Seriousness is not a fruit of the Spirit. I’ve looked. For the record, neither is respectability. But what I am finding over and over again as I search out the Kingdom is joy.
“It is for the joy set before him (Jesus) that he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and is seated at the right hand of God…” Hebrews 12:2
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self control…” Galatians 5:22
“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…” Romans 14:17
“Rejoice in The Lord always, again I will say – rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
And there are literally hundreds of verses more.
The point of listing out these Scriptures is not to brow beat you into behavior management. The point is to hopefully point out how integral joy is to the lives of those who follow Jesus. Joy in every circumstance. Joy in trouble and tribulation. Joy in restoration and reconciliation. Joy in mourning and joy in rejoicing.
And joy is so much more than happiness. Joy is happiness plus perspective. ( Joy = Happiness + Perspective for you mathematical types. :D)
Some folks try to tell me that happiness is based on circumstances. I don’t believe them. I have joy and joy is eternal – it trumps circumstance every time.
I can honestly say I couldn’t find anything to be sad about Easter morning. It was cold and rainy, I’d just lost a friend not 12 hours before, I knew of three families struggling with the recent loss of loved ones, I had a sore big toe. But there was nothing that was going to stop me from celebrating, shouting, dancing, or laughing because I had something to rejoice in.
I have a Daddy who loves me unconditionally. I have a King who is pure and righteous and Good. I have a personal Counselor who is an expert Comforter. I have friends who have entered into Glory and no longer walk by faith. I have friends and family who are relentlessly hopeful lovers of God. I have the sure knowledge that we will make it through, that the Light will overcome the dark no matter what storm rages on.
Joy. Joy is what makes us steadier than our circumstances. Joy is what empowers us to live differently than the people around us. Joy is what sets us apart.
Joy is what cost David his wife’s respect. Joy is what shook the foundation of the prison where Paul and Silas were singing, setting the prisoners free. Joy is what allowed Peter and John to preach even after being beaten by the Sanhedrin. Joy is the reward that steadied Jesus through the most painful hour of darkness imaginable.
I don’t think we’ve begun to comprehend how valuable joy is in God’s economy. I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface of how powerfully joy can impact a culture. In rejecting demonstrative joy we’ve cut ourselves off from a vital source of strength and contented ourselves with the broken cisterns of respectable religion. We’ve drunk of those defiled long enough in my opinion. It is time for Living Water.