Joy springs from love. This is why joy follows love in the list. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you….I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:9, 11-13). Jesus is claiming here that there is a connection between love and joy. He is saying that the joy starts with the Father, for He starts, “As the Father has loved me, so.” God the Father is the source. Jesus has received His love forever and when He came down to live as a human being the Father’s love followed Him and accompanied Him, and fed Him, and nourished Him, and everything that He did. And Jesus lived such a life that He is constantly showing the Father’s love and His love to us. And now we have the opportunity to pass it on to others. This is a little bit different thinking than a phrase that’s often used when Christians are trying to define joy. They say, “Well, here is the key to joy. J.O.Y. Jesus is first. Others are second. You are third.” There is some truth in that, but it kind of puts the emphasis on “I” have got to figure out how to do this. But when you see the order that Jesus is talking about here in John 15 He is saying, “No, it starts with God. He flows with love.” The Father’s love flows down to us through Jesus, reaches us, fills us to the brim, and then it overflows. It’s like in Psalm 23 about our cup overflows, and we are supposed to go slosh it on people. Slosh that love on whoever we meet. That is what we are called to do. That is what He is offering to us. And He says when we do this our joy will be complete. It will be full. It will be overflowing. How much joy do you need? Usually the answer is more than I got. We need plenty. Joy would transform our lives if it were lived in an overflowing way but they devil gets in there and tries to prevent it.
Joy links to grace. It links to grace because they come from the same Greek root. Greek is the language which the New Testament was written in. And the word grace in Greek is charis. The word joy is chara. They sound a lot alike don’t they? That root – char – has a meaning, and this is what it means. This is the meaning of the root char. It is whenever you bend over to lift someone up, or to gift them with something. That is the root meaning. And so grace means when God bends down to give us His favor, His forgiveness, His attention, His kindness, His Fatherly love. Joy then is the response to grace. I am down here and I am looking up and oh somebody sees me in my need, somebody is stooping down, somebody is reaching out, somebody is giving me what I need. That is what joy is. When you realize I have received what I need from God then there is joy.
Psychological studies have shown us that joy causes the brain to grow better than any health food especially in the first year of life but also beyond that. It is the best additive that you can give to a child or an adult. Joy also improves our immune system more than any exercise that there is. If you are joyful your immune system is stronger. That is why when we become ill if we just sit there and we are moping about it all, that is not making things better. If instead we are saying, “Lord, I’m going to trust You in the middle of this. I’m trusting You as my healer, as the One who gave His life for me. ‘By your wounds I am healed’, Jesus says.” Then there can be joy, and that immune system improves.
Joy is the realization that someone is glad to be with me, and in return I am glad to be with them.
“Jesus has always been the source of our strength. Jesus has always been our protector. Jesus has also always been the one who has stooped down to care for us and love us and give us joy.” -Egidio (Phil’s camp friend)
Joy is realizing that someone is glad to see you. And the highest joy is to realize that God is glad to see you when you pass from this life. You don’t have to worry about, “What about all the bad things I did? After all I’m really just a possum with all kinds of sins and weaknesses.” But our protector, Jesus, brings us the love of the Father and we live in that joy forever. That is what He give us. He gives it to us to share with one another. This is why joy is a fruit of the Spirit. Do you know why they are called fruit of the Spirit and not just things of the Spirit? Because fruit has seeds in it. You plant it and more of it grows. You plant love more of it grows. You plant joy more of it grows. Try it with the other seven packets more of them will grow. That is what the Lord is giving us here. Joy that can transform our relationships, and our groups, so that the love and grace and joy of the Lord are present among us.