Like many, I woke up on Christmas morning and had a special Christmas breakfast of family recipes reserved for this one morning of the year. After a 2ndcup of coffee the family gathered to hand out the presents. Each person had one small gift under the tree. Our celebration has never been extravagant like so many homes that have allowed the commercialism of the holiday to alter its meaning.
For us the gift exchange is fun and serves as a reminder of the precious gift that we have been given through the birth of the One we celebrate during the Christmas season.
However, even though the gifts had been carefully placed under our tree, the joy of those gifts couldn’t be shared until the gift had been received. So is it with the gift of God through Christ Jesus.
For many the gift that God has given has never been received, so the joy of such a gift is never experienced. For others this wonderful gift is received by reciting a prayer of salvation but, the realization of living in the joy of that gift never is accomplished.
Every one of us has a past. There is a memory, an event that creates for us great sorrow and shame. These things cannot be changed, they are indeed indelibly inscribed into the story of our lives. We are all sinners.
While the truth of our past is out of our control, our future can hold hope and new beginnings. If we place our present in Christ and walk in His steps this can take us far away from the places of our past.
Over the past several days millions have made the familiar New Year’s resolutions. These resolutions usually center on making improvements in their lives. They have set their course, they have determined to eat better, to exercise more, to be kind and gentle, to read and study God’s word more, and the list of positive, hoped for change goes on and on.
I suspect that you might be one of those that have determined to be more [or less], whatever. You truly want this year to bring about positive change. Taking an inventory of one’s life and making a resolve to bring about growth and improvement is a good thing. So, one must ask, if this is good, then why are so many of these New Year’s resolutions, these determined efforts to walk a different path so easily abandoned?
Many times, resolutions to begin anew are met with a common fatal flaw. The flaw is the effort to accomplish a chosen behavior and/or to become a Christ follower in one’s own strength. This approach predictably ends in absolute failure, sorrow and an absence of joy.
The apple and the pear tree don’t work to produce their fruit. Being filled to the utmost with splendid fruit is only possible by submission not by way of hard work or stress and determination on the part of the fruit tree.
The fruit produced is only possible because as the seed or seedling hit the ground years ago the task required was to merely dig deep and develop a root system. It would be through this root system that all the moisture and nutrients from the soil would be brought to the tree for growth and prosperity. This was the seed’s part of what God had intended. In fulfilling its part, the seed responded in obedience to God’s perfect plan in Creation.
It is that work, developing a root system, that lies before each one of us in the Kingdom of God. “But, his delight is in the law of the Lord. And in His law he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:2-3).
Galatians 5:22 states that: “The fruit of the Spirit of God is love.” Only as we live in love can we fulfill the will of God in our lives. By submitting to the power of God’s Holy Spirit the believer can become love-inspired, love-mastered and love-driven. Yes, the fruit of the Spirit is love and this fruit, this love is manifested in joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
If Jesus is our foundation, if He becomes our power source, we find joy. It is a true saying that: “If the roots are holy then so are the branches.” (Romans 11:16)
You and I aren’t here by chance or by accident; God put us on this journey called life. Before the foundations of all Creation were made, God knew us because you and I are part of His divine plan. We came from Him, and our greatest joy will come through receiving His gift of life in humble obedience. Our lives will become filled with His fruit as we give ourselves back to Him and learn to walk with Him each and every day.
One day we will return to Him, by His grace, to live with Him for all eternity. By yielding our will to His Spirit we can have the fruit of joy in our lives. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, produced by God’s work in us. To have joy in Him is His will for us. For you see, joy is love’s strength!