Last Sunday, we kicked off a series about living spiritually, and we’ve based these lessons on the fruit of the Spirit we find in Galatians 5:22-23. This fruit is comprised of qualities we are each supposed to have as children of God, and His Spirit dwells in us through these qualities. These are qualities of our Lord, and we are more like Him when we let the Spirit guide us to better demonstrate these qualities in our lives.
The Challenge of Joy
Two qualities that show God’s Spirit in us are love and joy. And sometimes it can be challenge to find joy in the world around us, but I Thessalonians 5:16 calls on us to pray ceaselessly and to rejoice always. Paul tells us to avoid quenching the Spirit in our lives. Whatever we are facing, we can put things in God’s hands. We face a world full of things that can quench our joy and love, but His presence in us can combat those influences.
Depression is real. It is a clinical condition that affects a good 10% of people in our country. We cannot write off or discount the effects of depression on others, but there is intentional joy in the Lord. We can be joyful by design. We can work away from the darkness of the world, and God’s word can help us with that. Intentional behaviors can have a positive impact on our self esteem, our worldview, and our most basic level of happiness.
When asked how challenging it was to be blind, Helen Keller once reportedly responded, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” Vision gives us something to work toward, something we can look forward to. Vision keeps things in perspective, but God’s perspective may cause us to look to different things with new priorities.
50% of our happiness is attributed to genetic inheritance. 10% is affected by our work and other life pursuits, and 40% is affected by intentional behaviors. We have a great deal of control over the joy we experience and share with others. Galatians 2:20 records Paul testifying that he has died to self and is now alive to Christ. This is a man who had great reasons to feel depressed or have low self-esteem. He gave his life over to God, and he found peace and contentment in God regardless of circumstance. His joy was an intentional one.
The Joy of Love
Having strong relationships with family and friends has a large impact on our personal happiness. We have greater joy in the Lord when we have strong relationships with our church families. If we want a joyful congregation, we need a congregation that builds and maintains loving relationships. Acts 2:42 describes the closeness of the early church, people who had all things in common and who daily relied on each other for support and encouragement.
This loving joy is active. It involves doing meaningful things, looking after the interest and well-being of others. How much do we see that in the life of our Savior? How often did He intentionally seek out those He could lift up and help? His Spirit should be guiding our pursuits and activities. It should make us more altruistic, more generous, more interested in others and less interested in self.
How does all of this fit in with the very real things that can rob us of joy — losing homes, losing jobs, losing loved ones? The psychology of it is this: the more involved you are in intentionally lifting others up in joy and love, the more quickly you can recover from tragic events in your life. Ephesians 3:14 has Paul speaking of Christians who are rooted in love, serving others, and strengthening each other in God. Being grounded in these things will always help us recover from tragedy.
Seeking After Love & Joy
Mark 4:13 begins an explanation of the parable of the sower, and Jesus speaks of those whose roots are cut off by the cares and concerns of this world. We should be seeking to strengthen our roots, so nothing can pull us away from God. We help form these roots by taking our focus form self, letting His Spirit dwell in us, and serving others in joy and love.
When we focus on fulfilling our own wants, we will always want more. There is no joy to be found there. It takes an intentional choice to cease chasing after the things of this world and looking to higher and better goals. People who work toward making things better for others and the world around them consistently find more joy and fulfillment in their lives than those who have more selfish goals.
So many passages speak about love, and they consistently talk about our love focusing on others and focusing on God. As children of God, our focus should be on building others up, on forming strong family bonds, and on making the world a more godly place. We have something higher to anticipate than the next car, raise, or other material purchase. This higher calling will make us more loving and happier people, and then we can better share that joy and love with others.
lesson by Steve Jones