Sunday, January 19, 2014


JOY IS OFTEN AN ELUSIVE GIFT, yet it is listed second in the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22) Being so elusive it can quickly become trivialized or spiritualized. We trivialized it by placing it on a Bible-themed bumper sticker: “ JOY is Jesus first. Others second. Yourself last”. Sounds hardly joyful and more like work.  

We can spiritualize it by declaring that joy is that inner peace and happiness that comes from the Holy Spirit even when we’re in the deepest, darkest pit of despair. Hardly joyful sounding either!
True confession and disclosure: I have stated both of the descriptions regarding joy to many people; often without increasing their factor of joy one iota. For that I am truly sorry.

So then, what is this fruit of the Holy Spirit that is referred to as “joy”? I believe, that Holy Spirit-given joy is true deep happiness that comes from knowing you are loved by the One who is love. This joy is expressed through what I can only think to call the “sacred smile.”  It’s not as eerie as it sounds. Read on and I think you’ll understand.

My grandson, Sterling, is not quite five months old, but that kid has a smile that I sometimes think is going to break his face. When he smiles, the whole world seems to smile back.  You just can’t help it (and that’s not just a grandpa bragging . . . well, ok a little.)  The thing is at five months old he really is not able to fully grasp the philosophy of smiling. He doesn’t plan on it, or say to himself, “Hey grandpa is wearing his funny hat and making a silly face, I guess I’ll smile to make him happy and maybe he’ll do it again.” Nope, he just smiles. It just happens. I think it’s because that’s what God created us to do when we see something funny, or see something beautiful like a West Cliff Drive sunset, or see it with someone we love.

My theology of joy is this: God created us to be joyful! Sin and the brokenness it brings often robs us of that joy and I know that breaks the heart of God. Maybe that’s why He directed the Apostle Paul to write, “Rejoice in the Lord always! I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) And I am sure it’s why He reminds us with the sacred smile of the littlest ones among us.

So, rejoice and smile! It’s God’s gift to you and to the person sitting next to you.

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