Every child, somewhere during their toddler years, learns the lesson of “cause & effect”. You fall, it hurts. Pull a dog's tail, you get bitten. Touch something hot, you get burned. And so it begins. And that lesson terrorizes us until the day we die. “Cause & effect” teaches us lessons – avoid the dog's teeth, precarious balancing acts, and open flame. Especially when it comes to faith, we mistake these lessons for wisdom. We mistake these lessons for faith.
Foolishly we believe that faith bears a “cause & effect” relationship. Sin, get punished. Repent, get forgiveness. Doubt, loose blessings. Believe, get blessings. We think it's all “cause & effect”. It isn't. “cause & effect” is law. Faith is gift. Faith is gospel. Faith is freedom.
Consider the example of joy. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It is a gift that God gives for free through His Holy Spirit. It is ours because he has given it. Yet, we so often find ourselves less than joyful. We want joy. We don't have joy. We try to get joy “cause & effect” style.
As a child I learned to sing a song, “The Joy of the Lord is my Strength”. In that song I was taught to sing, “If you want joy you must sing for it. If you want joy you must sing for it. If you want joy you must sing for it. The joy of the Lord is my strength.” Don't you see it? “Cause & Effect”? Sing and you will get joy. The reason you don't have joy is because you didn't sing. You missed out on the effect because you forgot the cause.
The truth of the matter is that the fruit of the Spirit, joy included, is a gift God has already given. Sin, fear, “cause & effect”, worry, doubt, unbelief; these thing rob us of joy. We are too foolish to see it. So we keep singing and singing, and shouting and shouting, and praying and praying, all the while fearing and fretting that we have no joy. How foolish! It is already yours! Confess your unbelief, your sin, your wretchedness and seek Jesus.
Jesus commands us to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well.” When we seek Jesus the Holy Spirit gives us “all these things”. That includes Joy. It includes peace, patience, kindness, self control, faithfulness, gentleness. These are gifts from God that he gives for free because He wants to. He gives them in Jesus. It's not because we have sung, shouted, prayed, believe hard enough to get it. It is because He is good and He loves to give it!