In this week’s Fruits of the Spirit guest blog, Pastor Lance Hahn shares with us about the spirit of JoyPastor Lance currently serves as the lead pastor at Bridgeway Christian Church in RosevilleCalifornia, who has been supporting Mercy for over 12 years.  

Whenever I think of Joy as a Fruit of the Spirit, I think of a fruit tree. If we walked into an apple orchard and saw a juicy ripe apple, we would never sayOh, poor tree, you had to work so hard for that apple.” Why? Because apple trees make apples. We would actually know that there was something wrong with the tree if there were NOT apples on it. And it would most certainly be strange if we saw a few pears here and there. You see, apple trees don’t strain underground, saying to themselves, “c’mon apple, apple, apple…dang, orange!” Apple trees produce apples. It’s the most natural thing they can do. It almost looks easy or sometimes even magical 

A Christian with the Holy Spirit inside them (the only kind of true Christian there is  He is who makes us Christian in the first place), produces fruit of the Holy Spirit, naturally, normally, and sometimes it seems, at least when you see it in others, magical 

But the magic lies in the details. An apple tree comes from an apple seed. That seed is a little pod of everything it needs to start out. It’s going to emerge healthy. Then that seed is planted into the soil. Now that soil can be good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. Then there are the conditions around the soil that may or may not help. If you plant a perfect apple seed in the desert, it won’t grow. Why? Because the conditions don’t allow it and will actually shut down the production and starve out the growth.  

When we give our lives over to Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior, the Bible says that we become ‘New Creations.’ It talks about the process as being akin to being, ‘Born Again.’ The Holy Spirit comes down and indwells the new space that Jesus Christ opened up in our spirits, by His death on the cross and dying for our sins. The Holy Spirit comes like a perfect seed, wanting to settle, expand, and grow within us. The condition of our hearts and lives determine how much of His reality will come to fruition. Thankfully, He is an alive and active person who is always working with us and in us to renovate the soil conditions, but we can make it more difficult or less difficult along the way.  

The list of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 is not a ‘to-do’ list of things we need to work on. It’s a description of the inner life that naturally comes from what Jesus has done for us and what the Holy Spirit is creating in us. The Fruit is not something we struggle and strain to create (“I have to force myself to be more patient, I’m blowing up all the time…”), but more something we need to cultivate (“I need to get my heart and mind back with Jesus so I’m peaceful again…”) so that it flows through unhindered. The core is pure, but the soil and environment need some tending to. Unfortunately, when we get hurt, we harden our hearts and it makes the soil that the Holy Spirit is buried in, resistant to His love. Sometimes when we feed the negative parts of ourselves, we fill our soil with toxicity, and even what He tries to grow in us, comes out distorted. But the beautiful thing is that He keeps trying to get through. He’s so pure that He keeps purifying the soil around Him in our hearts and He’s absolutely a brilliant cultivator of Joy. 

 Let’s talk about Joy.  

Joy is one of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. That means that after all the love and attention we have received from the Father, after the incredible sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross cleansing us from all our sin and transforming us from the Kingdom of Darkness to Light, and the presence of the Holy Spirit emanating His glory in our hearts, our natural state of being should be happy, joyful, glad, exuberant, thankful, elated, pumped, thrilled, etc. The gifts of love from God are so powerful that they overwhelm any regular, human circumstance.  

Think about it this way: Imagine you woke up in the morning and turned on the news and found out that you won the lottery for $105 million. At the same time, you see that you got an email from your job terminating you due to corporate downsizing. How much do you care? Then you are driving to turn in your ticket when you get a flat tire. Does it derail your mood? Nope. The impact from one bit of truth, one bit of a reality shift, was so strong that it crushed any other moods that want to creep in and steal your joy. You aren’t struggling to keep in a good mood, it’s just naturally happening because something massive just happened in your life.  

In the same way, what God has done and IS DOING (and that last part ikey) is so significant that nothing on this planet can ruin your joy level. Joy is simply being excited and happy about your reality. In the Bible it talks about Joy in two ways: 1.) a Mood; 2.) an Action. Joy is a secondary emotion. What that means is that something has to happen to cause it. You can’t force it from nothing. You can’t take a person in an empty room, who has had no good experience and shout at them to be joyful. It has to be CAUSED by something prior. It’s similar to other emotions we feel, like fear. If someone jumped out at you and scared you, that’s a secondary emotion. But if I had you in a field with puppies and told you to be afraid, it wouldn’t work.  

So, what happened? What action causes us to feel Joy? 

As I said a couple of times already, the big thing that happened to you (far more important than a lottery win) is that God loved you personally and rescued you and made it so that you would never die, but would always be with Him, protected, forever. No matter what happens in this life, that reality stays. No matter what evolves in our lives on this planet, God is still the same, doing the same things and creating the same bigger reality.  

But here’s the important part to recognize…God’s still doing stuff… 

Sometimes we think that one big event should be enough to carry us and then it doesn’t because it fades into our memory. Let me give you an example: When I was around 3 years old, I fell in my aunt’s pool while the parents were sitting around talking one evening. Suddenly, someone recognized I was gone. They looked and there I was at the bottom of the pool. My dad jumped in with all his clothes and pulled me out. I remember his money laid out drying on the table when I awoke. As amazing as that story is and how thankful I should be to my dad, I forget about it. It’s not that big of a deal anymore. It’s old news. I should be appreciative, and I am, but a million things have happened between then and now, so it’s just kind of a nice memory. And that’s how it is with so many of us Christians after we’ve been Christians for a while.  

Here’s the big news…God is still actively loving and saving us. It’s not a one-and-done, go-back-to-your-corner-and-forget-about-it, kind of thing. It’s a living and active relationship whereby God is rescuing us over and over and loving us day in and day out. That’s why we need to cultivate our relationship with Him by praying a lot, and discovering more about Him in the Bible, have Christian friends, and go to church to hear how amazing He is with other people. Our love relationship needs to grow. We need to stir up those feelings and memories and get our head back in the game to recognize His love and gifts for us NOW! That’s why the Bible uses the word REJOICE. It’s talking about taking back control of your mindset (action) and stirring up those feelings to FEEL the JOY again. Sure, sometimes the distractions of the world make us forget, but that’s why we stir it up daily. That’s why we look for Him, talk to Him, recognize His daily miracles, and praise Him.  

For a Christian, our Joy is not because everything is going good or easy in our lives. It’s because God has done and is doing something so amazing that this world’s distractions and pain can’t ruin it.  

Pastor Lance Hahn has served as senior pastor of Bridgeway Christian Church in Roseville, CA since 1997. He and his wife Suzi have two girls: Jillian and Andie, and they have a King Charles Cavalier named Bella. Be sure to check out Pastor Lance and Bridgeway Christian Church on Facebook, Instagram, or their website linked here. 

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