5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. 9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!
Today as we continue in our 30-day series, “Cultivating Christ like Character” we come to the fruit of joy. For many of us joy just like love appears sporadically in our lives, like the morning mist that lingers for a moment but dissipates as soon as it is touched by the scorching Sun. Why do so few Christians live joyful lives? I believe it’s because we are trying to substitute the joy of Jesus for that which the world offers. God’s desire has always been for His children to experience great joy in this life, that is why He sent His Son Jesus to die for us, so that we could live the full and overflowing life that Jesus spoke of in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Many of us say that we want what He offers, yet God and man have differing ideas about how this is going to be accomplished. Joy is what the human heart really hungers for but rather than satisfying that hunger with God’s gift of joy, humanity by and large has chosen to chase happiness. It’s about what we can experience and get out of the deal. It’s a John 6 kind of religion, where our motive for following Jesus is food to make us feel good. We are happy as long as our bellies are being filled, but forsaken Him at the first hint of hardship. Today we have become derailed by what I call the doctrine of deserving, where we are taught that we deserve to be happy. A permeating philosophy that’s not just contaminating the culture but controlling the church, and because what we believe effects how we behave this deserving belief bleeds over into demanding behavior. As a result, many of us are chasing the American dream, the pursuit of happiness instead of the Almighty’s. The pursuit of this idealistic happiness consumes most of our lives, striving for something better. But what exactly is happiness? Each individual would describe this differently, and so, for decades the specifics of the American Dream keep changing and evolving until finally it’s defined by material possessions such as houses and cars and college degrees. So, stuff has become our measurement for success. We have stuffed our homes full of things and yet our hearts are empty because stuff never satisfies. We have become a society of storage units overflowing with stuff yet never satisfied. A society of stuff but no substance. A culture that has seen an increase in both consuming and depression, because the more we have the more dissatisfied we have become. What is interesting is that the word happy comes from the root word “hap” which literally means chance. This is the root of several other words, happen, hapless, and even haphazard. Happiness depends upon what happens to you, based on chance and circumstance. But Christianity is not about circumstantial happiness that comes from chasing chance it’s about change that comes from chasing Christ. God’s Joy will always bring happiness, but the pursuit of happiness will not always bring joy. Because happiness is an emotion that is caused by our circumstances, happiness is reliant upon some situation or event to make us feel good. If something good happens we’ll feel good but if something bad happens we won’t. In contrast God’s Joy does not depend upon our current circumstances and can even transcend trials and tribulations. We are called to be followers of Christ not feelers of comfort that is why the Bible mentions “joy” or “rejoicing” 330 times, but only mentions “happiness” 26 times. God doesn’t want us emotionally chained to our circumstances He wants us to be free in Christ. Our problem is not only tied to our perspective but our position. There is a powerful story told about a house that architect Frank Lloyd Wright built for industrialist Hibbard Johnson in 1937. One rainy evening Johnson was entertaining distinguished guests for dinner when the roof began to leak. The water seeped through directly above Johnson himself, dripping steadily onto his bald head. Irate, he called Wright in Phoenix, Arizona. “Frank,” he said, “you built this beautiful house for me and we enjoy it very much. But … the roof leaks, and right now I am with some friends and distinguished guests and it is leaking right on top of my head.” There was a pause on the line, and Frank Lloyd Wright reportedly replied: “Well, Hib, why don’t you move your chair?” The problem is that some of us have positioned our chair under the wrong roof. Johnson’s roof was fine as long as it didn’t rain, He was happy until the storm showed up and the rain revealed a leak. We don’t like the storms but they reveal the roof that we are living under. Whether it is shingled with manmade happiness or Jesus shingles of joy that are impervious to the hard hail of this life. Most of us crave happiness and comfort but they never cultivate character, instead they often corrode our character. Joy on the other hand not only shapes our character but has the power to influence and change those around us. So, what about you, are you letting Christ cultivate your character so that your journey is one of joy, or are you chasing after circumstantial happiness?