Thought for the Week - 22nd November 2015Pastor Gareth Watkins
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
Vindicate me, my God,
and plead my cause
against an unfaithful nation.
Rescue me from those who are
deceitful and wicked.
You are God my stronghold.
Why have you rejected me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?
Send me your light and your faithful care,
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you dwell.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
The Fruit of the Spirit that is Joy
Today I want to focus on the second fruit of the spirit, which is joy.
What is joy? And how is it appropriated in our lives? Some people mix up happiness and joy. I would say that joy is far deeper than happiness.
Let me share a story with you… A young man has a nice sports car which he’s just bought from new. He’s driving it with the roof down, through the country lanes, to pick up his girlfriend. The sun is shining, the music is blasting, he is over the moon and so happy! But then, all of a sudden, it breaks down. He can’t get it started, and worse than that, his girlfriend is waiting and he can’t ring her to tell her what’s happened. Do you think he’s happy now? No, he’s not a happy chap.
Happiness is something that can be with you for one minute and then disappear in a second flat. That young man might have strived for years to buy that car. But there he is… robbed of his happiness in a moment of time.
If happiness is so transient, what is joy all about? Because the fruit of the spirit is joy. Joy is deeper, more meaningful and more substantial. It doesn’t just deal with the outward, but with the deeper inner part of our spiritual life.
In the verses above, two men both found joy in difficult circumstances. Habakkuk talks of work failing, a fruitlessness, a hunger and weakness, and unable to cope. Yet he talks in such a way of finding joy. He is able to turn to God in the middle of all that! Even today we can feel that our lives are fruitless, can’t afford their bills, feel weak and vulnerable, or that their work isn’t going to plan. In the middle of that, like Habakkuk we can turn to God and find joy!
That joy isn’t to be mixed up with happiness – the sports car and girlfriend – but is an inward thing that can only be found by accessing God. That friends, is a special thing!
David spoke about being surrounded by ungodly men, feeling down and disquieted. We can feel the same today; isolated, attacked and depressed. In the midst of this all, King David went to the altar of God, to the God of his exceeding joy! In other words, he’s saying that joy is something that is found inwardly and spiritually. Everything externally can be going wrong for him, but there is something when he goes to God that brings this deep, deep joy.
Are you being disquieted today? Are you feeling depressed or attacked? Do you feel that there are ungodly people around you making life dreadful for you? If you do, then praise God that you can see it. But also praise God that there is a way for us to access a deeper sense of joy by coming to God! This sense of joy will keep us safe in the midst of all of these things.
How blessed are we that we don’t have to be bound by these things! Amidst all the troubles and trials of our life, we can take everything to God and He will put deep joy into us, which will give us the ability to stand in that day.
Back in Acts, the Disciples were full of joy, praising God even though they were being hunted down. And in 2015, God can still put joy into us, whatever our external circumstances! Some people live their lives deeply disquieted, but we have the answer for them. If we go to God as David did, then God will give you that exceeding joy. If you go to God as Habakkuk did, then you will have that joy. If we go to God as the Disciples did in Acts, we will have that joy.
Most of us can say we’ve experienced the feelings that Habakkuk and David experienced, but I want us to see that joy is obtainable!
Where you are working and where you are living, needs you to carry this love and this joy of God! This can continue, irrespective of what you’re outside influences are like – they don’t depend on you being happy, with your nice sports car or house. These are dependent on your relationship with God, irrespective of all the things man can give us.
Habakkuk chose to go to God. God dealt with his fruitlessness, his failures, his hunger and weakness. David chose to go to God and abide in God. And God gave him an “exceeding joy”, irrespective of the fact that ungodly people still chased him, that he was depressed and attacked.
It’s impossible to be filled with the Spirit and not to have joy. And it’s impossible to have joy without being filled with the Spirit.
This joy is inward and produces fruit around you. Ask yourself, is joy evident around you and what people see in you? If not, take these things to God, because He has something for you… deep joy!