There was that time back at Camp Aldersgate, just outside Leesville, Ohio. I hadn’t taken any swimming lessons at any of the other camps I had been. But here was the opportunity for me to sail in a boat on Leesville Lake.
There was just one catch. If memory serves me correctly, I had to be able to swim in the deep part of the swim area on the lake before I could enjoy the sail boat. The water in the deep part was at least 12-15 feet deep. And I had to tread water in that deep water.
The lifeguards were there, cheering me on. I think the other campers my age were poking fun at me. But I was determined to sail in one of the camp’s small sailboats. So, I jumped in. I don’t know if the water was cold or what, but the life guards did their job.
It was either that day or the very next day, I jumped in the deep part of the swim area. This time I survived. So, on the 3rd day of camp I was able to enjoy the sail boats. At that time in my life, there was nothing like it. It was enjoyable to sail that small sail boat with another camper.
If it hadn’t been for the encouragement of the life guards, then I don’t think I would have been able to sail on Leesville Lake. There was a level of joy that came from reaching that level of living.
That makes me think that the church can be full of life guards. There is nothing like watching someone who doesn’t know Jesus, just jump in to the water and believe. There is nothing like seeing someone develop trust in God.
For when we see people get into believing Jesus is God’s Son, we see people who find more out of life. They are able to find joy. We are able to live a life of joy. When we believe in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit gives us joy.
Now this joy we are speaking about is not an emotion or a feeling. Emotions can be reactions, even drivers used by the flesh, to cause us or someone else harm. If the joy we are examining was a feeling, then it could fade away. No, the joy we are speaking about is a calm delight. It is an atmosphere of gladness. It is an overflowing container of cheerfulness. But we don’t make this joy.
As we remember that we are examining the fruit of the Spirit, we realize it is the Holy Spirit of God that provides this fruit! That is right, as we are walking by the Spirit of Christ we are going to produce fruit. This fruit is more than an attitude. This fruit is more than an idea. As the Holy Spirit fills the baptized disciple, the fruit of the Spirit permeates every part of the Body of Christ.
When we realize we belong to Jesus, the desires of the flesh, even the flesh itself is crucified. Instead of the flesh guiding us to cause division, the Spirit is guiding us to create fruit. This is fruit that lasts. It is a confidence in God. The joy that the Holy Spirit produces through us has many facets. If we were to shine a light onto a diamond, the light would reflect and fill the room. That is like the joy the Body of Christ has.
This joy we see produced comes from knowing that our sins are forgiven. When we come before God with a broken and contrite heart, we know that God restores us. The joy comes from knowing God has given us salvation. When God delivers us from our sins, God gives us new life.
As we live this new life, our life together becomes joyous. Even when there is suffering, we find joy. Jesus said that we are blessed when we are persecuted for His sake. The blessing we receive is joy. Again, it is a calm delight to know that we are following Jesus and His Spirit in this life.
Life will throw us curveballs, continuously. This item will break. That situation will beat us up. People will be mean to us. People will ignore us. As Habakkuk wrote, “Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; through the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
We soon realize that Jesus gave up much so that we could have joy. The cross had to be endured, so we could be restored to God’s image. The shame of the cross was Jesus’ focus, so we could see joy beyond compare in the kingdom of God. Now that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God, the joy we see in the Body of Christ, in the church, grows as we anticipate being near Jesus in God’s kingdom!
As more people believe in Jesus Christ, the joy of the church grows. As more people are baptized, crucifying their flesh, the joy the Spirit gives fills the church.
What does this mean for us? It means that we are reminded to walk by God’s Spirit. Is the flesh running your life? Then crucify the flesh. Start speaking to the people in the church who you don’t understand. Start loving as Jesus commanded us. Start to place God first in life. Then we can all experience the joy that God has for us.