Growing up in a Free Will Baptist Church in South Carolina meant singing old hymns. As I sang those same old hymns week after week, month after month, year after year, I began to wish that we sang more modern tunes. But now that I am older and I do not go to a church that sings those hymns every week, I find myself humming those old hymns at random times during the day. It is those hymns that I think of, those lyrics, that bring me comfort. Funny how growing up will make you appreciate the things that you once thought were old school and boring.
Anyway, as I was thinking about the fruit of the spirit “joy” post, one of those old hymns came to mind. In approximately 1900, Barney E. Warren wrote a wonderful hymn entitled “Joy Unspeakable.” It was so wonderful in fact that Christians today still sing it and know the lyrics. Here’s how it goes:
I have found His grace is all complete,
He supplieth every need;
While I sit and learn at Jesus’ feet,
I am free, yes, free indeed.Refrain:It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,Full of glory, full of glory;It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,Oh, the half has never yet been told.I have found the pleasure I once craved,
It is joy and peace within;
What a wondrous blessing, I am saved
From the awful gulf of sin.I have found that hope so bright and clear,
Living in the realm of grace;
Oh, the Savior’s presence is so near,
I can see His smiling face.Springing up within my soul.
I have found the joy no tongue can tell,
How its waves of glory roll;
It is like a great o’erflowing well.
This hymn describes a joy that is so great it cannot really be described. It is a joy that is deep – soul deep. It is a joy that comes with knowing the glory of God. God is the source of true joy.
So I know last week was supposed to be the “joy” week in my weekly fruit of the spirit journey. However, to be honest, last week (not the past week, but the week before it) I did not focus on joy. Instead, I focused on being sick. Last week I was sick pretty much the whole week, and felt nauseous and dizzy. Therefore, due to my self-centeredness, I did not really work on the joy part of my week. So I decided to work on joy this week.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines joy as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” After reading this definition I thought it sounded like a dumb description of joy, because real joy does not come from well-being, success, or good-fortune. In high school I went on a mission trip to Mexico, and while I was in Mexico I saw children who did not have good-fortune, children who possessed very little. I saw families living in a “development” built on the old city dumb. Yet these people were some of the most joyous people I have ever seen. These people smiled wider than any superficial smile of movies stars or models who possess millions of dollars. After seeing the joy of people were poor rather than successful, I just knew that Webster’s definition of joy had to be incorrect.
However, when I read this definition again, and looked at it deeper, I thought maybe Merriam-Webster really did define “joy” correctly. Psalm 16:11 tells us, “You will make known to me the path of life; In your presence is fullness of joy; In your right hand there are pleasures forever.” In God’s presence is true joy; In God’s presence we find the best good-fortune out there. With God’s sacrifice to save me from my sins, I have the good-fortune of spending eternity with Him. I have the “prospect of possessing what one desires” to spend eternity with Him. “The Lord has done great things for us; We are glad” (Psalm 126:3).
That is what I learned about joy these past two weeks. I have the presence of God in my heart. This means that I have complete joy, if I just allow myself to remember that rather than focusing on the frustrating things in my life. This past week I discovered that when I remind myself of this, I related with the clients that come into the office much more joyously.