When I first heard about "joy" as a new Christian, I thought it was about that bubbly, giddy, giggly feeling you have when things are going well, you're kicking goals or you just found a bargain you really wanted. In the long, hard slog of life this is an unsustainable feeling hinged on an unrealistic expectation.
Have you ever been in a position where you have had to talk about something you're not sure about, or that you know is untrue?
"No Aunty, she's not here at the moment. I'll tell her you phoned."
"Oh we have something on that weekend. Sorry."
"Well, I think maybe ... but ..."
Think about how you feel in those moments and compare it to how you feel when you tell the truth or talk about things you know are true. What words come to mind? Sure? Certain? Confident?
This is closer to what the fruit of the Spirit "joy" is all about. It's the good feeling of knowing that we have heard the truth. And what truth is that? In the Bible, iris always used for referring to being sure about our faith and our relationship with God. Sometimes about our own faith, sometimes about the faith of our friends and family.
Take a few minutes to read the story of Jesus healing the Centurion's servant in Luke 7:1-10. That is joy @ work. No arm-waving, no uncertainty, no fanfare, no embarrassment. Simple certainty in what he knew to be true - publicly, recognisable as a centurion - that's what joy is about.
Is that forcing a Bible down someone's throat? Not at all! Certainty does not require rudeness. Try these examples ...
Lacking joy (uncertain/evasive) "I'm not sure - it's not really the kind of thing that interests me."
Joyful (certain and inoffensive) "No I won't be joining in the Halloween morning tea. I believe it's not the right environment for me, spiritually. There's a lot more to it than meets the eye and I'm not comfortable to be there."
Forceful/disrespectful "It's a pagan festival. There's no way HR should allow it andI'm gang to write them an email to get this shut down."
Lacking joy (uncertain/evasive) "There are so many traditions, who can say what right or wrong?"
Joyful (certain and inoffensive) "I do tell my children about Santa as a story, but because we're Christians, for us the focus is on Jesus and celebrating his life. Of course we give presents, but the gift tags are from us."
Forceful/disrespectful "What? You tell your kids Santa is real? Why would you lie to your own children?"
Lacking joy (uncertain) "I suppose there are many paths ... many ways to skin a cat, as they say."
Joyful (certain and inoffensive) "Yes, I do believe the Bible, for sure. My faith is part of who I am, not just something I do on Sundays. I believe each person has a responsibility to explore their faith and be sure of what they believe."
Forceful/disrespectful "Seriously, how can you believe that? Compare your pop-psychology feel-good mantra to thousands of years of testimonies ... testimonies people have died for."
Remember - certainty does not require rudeness. This would make the Holy Spirit inconsistent! Remember, love is also a fruit of the spirit and we know from the Bible that love is not rude.
So, one part of joy is knowing the truth about what God has done for us. Another part of it is being thankful that we know the truth. Our salvation is a gift. Saving knowledge of the Gospel is something to be thankful for, because we didn't earn it and we didn't figure it out on our own. Be thankful to God. How does this translate into workplace behaviour? Humility about your faith goes a long way. If you talk about your faith community experience at work, focus on the relational aspects, rather than boasting about how much your PowerPoint skills or your MBA keep the church operating. Check out the story of the demon-possessed an inLuke 8:26-39, but don't stop when the pigs go squealing off. Stick with the story a little longer and notice the thankfulness arising from knowing his healing has come from Jesus.
Share the Gospel with your colleagues if and when the Holy Spirit leads you to. First and foremost, build genuine relationships so you can be in an authentic position to respond to needs. Remember, we are not just a mouthpiece - we are Jesus' hands and feet, so don't snub any opportunity to serve Jesus in his Kingdom plans, no matter how humble or bold that service may be!
The final part of joy is about how it makes us feel and behave. Our assurance in our faith may often make us feel happy. We frequently celebrate our salvation in our church services. Happiness is it the same as joy, but joy may often lead to happiness. When it doesn't - when things are tough, almost unbearable or just plain mundane - joy is the stoic, peaceful certainty that helps us hang in there. If you're struggling at work, you have an opportunity to be a great example to others in weathering adversity without abandoning your faith or doubting God's love for you.
When you're examining yourself for joy, don't look in the mirror for a sitcom-cheerful face. Look into your brain - why do you believe what you believe - where does your certainty come from? Also look into your heart - what does the truth of the Gospel do to transform your character from the inside out?
First and foremost, I'm a Christian living in a real and positive personal relationship with God. Through serving Him, reading the Bible and praying I grow to know Him more every day. Partnering with God is humbling, exciting, fun and serious business all at once!