Thursday, June 01, 2006

Fruit of the Spirit: Joy

Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Gal 5:23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Joy, oh joy, where art thou?

I don't know about you, but as I go through my day-to-day life, I find this idea of 'joy' to be pretty darned elusive. Most days I feel somewhere between okay and good. And on more rare occasions I feel sad or depressed. I have even experienced times of great happiness or great despair. But joy? Not too sure about that one.

So let's find out what this whole 'joy' thing is supposed to be about. Joy is the second fruit of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22. According to Strong's Concordance, this 'joy' means
"cheerfulness, that is, calm delight: - gladness, X greatly, (X be exceeding) joy (-ful, -fully, -fulness, -ous)."
So our joy is to be a combination of being delighted (but calm), glad and exceedingly joyful. Calm, delighted and excedingly joyful. Definitely not feeling much of that lately.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition defines joy as
1. a. Intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness. b.
The expression or manifestation of such feeling.
Okay, so we're supposed to feel intensely ecstatic or exultant and express those feelings as well. Okay - I don't know about you - but I haven't been feeling much of that lately either.

Interestingly enough, this same type of 'joy' can be found in the Bible to describe how a person would feel who receives the word of God (Matthew 13:20), to describe the joy that a person would enter into once he or she has successfully served the Lord (presumably at the end of one's life) (Matthew 25:21), the joy that Zecharias the priest would have once his wife Elizabeth gave birth to the future John the Baptist (Luke 1:14), and the joy that is felt in heaven when one sinner repents as opposed to ninety-nine 'righteous' persons who have no need of repentance(Luke 15:7). Sounds good, doesn't it?

So how do we get this type of joy? I'm glad you asked, because I'd like to know too!

The first hint we get of an answer is when Jesus speaks about how we should abide in him in John 15. Jesus says:
John 15:3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
John 15:9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. John 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. John 15:11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
So it seems that joy is found through our relationship with Jesus Christ and his relationship with The Father. Jesus even specifically mentions our spiritual 'fruit' in the above passage - making it clear that we only bring forth this fruit as we abide in him - without him we can't do anything.

Jesus also talks about this type of 'joy' when he talks about his upcoming crucifixion in John 16:22. He tells the disciples that in a little while they would not see him again and they would be filled with sorrow. But they would eventually see him (when he arose) and their hearts would "rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." That sounds great to me - having a joy that no man can take away!

In John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, he says that this joy is durable because the "risen Lord would never die more; the blessings of grace, such as redemption, pardon, righteousness, and atonement, would, and do ever remain as the foundation of solid joy: nor could a stranger intermeddle with it". So because our joy would now be based on these things, it could never be taken away by another person. No man can interfere with what Jesus did for us - dying on the cross, redeeming us from sin, making us righteous through his actions. And these things are the very foundation upon which our joy is based. (I think I'm starting to feel a little joy now :)

But, it seems the most important thing to remember about this particular fruit of 'joy' is that it is the fruit of the Spirit - the Holy Spirit that is. Romans 14:17 says
For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (emphasis mine).
So our joy is to be found in the Holy Spirit.

So, apparently, our joy is not be based on our circumstances, our outlook, our paycheck or our mindset. But on our relationship with Jesus Christ - and our abiding in him. And it can never be taken away or meddled with by man - it is durable, permanent - built rock-solid on Jesus's gift of atonement to us. And, finally, that joy is found within the Holy Spirit - it shows up and is manifested as a result of His presence within us.

I like that. I hope you like it, too!

So pray with me that we increase the Holy Spirit's presence in our lives. All of our lives. Pray for God's people. Pray that we experience God's new mercies every morning and that we are refreshed daily by God's Spirit. And let's see if we can get a little more joy in all of our lives!

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mmog37 said...

well said...
I think sometimes we confuse joy with happiness and they are not synonomous...we can experience joy even in the midst of adverse circumstances...

I like the approach you have taken keep up the good work!

T.H. said...

I think joy is experienced as a byproduct of loving and being loved. I get joy from my family. I also feel joy when I let God use me to be a blessing to others.

P.S. – I have really enjoyed your writing lately. I liked it before but it seems like you’ve turned it up a notch. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

"Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her king"....... Being joyful is not the same as being happy. Happiness is an emotion, where as joyfulness is a state of being. One can be happy at any given moment, but one that is filled with joy is joyful through out life. Being joyful is doing things even in the midst of adversity and not being taken off kilter because of the adverse situations. Being happy is doing things in search of rewards, accolades, etc. It's an elusive chase because you are searching for tangible objects. Having joy is seeking the intangible -- spiritual upliftment, unconditional love, calmness, etc.

We all have fleeting moments of happiness but we would do much better to have a life filled with joy....... "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord".........!;-)

Refreshment in Refuge said...

Good post, Sonya. I really like the depth of it.

ms mimi the mocha soulchild said...

Thank you. I am so glad God blessed you with this ministry of blogging.

I struggle with joy. At times, I feel very close to God and I get a tremendous joy. At other times life seems so joyless. I know joy is not based on circumstance intellectually, but sometimes it is hard to have it. Like most writers, I think I feel things more intensely and I struggle with depression.

I have to remind myself that closeness to God even in hard times is joy. As the songwriter says, "Sometimes I gotta remind myself, that what I'm called to do, first to be with you."

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for your comments! Of course, now that I'm writing about the Fruit of the Spirit, God is challenging me in whole new ways. So I've spent more time thinking and praying than writing lately. But, just knowing you all are out there and that we are all connecting and growing spiritually makes me happy to return!

Yes - I've always confused joy with happiness, but I've learned the hard way they are not one and the same. Joy is lasting and happiness is not. So now I'm holding out for joy!

I like your take about joy being a by-product of love. I will have to think about that. As far as my writing, I am just following the voice of God...

Thank you for your insight about joy. I like thinking about it as a 'state of being'. I will contemplate and meditate on that thought in the midst of my prayer life.

Thank you for visiting. I've been following your postings as well, so I'll be visiting you again real soon!

Ms. Mimi:
I am totally with you on being extremely sensitive. I believe God gifts us in this way, but it's a hard burden to bear at times! I just try diligently to give all my burdens to God - my own and the people's who are around me. It's one thing to be sensitive and another to be a repository for the woes of the world. I try very, very hard not to cross that line.

I've enjoyed your writing lately and I'll be back to my visiting ways over the next couple of days.

Take Care Everyone!

Rebekka said...

i found this while searching for what to speak on on sunday for the topic of joy- thank you so much for reminding me that joy is permanent and not something that changes according to the circumstances. My God bless you!

Anonymous said...

Good Job! :)