Surprised by Joy

Surprised by Joy

Thursday, 12 February 2015  | Narelle - MECS Principal
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)

Last week in this editorial I reflected on the ‘one-liner’ found in Acts 2, that sums up perhaps most succinctly the biblical story – ‘good news…great joy… all people’. As I reflect on this further, I wonder how it is that we can be people that experience great joy, particularly when it seems we  are up against it. As humans we are more prone to think of what makes us happy or gives us pleasure, rather than seek true joy. We tend to live in the present and our wants are more immediate. Joy often seems illusory. However, this fruit of the Spirit is supposed to be central to the Christian life; indeed it should be one of the key features that draws all people to the good news of the gospel.

Sometimes it is easy to be joyful – our daily needs have been generously supplied, our relationships are good, we see God working for us and through us. However, the reality for many is very different. Making ends meet is difficult, broken relationships have taken their toll and God seems far away.

John N. Gladstone, in his sermon entitled ‘Weeping and Whistling’, writes “…Joy is a by-product of possessing the Spirit and being possessed by the Spirit. It is a conscious possession of power adequate enough to carry us through every trial, every situation, and it will remain ours to the end…in this life; we shall never be free of sorrow. But, then, we shall never be free of joy. And joy is the dominant note. We are in touch with a power that dries all tears, lifts all burdens, and satisfies all needs. Our lives are hidden with God in Christ.”

And so what does a joy-filled life look like? Richard Foster in his book, Freedom of Simplicity reminds us of a great way of ‘being’ in the world. “Joy, not grit, is the hallmark of holy obedience. We need to be light-hearted in what we do to avoid taking ourselves too seriously. It is a cheerful revolt against self and pride. Our work is jubilant, carefree, and merry. Utter abandonment to God is done freely and with celebration. And so I urge you to enjoy this ministry of self-surrender. Don’t push too hard. Hold this work lightly, joyfully.”

The idea of holding the ‘work’ of being a Christian lightly and joyfully is an encouraging one. Sometimes our Christian faith becomes something that we carry around as if it is a heavy burden. The good news of great joy is a firm belief in the ultimate Joy of life, not in the joys of life. As a result we need to choose joy every day. How does one choose joy? How do we live in the light-heated and carefree way that Richard Foster talks about, despite the circumstances of life? By choosing to dwell in the good news! God loves and accepts me. Christ’s birth signals the beginning of God’s redemptive plan for His world, His death on a cross deals with the sin and distortion that I know and experience in my own life and in the world. In Christ, I am a new creation. My life is hidden with Christ and therefore I can endure the sorrows of life. I see glimpses of God’s Kingdom now; I will experience it fully in eternity. Therefore, I choose joy!

I believe that if we are a Christian school community ‘seeking the Kingdom of God in education’, our school needs to be characterised by a Spirit of Joy. We need to teach our students to choose joy in every circumstance of life; we need to model joy in the pressures and challenges of a busy life; we need to live out joy in our interactions with each other and finally, we need to share the ultimate source of joy with all people in our community and beyond.

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