Mags and I recently caught the end of someone’s sermon at an event we went along to, it was only the last five minutes or so but what he said set me thinking. The gentleman was, I’m sure, very sincere and well meaning and to be fair to him we did only hear the last few minutes of what he said so we missed the wider context. He was imploring those attending the conference to ‘get serious’ because we live in ‘very serious days’. He then spoke in a very earnest and measured manner about our nation being ‘bankrupt morally, spiritually and financially’ and we Christians need to take these things very seriously and respond in a serious way. The language he used, the tone of voice and the way he expected those gathered to respond was so heavy, downbeat and, frankly, depressing that I felt temped to run out onto the stage and tell a few funny stories or share some of the miraculous healings and salvations we’re got used to hearing about from our friends Aliss & Rob in Blacon.
He’s quite right about the days being serious and our nation is, by and large, as he described it; what I take issue with is his response. The lost, hurting, frightened people, our colleagues, friends and neighbours, who are trapped in moral quagmires, spiritual bondage or even financial troubles do not need earnest, serious, sober Christians nodding their heads glumly and commiserating with them on the evils of this modern age and offering a sombre prayer. They need followers of Jesus who are filled with the Joy of heaven because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit; the same Holy Spirit that settled on Jesus like a dove, the same Holy Spirit that raised him from the dead, and the same Holy Spirit that filled Jesus with joy. They need followers of Jesus who are fully aware that they are seated with Christ in heavenly places, who know their Daddy will meet ALL their needs through his glorious riches, who understand that the old sinful nature is dead and buried through God’s gift of grace and our baptism and they are now an utterly new creation! But most of all they need followers of Jesus who understand that as C.S. Lewis wrote “Joy is the serious business of heaven” and are willing and able to share that joy, that man Jesus, with them. Misery is NOT a fruit of the spirit, but joy certainly is.