I didn't want to just exist in the middle of a HARD life, I wanted to exude JOY at all times, in all circumstances, as Paul rather commands in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, "Rejoice always..." So, as I was mapping my journey, and the places I thought I had to visit, in order to reach the destination, it dawned on me, that JOY was not the destination. JOY was the journey; and, in the middle of the journey, in order to be a joy-filled Christian, there would be places I'd have to take the time to visit, in order to create space for JOY. I also discovered that joy-robbers would be ever hiding along the road, often in the most unsuspecting places, but I did find that the Lord gave me warning signs, if I were ever-mindful. On those not-so-rare moments, one of the sneaking fast-acting thieves attacked and stripped me of my joy (leaving me with the wondering thought, "What just happened?"), the Lord sweetly showed me ways to restore my joy. He thinks of EVERYTHING!
Now, this: I've been particularly selfish about JOY. I have wanted JOY for ME! For what it would do for ME! For how others would look at ME in the midst of the hard. I can be so narcissistic about my spirituality at times. Deeply convicted, however, right now! (I've blogged about this before, but it just keeps coming back...I know FOR ME, I've needed to revisit this whole concept about giving joy away...)
As I began my morning journaling detailing a summary of all that I've learned over the last eight months, the Lord planted a seed in my mind. It came as I was looking at Jesus words in John 15, and Paul's words about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. I am a part, a small part, but a part, of God's garden. His garden is for fruit-bearing. Refreshing fruit. Fruit that others receive and, as they partake, enjoy, and find themselves renewed. The fruit is to attract attention to the True Vine and the Gardener. I'm just a branch, and my purpose is to be as fruitful as possible (love, JOY, peace...). Life-giving-fruit-bearers: this is what we are all called to be.
Instead, I've wanted to be a hoarder. I want fruit, but I want to put it all up for myself. I suppose this is relevant right now, because I'm spending so much time putting up peaches, pears, apples, corn, jerky, fruit leather, zucchini, kale, spinach, pesto, carrots, onions, tomatoes, marinara (most from my "harvest" this summer). It's fine to have all that on hand when winter hits, but I have more than I could ever use. So, what have I done with the excess? I've given it away for others to enjoy. I've been blessed to "share the wealth." If I tried to keep it, it would spoil before I got to it all. What a waste!!!!
The fruit of JOY - it's meant to be given away. To hold it all to myself spoils it in my selfishness; and, that, too, is a WASTE! So, this is how I'll close this study over the next few weeks. How do I give away the fruit of joy? As I've thought about it this morning, I've come up with a few thoughts. Hope you're ready to bag up a little joy and share the wealth! Odd thing is, when I give fruit away, I also fill up with more JOY. That's today's lesson on joy: We can't out-give God when it comes to fruit; the more we give away, the more we receive.
He thinks of EVERYTHING!