Welcome back to our series on the fruit of the Spirit! I think I’d go so far as to say that this passage in Galatians is one of my all-time favorites in Scripture. I’ve known and loved these words since I was a young child. Of course, it wasn’t until I was much older that I began to understand their meaning. These nine virtues are anything but simple and easy. We cannot manufacture them. They are not man-made. We do not produce any one of these on our own, by our own ability, or in our own strength.
As I’ve thought about and prepared for this post on joy, there is one verse that continues to rise to the surface in my mind, and I want to share it with you today.
“For you bring me a continual revelation of resurrection life, the path to the bliss that brings me face-to-face with you.” Psalm 16:11 TPT
“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” Psalm 16:11 NLT
“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 ESV
I absolutely love this progression of translations. Starting with The Passion Translation (a very paraphrased, thought-for-thought rendering of the original languages) and moving all the way to the English Standard Version (a very accurate, word-for-word translation from the Hebrew here), we see this beautiful, unfolding description of where joy is found.
In the presence of the LORD.
Once again, we find our way back to the discipline and delight of abiding in Christ, remaining in Him, and staying connected to Him. The beauty of this revelation is that joy can be had and known no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in if we are staying connected to Jesus—and not just joy, but fullness of joy.
Every year, I ask the Lord to give me a word for that year, something for me to focus on, pursue, and prioritize. The word “presence” kept stirring in me leading up to January 1, 2019, and so I’ve made it of utmost importance and priority to pursue the presence of the Lord this year, however I can and whatever it takes.
The days are long and hard. Can I get an “Amen?” Joy can seem to be incredible fleeting and illusive. I’ve been in an extended season of hurt, confusion, and transition, all of which has daily tempted me to forfeit my joy. Notice my very intentional usage of the word “forfeit.” Our joy isn’t stolen. We make choices to forfeit it. How? When we don’t regularly, actively, intentionally, and persistently prioritize the pursuit of the presence of God. Joy is found there, friends. Read Psalm 16:11 again.
In His presence, there is fullness of joy.
So, what do you think exists outside of His presence? Well, happiness for sure. And what is happiness? It’s a counterfeit of true joy. It’s an elated emotion or feeling that is dependent upon circumstances. When circumstances are great, happiness can abound. When circumstances take a turn for the worse, happiness evaporates.
This is why James writes, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,” in James 1:2. He’s not being delusional. He’s not the eternal optimist that is rejecting the reality of the hardness of life. He’s not crazy to pen these words. He knows the joy that can be had and known when one chooses to prioritize the presence of God. While the hardships and trials aren’t joyful in and of themselves, joy can still be had in the midst of them if we are found clinging to the Creator of joy.
Joy is not a feeling, friends. It’s a fruit. And joy will grow, flourish, and abound as you and I choose to prioritize the presence of Jesus.