In continuation of our series looking at the various parts of the fruit of the Spirit that the Apostle Paul mentions in Galatians 5:22, we come now to the subject of joy. We trust the Holy Spirit who inspired the writing of scripture to help us glean some insights into this gift.
WHAT IS JOY?
Words have no intrinsic meanings in themselves. They are defined according to the way and contexts that they are used. Joy, generally, means different things to different individuals. The joy I hope to explore is Christian joy:
Joy is an emotion, a feeling of good and delight that is produced in the soul of a believer by the Holy Spirit.
By saying that joy is a good feeling means it is not an idea or a conviction. One difference between an idea and a feeling is that while you can self-generate an idea, you don’t have control over your feelings. You can’t strike your foot against a stone and decide what to feel. What you feel at that moment is automatic. Feelings and emotions happen to you. So when the Bible says to rejoice in the Lord, it is actually asking you to feel something outside of your control.
The joy we are talking about is not in your body but in your soul. It is produced by the Holy Spirit. This kind of joy cannot be extinguished by life’s circumstances. Jim Johnston says, “Joy is the emotion of salvation.” It is the joy of seeing, knowing, loving and trusting Christ. This kind of joy protects you from mere religion. It also protects you from temptation because joy in Christ comes from being satisfied with Christ. Matthew Henry said, “Joy in the Lord will guard you from the empty pleasures the tempter uses to bait his hooks.” This joy is God-given.
It is also important to state what this joy is not. Whereas it can manifest itself in happiness, it is essentially not happiness. Happiness is a state, it comes from an experience; it is the result of a positive experience or outcome from an event that can be very personal. What makes Mr. A happy may not produce the same emotion in Mr. B and vice versa. Happiness depends on an external event. This joy is not about being optimistic or upbeat in your feelings. It is not positive thinking. Christian Joy is the result of the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer.
JOY AS A GIFT
We noted in a previous article that a fruit is the outward, visible manifestation of an internal, invisible work. No one sees the processes that lead to the formation of a tasty and nutritious orange fruit. All we get to see is the fruit. So is the fruit of the Spirit. It is a gift brought into our lives by the Spirit, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard (Gal. 5:22, MSG).
The gift of joy through the Holy Spirit is a repeated theme in scripture: “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said…” (Lk. 10:21); “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52); “You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:6). The Holy Spirit does this by engaging our minds, causing us to see the glory and beauty of Jesus. This calls up joy in our hearts.
Jesus also promised us His joy: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (Jn. 15:11). We do not only have the joy produced in us by the Spirit but the joy of Jesus in us, His joy in whatever He is joyful in. We are not just joyful over what is revealed to us about Jesus, we rejoice with the very joy of Jesus over what He knows about everything, especially what He knows about His Father (John Piper). It is this joy of Jesus Himself, that the Lord says would make our joy to be complete.
CULTIVATING YOUR JOY
In as much as joy is a gift of the Spirit, it can be cultivated and nurtured. In Jn. 15:11, Jesus said “I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you…” If faith comes by hearing, the joy of Jesus also comes by hearing the things He says. When we receive His words with faith, they produce His joy in us. How many times have you been distraught and you stumbled upon a verse of scripture and were miraculously filled with joy? Like the Psalmist, “go to the altar of God” and make Him your joy and your delight. What I would say to you is to fix your eyes on Jesus, pray and meditate on His person and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal His glory and beauty to you. Joy will be the result.
During the dedication of the temple in book of Ezra, “for seven days they (Israel) celebrated with joy the Feast of Unleaveaned Bread, because the LORD had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria…” (Ezra 6:22). You too, contemplate on what the Lord has done and come away joyful. Learn to, with joy, draw water from the wells of salvation (Isa. 12:3). Rejoice in what the Lord has done.
David said “you fill me with joy in your presence” (Ps. 16:11). Cultivate His presence and you will cultivate His joy. Those who stay in His presence come away with rejoicing for in His presence there is fullness of joy.
FIGHTING FOR JOY
The Bible commands us to fight the good fight of faith. That presupposes that our faith is at war and requires that we fight for it. In the same vein, I would say that there is a battle for your joy. There is an enemy who is bent on stealing it.
One of the first gifts we experience following our salvation is that of joy. The joy of the Lord becomes our strength. That joy and strength also become the targets of the enemy. He seeks to steal that joy by tempting us to return to sin. Since Adam, the immediate effect of sin is the loss of joy. It is replaced by a feeling of guilt and separation.Tweet
The Psalmist experienced this and he cried out to the Lord: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (Ps. 51:11a). Fight for your joy by fighting sin. If you have fallen, cry to the Lord to forgive you and restore to you the joy of His salvation.
God causes all things to work together for our good (Rom. 8:28). However, in times of trouble, the enemy and our weak natures make us feel like God has abandoned us. There is a feeling of hopelessness. Is someone reading these lines at this moment who is presently facing some difficulty and has lost their joy?
The word of the Lord to you is this: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Rom. 12:12). Like Jesus, fix your eyes on the joy set before you in eternity (Heb. 12:2). I ask you “to consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). As paradoxical as that may sound, we can, through the help of the Spirit, knowing that “strength and joy are in His dwelling place” (1 Chron. 16:27).
And you will joyfully make it to the end because He who called you “is able to keep you falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy” (Jude 1:24). There, “He will fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy” (Job 8:21) and everlasting joy will be yours (Isa. 61:7).