These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11
As we continue our look at the Fruit of the Spirit listed for us in Galatians 5, we move on this month to the second quality of that fruit – joy. We need not look too hard to recognize that the world (and often our lives) has a woeful shortage of joy and instead a surplus of fear, worry, discouragement and depression.
Yet amidst this joy shortage, Jesus speaks of living life with full joy. That is what God desires and can give to us. Jesus said “these things I have spoken to you” so that we would experience this joy. If we look at the words immediately preceding that statement, we find three significant ingredients to the joyful life of which he speaks.
Connection to the Vine
John 15 is a famous chapter in the Bible. In his gospel, John records seven “I am” statements of Jesus. John 15 contains one of those, “I am the Vine.”
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
Jesus is the vine and we are the branches feeding and growing off that vine. Being connected to Jesus is the first key to being full of joy.
Only when a branch is connected to the vine will it be healthy, fruitful and grow. It is the same with us. Only when we are connected to Christ will we be healthy and “bear much fruit.” Ah, there’s the fruit again. While there is application in these words to all types of fruit in the Christian’s life including all the fruit of the Spirit, a few verses later Jesus highlights joy specifically (v11)
Rooted in Love
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. John 15:9
Another key to a healthy vine is the soil in which it is planted. The soil of Jesus vine is love. He “abides” in the Father’s love and we are to “abide” in Jesus love. Abide simply means “to remain.” We Christ followers are to be inseparably linked to Christ in all areas of life. We depend on Him for grace and power for living.
Abiding In Love Obeys
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. John 15:10
Abiding in Christ (remaining in His love) and obeying Christ are also inseparably linked. Jesus stated quite plainly “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If we abide in love we will obey, and as we obey we will continue to abide in the life giving vine.
So these are the three things Jesus identifies as the joy producing ingredients of life: (1) being connected to him, (2) abiding in his love and (3) living in obedience to his commands. us producing joy in our lives.
Now, let me ask: When you dream of what would bring you joy in your life, are these the first three things that came to mind? I am going to guess not. Why is that?
One big reason is that we tend to confuse happiness and joy. Happiness is an emotion, and God never intended for people to be in that emotional state all the time. There is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Happiness is a glad feeling that depends on something good happening. Because of that, happiness tends to come and go – it is rather fleeting and conditional. . Think about it, “hap” means chance and is the root of several words— happen, happening, haphazard (dependent on mere chance), hapless, happenstance (a chance circumstance) . To be sure, God wants you to experience happy times, but His greater desire is that you possess unconditional joy.
True joy that Jesus speaks of comes from within, is not subject to external circumstances and it goes well beyond emotion. Think of joy as a strong foundation that supports a variety of healthy emotions, including happiness. The long-range evidence of joy is general gratitude, contentment, optimism, a sense of freedom and other positive attitudes.
Joy is an inner filling of a spiritual void. The expression that we often use of “overflowing with joy” communicates that idea well. And here, Jesus is telling us that it is a close, connected relationship with him that will produce that inner joy in our lives. And it is the work of the Holy Spirit to produce and develop the fruit of joy in our lives to its fullest.
Some Food (Fruit?) for Thought:
- If there was a “joy-meter” able to measure the level of joy in your life, what would its reading be? Where would you like it to be?
- What are the things you look for and pursue as joy producers in your life? Do those things indicate a blurring of happiness and joy?
- How connected do you feel to Jesus, the vine? What do you make of the phrase “apart from me you can do nothing?”
Some Steps That Could Help:
- Identify at least one thing this month that robs you of joy. Dialogue with God (and perhaps a friend) to help you eliminate that “joy-sucker” from your life.
- Take a step to become better connected to Christ this month. Some ideas:
- Commit to additional time or times of prayer each day . It need not be long, drawn out times – just some intentional time of connecting with and listening to God.
- Did you know that John said he wrote his gospel “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)? Commit to reading through the gospel of John this month, identify the other 6 “I Am” statements and see if that doesn’t connect you better to the vine!
- Relationships with others can also play a big part in our joy level. Be sure to seek out and spend time with positive, content, optimistic people who themselves are filled with gratitude and joy resulting from their healthy connection to Christ. You may be surprised how big of a difference limiting your time with negative people can make in your life.