So for example: How would you go about finding raspberries? Some of you are thinking: I would go to the grocery store and buy some. Ok, try to work with me here.
Fruit is produced through an organic process. A seed under the right conditions will sprout, and at some point that lively shoot will produce blossoms, and if the flower is fertilized it will close up and begin filling with juice.
And this is my point: joy is cultivated. Joy is a byproduct. Christian joy is the result of the seed of the gospel germinating in your heart, turning you into a new creature born again by God, such that you begin to confess your sins and repent of them and walk in new obedience. You stop being lazy, you stop lying, you stop being jealous, you stop being bitter, you stop getting angry, and you find that joy emerges like the sun breaking through dark clouds, as the Spirit works this repentance in you.
Now, it’s also true that joy is a command. Paul tells the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord always. How can Paul command us to rejoice when we don’t feel joyful? Don’t we sometimes have to wait for Spirit to produce the fruit of joy in our lives? There are at least two answers to this: First, a Christian can always rejoice in the Lord. You may not think you have anything else to rejoice about, but if you are a Christian, then the imperishable seed of the gospel has taken root in your soul, and you’re alive from the dead. You can always rejoice in that miracle. But second, and somewhat unlike the process of producing fruit, this command tells us that part of the obedience God requires of His children is practicing joy. Sing psalms in your car, around your dinner table, and let me encourage you to sing loudly. Hang out with joyful people. Learn to tell jokes. Read God’s word continually.
Finally, don’t forget that part of the joy we all long for is in heaven at our Father’s right hand. We have true tastes of that joy here and now, but if you’re constantly expecting that joy now, you will be disappointed. Part of real Christian joy now is the fierce conviction and longing for that day when we will see Jesus.