It was a major time of transition in my life, and things didn’t appear to be working out. I was working for a ministry, but was having a hard time making ends meet. I was getting by month-to-month, but just barely.
I was having a hard time maintaining my joy.
I grew up in a Christian family and learned at an early age that joy was not dependent on circumstances. “Joy,” I was taught in Christian school, “came from having your priorities straight: Jesus, Others, then You (J.O.Y.).”
I thought my priorities were in line. I was serving God and others in the ministry. But I wasn’t making enough money to maintain margin in my life. So I wasn’t feeling J.O.Y.; I was feeling STRESS.
But when I went to work I’d see all these folks who seemed to be full of joy, despite their circumstances. One man in my office, William, stood out above all the others. He was always bubbling over with the joy of the Lord. He would greet others in the hallway with a “God is good, all the time,” or with a “Praise the Lord.” Then there was my favorite expression, “Look at God!”
As the old Carman song said, I wanted “some o-dat.” I figured I could just get some from this brother in the Lord.
One day I stopped William and told him that I admired how he displayed the joy of the Lord in his daily life and speech. I asked if he would lay hands on me and impart this gift.
I fully expected him to happily put his hand on my shoulder and pray for me. So I was absolutely shocked when he replied, “No, I will not.” He must have seen my look of surprise as I groped for words to reply.
He quickly added, “The Bible tells us in Psalm 16:11 that ‘in His presence is fullness of joy.’ If you want joy in your life, you need to get into the presence of the Lord. He is the only one who can fill you with joy.”
I was reminded by my friend William that joy is a fruit of the Spirit. Fruit is not imparted. Fruit grows. Fruit must be nurtured. The fruit of the Spirit comes by abiding in the Vine. Jesus said,
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NLT)
William did pray for me, but instead of imparting joy, he prayed that I would have a hunger and thirst for God’s presence. I walked away a little bewildered by the encounter. But as I thought about what William said I realized that he was sharing biblical wisdom.
When I got off work that day I walked down to the chapel and closed the door behind me. After several moments of prayer and praise the stress of the day started to lift and I began to sense the sweet presence of the Lord. As I knelt in prayer and worshipped my Creator, slowly I felt my joy returning to me.
Since that time, like the Apostle Paul, “I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.” (Philippians 4:12-13, NLT)
In the First Century – a time of great persecution against Christians – our good brother James wrote this about joy:
Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything. (James 1:2-4, NLT)
So if you feel like your joy tank is running low, get into the presence of the Lord today. Spend time in prayer and praise to your Creator. He will fill you with joy and develop in you endurance for anything He calls you to do.