How would people recognize you as a Christian? Do your friends, colleagues and enemies know what you stand for? Critical question to ponder this coming week.
As Christians we are not being recognized by our clothes, a cross around our neck or a Bible under our arm. No, we should be recognized by the fruit that God produces in our life. The first proof that the Holy Spirit takes up residence in a believer, is that He will begin to produce godly character (fruit) in us, so we will become more like Christ. If there is no fruit, it is not reasonable to call ourselves Christians.
The fruit is Gods character in us and thus not be confused with human virtues (because they can be learned and adapted). What the Spirit wants to do in us is beautiful: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Let's take a look at joy.
Joy is supernatural fruit that God wants to bring forth in and through us. This is not about being happy because something good is going on, or because someone is being nice to us. This is not about pleasure or having fun or enjoying something or someone. Being happy, enjoying ourself and having fun... there is nothing wrong with that, but happiness depend on happenings and it can disappear as fast as it came (for example, if something goes different than we expected or when trouble shows up).
The joy that the Holy Spirit wants to produce in us, is joy despite trouble. It is joy despite pain. I am thinking about the hundreds of thousands of Christians that are currently being persecuted around the world. They are being beaten, tortured and even killed. Churches are being burned to the ground everywhere and people are on the run with nowhere to go. Yet, sometimes we hear reports (through Open Doors for example) that they somehow experience divine joy in their hearts. Two thousand years ago it was no different: And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity (2 Corinthians 8:1-2).
The joy that the Spirit wants to grow in us, is joy despite worries, sickness, poverty, violence and wars. I am not sure whether in the West we know what that really means, maybe one day we will learn...