READ Galatians 8:13-26 (Read again verses 22-23)
It was a grim warning but we were warned by health professionals that the mortality rate would increase rapidly as the virus progressed and more people were infected. Nevertheless when we hear of the number of people who died in the last 24 hours of this one thing it is shocking and worrying. Yesterday I drove Karen to a food outlet to collect some things she had ordered on line. When we arrived the shop was also open and many who were coming out were wearing masks and gloves, an indication of the fear that is building in the community. We look now on others as a potential threat to our health. A few nights ago for a change we ordered a delivery from a national fast food chain. When it arrived the drive was kitted out with a mask and gloves, he deposited the boxes at the door and retreated keeping his distance. I was halfway though my meal when I thought to myself, “I wonder is this even safe to eat, who made it and who delivered it, are they in good health?” By that time though I reckoned it was too late to worry and carried on but it destroyed the enjoyment of the meal.
If worry and concern doesn’t make us paranoid it certainly destroys our peace and the enjoyment of life. Joy is one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. In other words joy and its partner peace are the result of the Spirit’s work in the believer but joy and happiness are not the same though we tend to use them interchangeably. Happiness is easily destroyed or removed by circumstances like when we have a bad day in work, a disappointment or something goes terribly wrong. All it takes is one phone call, a moment in time, a national crisis and our happiness evaporates to be replaced by worry or despair. However, joy in the context of the fruit of the spirit is much more and much more enduring. When we talk about the fruit of the Spirit, we are talking about what is produced when the character of Christ is formed in us as we yield and co-operate with the Spirit working in our lives. Joy then is more than simple a lightness of heart or elation brought about by circumstances, it is a deep contentment and along with it peace that comes from the God. The old hymn “In heavenly love abiding” captures the sense I think in the words, “the storm may roar without (outside) me, my heart may low be laid, by God is round about me, nor can I be dismayed?”
Joy is associated with salvation in the fullest sense of the word rather than the narrow sense in which we most often use it, “Are you saved brother?”, meaning have you got your ticket to heaven? It encapsulates the totality of the blessing and peace of God which Charles Wesley surely comes close to in the words “Jesus! The name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease; tis music in the sinner’s ears, tis life and health and peace.” Psalm 51 is a Psalm of repentance written by David in the aftermath of the episode with Bathsheba. Appealing to God not to take the Holy Spirit from him he follows that up with “Restore to me the joy of your salvation”, so even in David’s experience the presence and filling of the Holy Spirit and joy are closely associated, and where joy is found peace is there as well.
Lord in these days of uncertainty let me look to you for my safety and well being and that of my family and friends. Let your Spirit work in me until Christ and his character is formed in me, and let his presence be my joy and peace even today. AMEN