Posted by Katy Smith, 11 Mar 2020
Katy Smith considers the spiritual fruit that is joy.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:3-9
When are you full of joy?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22–23
Walking onto the veranda of our church building, I see Kay standing by the entrance door smiling with genuine interest as she talks to another beside her. I smile to both ladies as I head towards the door, but Kay stops me to ask for a brief update about a particular ministry matter. I see a brightness and keenness as she listens and then responds, ‘I’ll continue praying.’
There is nothing extraordinary about this meeting, except that as I walk into the hall, I find myself thankful for her, with tears in my eyes. She has ridden the waves of grief and pain in both distant and recent years, while her body fails her that bit more each day; yet, she is able to be constant in her praise and thankfulness to God with an undeniable steadfastness. There are some days when her sadness and struggle are visible, yet a warm brightness remains on her face and in her voice. Upon meeting Kay, one cannot miss that she is full of a joy that increases rather than diminishes. When asked how she remains joyful, her voice quivered as she said, ‘Because I am able to remember what I have in him.’
Joy in suffering
Kay’s response is shaped by 1 Peter 1:3–9. In this passage, Peter is writing to Christian believers who have been scattered across the Roman empire because their conviction about the Lordship of Jesus clashed with Roman ideology. Having been forced out of homes, with livelihoods lost, they were well acquainted with suffering. Peter lifts their eyes from their present earthly circumstances to their eternal reality shaped by who they are in Christ and their future hope in him. However, as Peter writes to these believers, his words are also preserved for us; we too are believers living in a world where we do not belong and which does not want us, because of whom we represent.
Peter focuses upon who we are through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Because of the generous kindness of God the Father, we have a new birth through dying and rising in Christ. A new birth means a new social identity where our Father is the same Father as the Lord Jesus Christ and we together belong to God’s household. Having a new status, we are invited to share in the inheritance of the firstborn — the Lord Jesus — who is the first to rise from the dead. This inheritance is more than certain, it is unspoiled. Not even the decay of our earthly world can ruin this inheritance because our life in Christ, and our future in him, does not belong to this earthly domain of our present circumstances, but rather our inheritance belongs to the eternal domain of God’s kingdom.
This is not unimaginable; it is our present and future reality in the Lord Jesus. Irrespective of what happens in our everyday lives, circumstances cannot change or diminish who we are in Christ now or our eternal future with him. By expressing this beautiful reality as praise, Peter reminds us that who we are and what we have in Christ is dependent upon the generous mercy and kindness of our Father; we have contributed nothing to being born anew into our Father’s household with its glorious inheritance – it is entirely him.
For this reason, Peter reminds us that we can continue to have joy — that fruit of the Spirit — irrespective of how tough and painful our external and earthly circumstances are. Peter is referring not only to suffering caused by persecution but ‘all kinds of trials.’ These trials could be the loss of health or physical mobility, the struggles of doing life as a family in a broken world, the loss of a job, the loss of a life cut short or before the life was born, the ugliness of death and our rebellion against God, or from the constant pressure to conform our beliefs to the culture in which we live. Peter is not saying that we are impervious to pain and suffering, but rather that these trials are for the short-term, relative to our eternal future with Christ.
Joy in hope
By being preserved through trials, our trust in Jesus is refined, with all the dross and impurities being separated from our faith and then destroyed. What is left, is genuine. While painful, Peter says that the riches of knowing that our faith in Jesus is being purified is a cause for praise, glory, and honour at the return of Christ. This honour is not now, but a delayed honour.
Our cause for joy and rejoicing now is not a reaction to our present circumstances. Yet we know internally, through the presence of the Spirit, that the praise and glory at the return of Christ is worth more than any earthly riches can hold for us now. While we wait for Jesus’s return, having never seen him face-to-face, we continue to love and trust him, which are two internal convictions that we steadfastly cling to and cherish. By remembering who we are and what we have in Jesus, our joy is glorious and extends beyond words because we hold firmly onto a glorious and living hope – we are saved to life eternal with our Lord.
Questions for Reflection
1. What is the difference between joy and happiness for the Christian believer?
2. How are you holding fast to the great mercy that God our Father has demonstrated to us in Christ, in your present circumstances?
3. Where do you see evidence in your own life of being filled with a glorious joy that is beyond words because of the salvation you have in Christ?
Our God and Father,
you have shown such generous kindness to us,
giving us a new birth through the death and resurrection of Jesus,
and a living hope of an imperishable inheritance.
Although we have not seen our Lord Jesus,
we love him and believe in him.
In your mercy, continue to preserve and refine our faith
through every kind of trial,
that our faith may be purified and proven genuine.
Sustain in us an inexpressible and glorious joy
through Jesus Christ our Saviour,
Katy Smith is the incoming Principal of Mary Andrews College in Sydney, Australia.
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