Considering joy

A big thank you to our Council President, Jan Gera, who shared this for devotions last night at our monthly Church Council Meeting.

Philippians 4: 4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

by Jess Schwartz | May 5, 2016
I ventured out on a run. As my feet methodically hit the pavement, my mind turned inward, and not on productive thoughts. To put it bluntly, I was worrying, fretting, and moping. I regret to admit that the argument could easily have been made that I was throwing myself a pity-party. And I knew better! I knew about the command to “rejoice always,” but I didn’t feel like rejoicing. For about 15 minutes of my run, I allowed my thoughts to run rampant. With a jolt, I realized the underlaying current of what I was choosing to do. Phil 4:4-7 makes a clear statement that if you are rejoicing, looking to God in trust, and with thanksgiving, then the peace of God will be with you. By making the choice not to do those things, I was both willfully deciding to not have peace and also clearly making the choice to cut off access to joy. I was essentially saying that my feelings trumped what the Word of God actually said.
This brings up an interesting point, joy isn’t an emotion that is constantly gushing out of our lives without us having to think about it, or something that is naturally present without Christ’s enabling grace. That isn’t to say that joy can’t become an ever-present fruit that is always available and growing in our lives—because it can be! However, just like a physical garden needs to be tended to produce abundant fruit, there are certain things we need to do to cultivate this fruit of the Spirit in our own lives.
As we choose to consider Christ and what He did for us, as we turn our hearts thankfully to Him, and as we look to Him in trust, we are also making the choice to “grow” the sweet fruit of joy.