The life, testimony, ministry, and teachings of one Jesus from Nazareth
What is one of the first things you think of when you hear the word joy? Do you picture the sheer excitement of a child on Christmas morning or the radiant smile of a bride on her wedding day? Well, this week we’re going to take a closer look at the meaning of joy, where to find it, and the many positive benefits of possessing it.
After laying out the sobering reality of what happens to the branches that bear fruit and those which do not, Jesus gives the reason why He was telling the Twelve these things:
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
So the entire point of the parable of the Vine and its branches was that we might share in and have fullness of joy or that our joy may be full! In the Greek, be full literally means to cram a net, make replete, or level up a hallow. It is a passive verb, therefore, meaning that we cannot do anything to attain it but it just happens. So no matter how hard you work at trying to have joy made full, you’ll never achieve it in your own strength. Then how can we attain this completeness of joy? By abiding in Christ. As we saw in last week’s post, Jesus is the Vine and we are His branches—mere extensions of the main Vine. Therefore, if we are truly abiding in Christ and at one with Him—part of the same plant—then what He has becomes ours: His joy, His love, His grace, His eternal inheritance, etc. And only with Christ’s joy, love, etc. are we made full. Our Creator has placed a God-sized hole in each one of our hearts—one that can only be filled by His Spirit. People who are looking to fill that hole with anything but God, end up fishing for whatever might fulfill the longings of their hearts and they always come away empty. But as the literal meaning of be full so wonderfully illustrates, when Christ’s joy is in us then our joy is like nets crammed full or hallow spots made level. What a beautiful promise!
We live in a world in which people have too little joy. Why? Because joy is often falsely associated with happiness. Happiness is an emotion dependent on circumstances, while joy is a choice, a decision of the mind and heart that has no basis on current events or seasons of life. As Christians, we should be the most joyful people around since we have the hope of eternal life, and our joy should be as steady and constant as the air we breathe. But why then are our churches filled with discontent, unsatisfied, glass-half-empty type of people? Why aren’t we an exceedingly joyful group of people? The reason: because choosing joy is hard work, and not a one-time decision but a daily one. However, as we learned in John 15, by abiding in Christ, His joy naturally becomes our joy, and we, therefore, don’t need to constantly choose joy but it’s simply a byproduct of abiding in the life-giving Vine. And since it is a byproduct of abiding, joy is considered a fruit as expressed by the Apostle Paul:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…”
We are all commanded to bear fruit as we learned last week, and joy is a fruit! Therefore, when we abide in Christ, His joy becomes ours, making our joy full and, thus, a fruit of the Spirit. Christ’s joy has so many positive qualities, doesn’t it?! However, we’re not done yet!
Another misconception about joy is that it is merely an attitude or outlook, but it’s much more than that! God’s true joy not only gives us a healthy outlook on life and fills up the hallow spots in our hearts, but it also gives us strength. As this promise found in Nehemiah boldly proclaims:
“And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Strength!!! We all need more of this rare commodity—both in the physical and spiritual realms. And the good news is that it’s easy to obtain, for the joy of the LORD gives us strength. Why? Because as we’ve seen in this study, only in Christ can we have true joy, and that true joy has the power to triumph over pain, sorrow, deep hurt, bitterness, and discontentment. Therefore, the joy of the Lord has incredible power!
So in light of all we’ve learned, I ask you…has YOUR joy been made full? Are YOU fully abiding and bearing fruit in Christ, the Vine, so that His joy is YOUR joy? Or are YOU trying to conjure up your own joy and, as a result, are constantly coming up short and feeling empty? Has your God-shaped hole been filled by the only One that can make it level?
In closing, let us constantly abide in the True Vine that we may receive His joy and be made full, strong, and fruit bearing. May we all experience the life-changing effect the possession of the joy of the Lord has on us and those around us! Therefore, go forth, bear fruit, and be filled to overflowing with JOY!
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” ~Psalm 16:11