. It is through the work of Jesus, what He did in dying on the cross that we can come to have that relationship with God. But more than that there is a third person in the relationship, not just God, not just Jesus, there is also the Holy Spirit. I believe that it is in the work of the Holy Spirit that we discover this real deep-seated joy, this spiritual joy that I was talking about. It is in relationship with the Holy Spirit, we need to allow Him to be in us, to work with us, to work in us and in doing so I believe we will find joy. Why do I think that? There’s a verse in Galatians that talks about something called the Fruit of the Spirit. The Fruit of the Holy is something that is produced through the work of the Holy Spirit and that can be in us.
Lets have a look at the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The ingredients are: water, glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, amino acids, fatty acids. I once saw this and it said “if you saw this, would you give this to your children to eat?” For most of us we would look at it and think Wow, that’s a lot of chemicals, it doesn’t look very good, all those ingredients, not too sure”. Let me tell you, that is the ingredients of a banana. All of those are what make up a banana. That’s the ingredients. And what fascinates me about the fruits of the Holy Spirit is that we think of it so often as being the different bits of the ingredients but actually I believe that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is something that is complete. In a sense, the bits that we look at almost think of as individual fruit is actually the ingredients. Let’s have a look at that verse properly now :
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
Isn’t that amazing, here we have it Love, Joy and Peace. So when we get the Holy Spirit in us then we can start to express this fruit of the Holy Spirit. This is what can come out of that. This is where we find joy, it is in the Holy Spirit that we find Joy.
How do we express that Joy?
I wonder how do we express it? To be perfectly honest I would say that our expression is individual as our personalities, we express it however we are uniquely made and according to our unique personalities, that is for us to explore how we express joy so I don’t really want to ask that question, how do we express joy? More so I would like to ask the question not how but what happens when.
What happens when we express joy?
Thinking about personalities and character and things like that did make me think about Jesus himself. There is a verse in John 1:4-5. These are verse we often come across particularly at this time of year. In verse 4 it says:
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.John 1:4 NIV
In Him was life, that was the expression of who He was, that life that came out of Him and is the light to all mankind. That was Jesus’ expression. I would encourage us to express joy as much as we can because we know that it is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, a part of that life is Joy. But what happens when we express that joy? If we are talking about light, this next verse really does illuminate that.
The light shines in the darkness has not overcome itJohn 1:5 NIV
This verse has become something that has been a real encouragement to me personally in recent weeks. It started on the occasion when our Jemimah was poorly. She wasn’t well and it was a very difficult time, it wasn’t at all easy. There were moments when I thought “what’s the point”, I don’t know if you ever have moments when things can get tough and you just think “what’s the point?” I did have a few moments like that where I felt that sense of darkness pushing in and pressing in on us. And then a friend contacted me and put the situation into a spiritual context for me. It led me to this verse, “The light shines in the darkness has not overcome it.” I was so encouraged by that image that actually darkness cannot overcome light. It reminded me of a story that I heard in primary school. I feel like probably everybody heard this story in primary school, I heard it several times in primary school. It is a folk tale but it is something that reminds us of the power of light:
There was a gentleman who had three sons and he decided rather than the usual tradition of giving his inheritance to the oldest son, he decided he would give the inheritance to the one who was perhaps the most intelligent, the cleverest, the wisest. He decided to test them and gave them each a penny. He told them to go to market and purchase something with that penny – obviously in the olden days when pennies were still worth something – that would fill his barn. The first son comes back from the market the next and his purchase is as many feathers as a penny would buy him. He tosses them into the barn in the hope that they are going to fill the barn but of course they don’t, there’s not enough to fill the barn. The second son sees the first son make the mistake and thinks that I can do better than that. He goes off to market and comes back with a bail of straw. For a penny! I wish I could still buy a bail of straw for a penny that would be good. I deal with straw every morning, straw does not go far. I’m forever trying to make straw go further than it actually does go because I’m trying to be as economically as possible in sorting out a horse’s bed. On this occasion the straw did not fill the barn. The youngest son had watched the two older sons and he had an idea. He went off to market the following week and he came back with a candle. He then took the candle into the barn, lit the candle and the light filled the barn. And of course he was the one who received the inheritance.
That’s just a simple story but light is so powerful, it can fill dark places. Lets just remember that verse again: The light shines in the darkness has not overcome it. The actual word in there ‘overcome’ can be translated in two different ways, it can be translated to overcome but it can also be translated as understood. “The light shines in the darkness has not understood it”. The darkness can’t comprehend the light, it doesn’t understand how the light works. I find that so encouraging at this time where perhaps there might be moments where we might feel that the darkness is pushing in or things might be worrying us or that there are pressures on us. Remember that the light, the light of Jesus, overcomes that. Is so much more powerful than it, that darkness does not even understand it. It is a really powerful image that we can see just what a difference light makes. I want to encourage you with that today because in the context of joy, if we can grasp hold of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, that walking closely with the Holy Spirit so that joy comes out of us, I believe that it is like the light of Jesus that light then illuminates out of us and can impact the world around us. I really want to encourage you that in the same way as Jesus’ light shines, let your light shine before others. Allow joy to become that expression through you this Christmastime because I believe that it will make a difference in other people’s lives. It will be like the light overcoming darkness. I’ll read that verse again:
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16 NIV
And we don’t do this for our own glory, we don’t seek to express joy for our own glory but to glorify our father in heaven. Let’s be so full of joy this Christmas that we make a great difference in the lives of those around us.