“Joy is not a requirement of Christian discipleship, it is a consequence. It is not what we have to acquire in order to experience life in Christ; it is what comes to us when we are walking in the way of faith and obedience.”
― Eugene H. Peterson
The fruit of joy is a much vaunted and confused thing in Christian circles.
Of course, we all want to experience joy, but how are we to know the experience of joy if we have never truly experienced it? We all have our ideas about what joy is, but we find it extremely difficult to create or recreate the circumstances that contribute to the bringing of joy. The more we chase joy, the more it eludes us.
But Eugene Peterson gives us a hint as to the role of joy in the Christian experience. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, so it comes as a consequence of walking in the Spirit. The more we simply obey God, the more we are blessed with joy.
We worry about not having enough joy, never really understanding that joy is a consequence of faith expressing itself as obedience. In the simplest terms, if we obey the Word and will of God there will be joy as an outcome. Then we know joy.
What does this mean in practical terms?
It means looking beyond the struggle that are our circumstances, and looking up to God. It’s not easy, but faith makes it so. It means understanding that every human being is capable of betrayal, just as each one of us has betrayed God. It’s not easy, but faith makes it so. It means we are grateful for having been saved from the consequences and the entrapment of our sins. It’s not easy, but faith makes it so. It means our focus is continually trained on blessing others, and we are routinely less self-interested, apart from our intense interest in our own character growth. It’s not easy, but faith makes it so.
Suddenly the most important relationship is our relationship with God; it takes precedent. We are also most likely to begin to be open to seeing how we are contributing to the problems in our life. We will also be more than interested in a life of repentance; of routinely turning back to God. It’s not easy, but faith makes it so.
Faith makes obedience possible. It’s because faith is surrendered to God without reservation. When faith expresses itself as obedience, joy is an inevitable outcome.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.