Recognizable Joy

Years ago I attended the Boston Marathon…as a cheerleader. Keith and several friends qualified to race alongside thousands who had trained diligently so they could participate in this respected event. I found several spots along the runner’s route to cheer before locating the perfect spot overlooking the finish line where I could “people watch” as I waited.

I paid close attention to a man who was trying to hand out tracts, presumably for the purpose of inviting people to get to know Jesus. A large sandwich board sign hung around his shoulders. On one side was printed “Jesus saves.” The other side read, “Repent, or you will go to hell.”

The man never smiled. In fact, he scowled. He shuffled around looking miserable, never making eye contact with anyone. There was absolutely nothing about his demeanor that would attract a person to the hope and promises he was professing. And no one accepted the tracts he offered!

I remembered Jesus’ words in John 15 and thought of confronting the man to ask, “Where is your joy?” To this day, I regret that I didn’t ask the question.

Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:9-11).

As if Jesus knew we would have questions or debates about His commandments, He continued (verse 12), “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” And just in case that was too vague, Jesus gave a visual (verse 13). “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

Jesus continued explaining that believers are His friends, believers obey His command to love and believers will bear fruit that will last for all eternity.

I can only surmise that 1) true joy is found in abiding, knowing God’s presence and delighting in Him, 2) joy is experienced when we love others, and 3) love is expressed by sacrificially serving others.

I think we all know that happiness is fleeting. It’s based on external circumstances. Our lives consist of extremes, “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). But joy…it’s internal. It’s a gift to every believer. Joy is comprised of peace, contentment and hope. It’s rock solid and rests within our spirit when we rest in Christ.

I saw no evidence of fruit from the efforts of the joyless man trying to hand out tracts to strangers. But I have tasted the sweetest fruit from people who love Jesus and have loved me enough to share their joy.

Questions to ponder?

Am I filled with recognizable joy?

When people see me, do they recognize peace, contentment and hope?

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