I can remember one of my Ministers when I was a teenager joking about Christians who have a SWEG: slimy, wet, evangelical grin. He was commenting on the superficial artificial saccharine smile that we share with one another to convey that we have everything under control and that we love Jesus.
I wonder if the root cause of SWEGs can be found in one of the fruits of the Spirit – joy. We sell God short if we reduce that to ‘feeling happy’. In our ‘instant gratification’ culture we find that happiness is something to pursue (especially if you are American). But the reason it needs to be pursued is that it is elusive, it is transitory, it is like sand that you can hold in your hand but will run through your fingers so that you need to scoop it up again.
Joy is not happiness. Don’t get me wrong, you can be joyful when you are happy. And Christians can be happy (honestly!) But you can also be joyful when you are sad. Joy is not primarily about our emotional state: it is about our spiritual state. We are joyful because of Jesus. If you read the Gospels you find that many times people who met him left rejoicing. It is the natural response to an encounter with him. His death and resurrection are the cause of astonishing joy. He is the source of our joy because of who he is and what he has said and done.
God’s Spirit grows this fruit as he reminds us of Jesus and all that he has done for us. Spiritual joy is perhaps best described as a state of awareness of Jesus. It is a recognition that no matter what life can throw at us it cannot take Jesus from us, nor can it take us from him. It is a recognition that he is at work in us by his Spirit. That is why the early Christians were able to rejoice when they were persecuted for Jesus’ sake. Our joy does not depend on transitory circumstances it is based on the absolute certainty of our faith.
Be blessed, be a blessing
A mangy looking guy walks into a very classy restaurant and orders a steak. The waitress says: “I’m sorry, but I don’t think you can pay for your meal.”
The guy admits, “You’re right. I don’t have any money, but if I show you something you haven’t seen before, will you give me my supper?”
The waitress, both curious and compassionate, says, “Only if what you show me isn’t risque.”
“Deal!” says the guy and reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a hamster. He puts the hamster on the ground and it runs across the room, directly to a piano. The hamster then proceeds to climb up the piano, and starts playing Gershwin songs.
The waitress says, “You’re right. I’ve never seen anything like that before. That hamster is truly good on the piano.” The guy sits back and enjoys a fine steak supper with all the trimmings.
Shortly thereafter, he asks the waitress, “Can I have a piece of that fine blueberry pie I see on the dessert cart over there?”
“Only if you got another miracle up your sleeve”, says the waitress. The guy reaches into his coat again and pulls out a frog. He puts the frog on the table, and the frog starts to sing up a storm!
A stranger from a nearby table runs over to the guy and offers him $300 for the frog. The guy says “It’s a deal.” He takes the three hundred and gives the stranger the frog. The stranger runs out of the restaurant with dollar signs in his eyes and a big smile on his face.
The waitress says to the guy “Are you some kind of nut? You sold a singing frog for $300? It must have been worth millions!”
“No”, says the guy. “The hamster is also a ventriloquist.”