Peace and Joy :: By John Lysaught

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV).

In our Christian walk, this type of fruit should be manifest in our lives daily, moment by moment, in our hearts and our interactions with those around us to emulate Christ to the fullest.

I’ll admit though, sometimes it’s a challenge to bear and represent the fruit of the Spirit. We all have strongholds in life and people that irk us that we have to overcome. This is the challenge though, to work through those strongholds to bear the fruit of the Spirit at all times. Your boss says something to you and you want to lash out at him; give heed to self-control. Hold that thought in your mind and let your heart work on that lashing statement until it calms down and you can respond in a calm or humbling manner. Your pastor preaches something that makes you angry, like convicting you of living in sin: Take some time and let it soak into your heart. Get it?

For me, my biggest challenge: My teenagers. Boy, they sure irk the heck out of me with the rebellious things they do and say. They know everything and my wife and I are stupid in their minds. We are outdated in thoughts and our advice is worthless to them because they are smarter and younger than us (comical, really). This really irks me. When they do or say things that get under my skin, I force myself to take a step-back, try to see things from their perspective, and then when my heart is right, I let the Spirit guide me in what I need to say to them to impart the experience and knowledge I have that they think I don’t have. Sometimes this works, and when it doesn’t, I have faith that one day it will click for them.

Joy is another thing I have struggle with at times, but the Spirit is working in me on this one. I suffer from many ailments: Depression, anxiety, bipolar II, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, cornea disease and arthritis, to name a few. This is a lot for a 38 year old to deal with every day. I’m always tired and fatigued and my joints and body hurt all the time. Even the pain meds I take, they just take the edge off. For me then, I find it hard to have joy in this world physically and mentally. Spiritual joy is different.

I put joy in perspective when I’m feeling sorry for myself. I pray for healing, and God has partially answered my prayers. The Crohn’s is in remission, my cornea disease is actually getting a little better (went to the eye doctor yesterday and he said he rarely sees this disease improve), and my mental status is stable. I’m not cured of anything, but I’m as bad as I could be. Like the apostle Paul, he had an ailment that God did not heal, and so I must believe that I’m not completely healed for reasons only Christ knows.

I do find that my faith and strength in Christ make me stronger by my ailments, for I lean on Christ more than I would if I didn’t have these issues. I do find joy in Christ’s help. For me then, joy is not limited to the world but with Christ. I find joy in the love of Christ for me. I find joy in my relationship with Christ. I find joy in the fact that I am saved and will go to heaven when it is my time to leave this world. I find joy when I read and reflect on the words of God in the Bible.

You see, joy is not limited to the natural world around us, but in our relationship with others and with, most importantly, Christ. I find great joy in my relationship with my family─my wife especially. Joy that she is my best friend and we are connected so closely that I find joy that God put us together. Together, we are unstoppable. I also find joy in my children, even though my teens drive me nuts at times, I find joy that they are on the path to finding Christ and it brings me joy that they are on the track to eternity. With joy come peace in this life and my relationship with Christ is strengthened.

My heart is at peace, even when things go wrong around me in life — such as work, or drama with the kids, when my health flares ups, or what is going on in the world around us. To me, I have a feeling of unspeakable peace. I have peace that even though the world is falling apart around us, I am safe and Christ will care for me, and my family. I find peace in my heart when pain comes from my ailments, when my kids are being, well─kids. This peace in my heart is important because it reflects to me that my faith is strong and Christ is working in me and helping me along in my journey to improve my relationship with Him and others, as well as growing my faithfulness in Him. I find peace in that Christ is in control, and everything that happens to me is part of His plan for me and for his glory, not mine.

For unbelievers (those not saved and have not accepted Christ by His grace and sacrifice for our sins) they will not fully understand this as stated in Galatians 5.22-23:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

The unsaved may have all these “nice” attributes, but if not saved, then it is all for nil. These attributes are from and of the world, not of Christ. Don’t get me wrong, for the unsaved these attributes listed as “the fruit of the Spirit” are okay to have. The problem is that if it is not a result of accepting the saving grace of Christ, then exercising these attributes does nothing for your salvation and future for eternity in heaven. Basically, if you don’t accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, then bearing these fruits of the Spirit without the foundation of Christ is all for nothing. You will not go to heaven. You will go to hell.

Some say this kind of statement is wrong and it is not fair to say that a good moral, but unsaved person will go to hell. It is fair and it is not wrong for the Bible is very clear about this, as in John 14:6:

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

God gave his Son as atonement for our sins, past, present, and future. If you don’t accept Christ as your Savior, the fruits of the Spirit, the peace, love, and joy that come with it is not be the same as when it comes from Christ. You may think it is, but from someone (me) who was not always a follower of Christ, I can tell you that it is much more fulfilling to have the fruits of the Spirit with Christ as your foundation than from the world. It is more satisfying in your heart, is calming, and brings great comfort more than not knowing Christ can ever give you. Believe me.

1 John 4.13-16 says:

“This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.”

Is God in you? Do you have the Spirit and do you love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind? If not, it’s time to act today. Not tomorrow, but today.

My friends God loves each and every one of us, and wants us to be with Him in eternity. I hope I made some of you uncomfortable by stating if you are not with Christ, you will go to hell. Eternity is a long time, its forever. The decision you make today about your eternity is ultimately your choice, but choose wisely. You either choose Christ, which is eternity in heaven, or you choose the world, which is not Christ, and means eternity away from God’s love in hell.

Take a moment to reflect on Christ. Pray. Pray that He works in your heart. Pray to accept Him into your heart and ask for forgiveness for your sins. Ask for Christ to be in your life and lead you to salvation. The decision to choose Christ is one you won’t regret. Your life will change. Your heart will swell and you will feel an unbelievable love as Christ works in your heart. You’ll begin to change your worldly ways and will desire to serve God, not yourself or the world. You will have a new perspective on life and your future, as well as your present.

From a recent convert, I can attest that it is an unbelievable change for the better and I look forward to growth each day. To always feel the love and guidance from Christ is a great way to live. Please, please look into your heart and seek Christ.

John Lysaught