Fruit of the Spirit
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Galatians 5: 22-23
Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to His Holy Name!
Psalm 97:12
In our first message on joy, we connected joy with grace, because they share the same root in Greek. Today we will talk about the connection between joy and gratitude. Even though they do not share the same root, they are closely related. Today’s scripture verse is from Psalm 97:12, which instructs us to both “rejoice in the Lord, (have joy) and give thanks to His Holy Name.”  As I reflected on this scripture, I thought about the connection between joy and gratitude. “Gratitude” and “thanksgiving” are not fruits of the Spirit, at least not on the Biblical list of nine fruits. But they are certainly Christian virtues and they related to joy.
The person who is grateful, who feels thankful for everything, will take joy in even the smallest blessings. Years ago, my first thought every day was a material thought, usually “why did the alarm clock go off already? I wanted more sleep.”    And while I occasionally still have that thought, over the years, I have trained my mind to begin each day with a grateful thought—“Thank You God that I am alive to greet this day.” Greeting the day with this thankful thought spawn joy. If the first thought is a thankful one, it is harder for the second thought to be an angry thought. However, if the first thought is a material thought, then it is much easier for the second thought to be an angry thought about how the material need hadn’t been met.
What goes for the first thoughts we have applies to the thoughts we have throughout the rest of the day. If we fill our minds with thankful thoughts, joyful thoughts will almost naturally follow. So train yourself so that your first thoughts are thoughts of gratitude, so that grateful thoughts permeate your day and so joy follows from your thoughts of gratitude.
I’m recalling a cartoon illustration of a man driving a new car who looks over and sees a man driving an expensive sports car and says “I wish I had that sports car.” Then someone in an old car sees the man in the new car and says “I wish I had a new car.” A man on a bicycle see the man driving the old car and says “I wish I had a car.” A man is walking along and see the man on the bicycle and says “I wish I had a bike.” Finally a man sitting on a wheelchair sees the man walking and says “It must be nice to walk.” We seem to always want more and more, rather than being grateful for what we have. I’m thankful that I woke up today—because there are many people in this world who didn’t. I’m thankful for a hot shower because many people have no water. I’m thankful to have food to eat because many go hungry. I’m thankful for my family because many people live alone. I’m thankful I have a job, because many people do not. I’m happy that my child is healthy because there are many very sick children.
I could make a pretty impressive list of things to be thankful for, so that even if this day is a totally bad day, I should (and I will) still find joy in it, because without even leaving my home or accomplishing anything, there are still so many things to feel thankful for. And that is a joy in itself.
Joy is the absence of sadness. If we focus on gratitude, being thankful for what we have, we will keep our minds away from sadness. If we continually focus on what we do not have, our minds will quickly go to sad thoughts. Ultimately it is ingratitude robs us of joy.
This is why the word “Rejoice” is found dozens of times in the Bible, because to rejoice is to “revel in joy” and this is what the Lord wants for us. To revel in joy. And this begins with a decision to be grateful for all the things we have, rather than sad for all the things we do not have.
Lord, thank You for the many blessings I enjoy in my life (list at least ten blessings you have). Help me to find joy in them. Help me to find joy in the little opportunities that will present themselves to me today. Help me be a source of joy for others. Amen.
Be grateful today, and the seed of joy will continue to grow in you! Revel in the joys of your life today!