But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, sefl-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5 v 16 – 23
Yesterday we spoke about stress – today let’s really focus on a great antidote to that: joy!
During advent every year I usually take the advent wreath and candles from the church into the schools where I am Chaplain. Each week leading up to the Christmas holidays I explain that each of the four candles represent gifts that are for everyone in the world and not just at Christmas: peace, hope, joy and love. Although the word “hope” is not in our list of fruits of the Spirit, the other 3 are and hope is implicit in them all. Joy however, is always the 3rd candle on the advent wreath and it is pink instead of purple like the others. It represents Mary, the mother of Jesus, on the Sunday in advent when we hear her “Magnificat” her joyful song that she sings when she realises she is pregnant with Jesus. I explain to the children in school and in church that joy is like happiness but it is extra special happiness we feel when realise God is involved in something.
Human beings seek to be happy. Often all their decisions are made on the basis of: Will this person or this thing make me happy? Or will I derive personal pleasure from this? Carried to an extreme, this approach to life is hedonism.
But with the fruit of the Holy Spirit there is a subtle yet significant difference. The word “joy” in Greek is chara, “the experience of gladness, joy.” Joy is not something we seek, but an experience of gladness that comes to us in God himself. When God is the source of our joy, then we aren’t constantly seeking outward experiences and people to bring us happiness, but we are finding happiness in God himself.
This is both an individual and community expression of the Holy Spirit’s presence which the apostle Paul writes about:
“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19-20)
We also read of Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail, “praying and singing hymns to God” at midnight (Acts 16:25). This is an expression of joy in the heart, even in the worst of circumstances. Something to think about this day and at this time in our history.
Children are experts in finding and expressing joy because they haven’t learned the ways of mistrust and cynicism that most adults have! Today in your prayer and meditation time get in touch with your breathing and hold your child of God self before God. Soften your heart and imagine the Spirit of joy being poured into it. See what difference that makes to your day? Can you find more meaning and delight, more positivity and gratitude? Can you decide to choose joy throughout the day?
The joy we speak of is contained in today’s music “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” by JS Bach: