Jesus said: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”John 15:11
Let’s continue to look at the fruit that we bear when we abide in Jesus. Jesus assures us (in John 15) that he is the vine and we are the branches. And when we stay attached to Jesus, we will naturally bear his fruit. What is that fruit? Paul identifies this fruit in Galatians 5, in a list that calls “the fruit of the Spirit.” They are: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” These are qualities of a spiritual life that naturally occur when we abide in Jesus. Last week we looked at the first of these fruit: love. Now let’s look at the second: joy.
When we abide in Jesus, we have joy. As Jesus goes on to say in that passage from John 15, when we abide in Jesus, when we abide in his love, we will have his joy: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” Our joy is a measure of how well we are abiding in Jesus.
Not our happiness, but our joy. And I think it is important to remember how different happiness and joy are from one another. Happiness, as we all know, is fleeting. Some days we are happy, and some days we are sad. Our circumstances often dictate which it will be. We chase after happiness, but even when we catch it, it slips away. And even on those days when we are genuinely happy, deep down we know it won’t last. Because happiness is not eternal.
Abiding in Jesus does not always make us happy – but it always brings us joy. Because joy is very different from happiness. “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” Our joy, in other words, is complete when we abide in Jesus. Why? Because this joy is a gift from Jesus, and a fruit of the Holy Spirit. “My joy may be in you,” Jesus says. It is his joy, not ours, and this is good news!
Since it is not our joy, we need not fear losing it. We can always find it in the Lord. The world can take away our happiness, perhaps, but never our joy. There are obviously some things happening in our world that do not make us happy. In fact, they are probably making us quite sad. There may be some things happening in your life right now that are making you sad. You might be happy right now. You might not be. But the point that Jesus is making in this passage, which takes place in the Upper Room right before he is arrested, is that there is a joy which he offers us that we can always find. The joy of the Lord. The joy that comes from Jesus. By abiding in Jesus, we can always have joy.
I think this is why Paul wrote these memorable words from his prison cell: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). A prison cell could not take away Paul’s joy. Nothing can. We can rejoice in the Lord always, even when we can’t rejoice in other things. Why? Because Jesus came to bring us his joy. And when we abide in Jesus, our joy is complete. Thanks be to God. Amen.