The Fruit of the Spirit. Joy.
We live in a world dark with despair, disappointment and grief. Every human heart hungers for joy. People acquire cash, look for pleasurable emotions and seek happiness through other people, places or status. But the happiness is short lived, and is no substitute for joy. There’s an inner discontent that remains, despite the smiles on the outside:
“What’s the use of worrying? It never was worthwhile, so pack up your troubles in your old kit- bag and smile, smile, smile.”
These words, written by vaudeville actor George Powell, were set to a cheerful melody by his piano playing brother Felix. It earned them $60,000. Yet one day, years later, Felix sat down at a piano and played his well-known melody “Smile, Smile, Smile” then he went into a room where he was all alone and shot and killed himself.
Proverbs 14:13 states “Even in laughter the heart may ache and joy may end in grief”
Real joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, is the source of deep, inward, satisfying joy. He experienced fullness of joy by the Spirit, and He desired his disciples know fullness of joy too.
Joy in Salvation
The angel said to the shepherds “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today…a Saviour has been born to you.” (Luke 2:10)
Salvation is good news because of the Saviour.
I need saving. You need saving. We need saving from our sins. Remember Paul lists the works of the sinful nature in Galatians 5 before he lists the fruit of the Spirit. The works of the sinful nature are: ‘’sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like” We need saving from these sins, indeed from our sinful nature. God by His Spirit can perform that inward work of regeneration within us. He creates in us a new nature which gives rise to the fruit of the Spirit (Romans 7:6; 8:9; 1 Peter 2:1,2; Ephesians 2:1,4,5).
This work of regeneration begins, when we see Jesus’ atoning work for us on the cross. We realise there He bore my sins on the cross. There He took the punishment I deserve for my sins so that I can be freely forgiven of them, know peace with God and now enjoy free access to Him (Romans 5: 1, 2). God seals that response of faith by filling us with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit regenerates us, filling us with a joy that comes from His love ‘shed abroad in our hearts’ (Romans 5:5)
George Whitfield wrote “God was pleased to remove the heavy load, to enable me to lay hold on His dear Son by a living faith, and by giving the spirit of adoption, to seal me, even to the day of everlasting redemption. O! With what joy- joy unspeakable- even joy that was full of and big with glory, was my soul filled, when the weight of sin went off, and an abiding sense of the pardoning love of God…broke in upon my disconsolate soul! Surely it was a day to be had in everlasting remembrance! My joys were like as spring tide, and overflowing the banks (“Joy unspeakable” Martyn Lloyd Jones).
“I delight greatly in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10)
C.S. Lewis describes how he pursued various intellectual ideas that promised joy but disappointed, until he was- in the name of his autobiography- ‘Surprised by joy’ -when he was converted to Christ
Paul in 1 Thessalonians describes how the believers there received the word. Outwardly they were afflicted but inwardly they had joy in the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians: 1:6)
Every now and again you have great revivals break out in various parts of the world, where the Lord draws many people to Himself and fills them with His Spirit and with joy. This first happened on the Day of Pentecost. Three thousand were added to the church that day (Acts 2)
Listen to these words by the Apostle Peter: “Though you have not seen him, you love him, and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8)
Joy abiding in His presence.
Romans 8:15, 16 states “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship And by Him we cry ‘Abba Father’. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children”
When we put our faith in Christ for salvation, we are brought into relationship with God and now know Him as our Father. We see His goodness and love and realise that’s how He is towards me. Indeed the phrase used here is ‘Abba Father’, which is a term a small child would use for their father. The small child has absolute trust and joy in their father.
I’m reminded of this when I see my adult son Joseph with his 3 year old son. They have a great game where Joseph will flip Reuben around so that Reuben can walk on the ceiling!! Reuben is full of laughter and has an absolute trust in his father!
Once we are ‘in Christ’ this is the relationship we now enjoy with our heavenly Father.
Eltham writes of Romans 8:15, 16 : “I take it that the witness and testimony of the Spirt he has spoken of is an inward secret and unspeakable inspiration of the Spirit; the Holy Spirit of God inwardly, secretly, and in an unspeakable manner informing our hearts and inwardly persuading us that God is our Father, and pouring into our heart a secret, wonderful and unspeakable sweet sense and feeling of God’s love to us”
Absence of joy in unconfessed sin
There is a saying: “Nothing will stop your song quicker than your sin” and J. A. Motyer has written “Joy ceases to be joy when it ceases to be in the Lord”
The danger here is of making something else an idol, or of deliberately pursuing some sinful course of action.
Psalm 51 is a record of David’s inner thoughts following his adultery with Bathsheba and plotting to have her husband murdered:
“Have mercy on me O God, according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions wash away all my iniquity…create in me a pure heart O God”
David’s joy has gone and he is wracked with guilt “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me” (3)
But he comes before the Lord in genuine repentance. David would have to live with the repercussions of those sins. He suffered much in-fighting between his sons and daughters in the years that followed, and his son Absalom even led a revolt against him in order to take the kingdom for himself. But unlike Saul, who did not repent of his sins, David did. He knows that he will not know the joy of the Lord unless he repents. He says “Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (12).
Joy in witnessing
Interestingly David says in verse 13 of Psalm 51 “Then I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners will turn back to you”
There is a joy to be known in sharing the gospel with others:
“Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they travelled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad” Acts 15:1-3. The early believers knew great joy in learning of the Gentiles salvation.
During the spring and summer of last year I often would take a little table down to Rustington shops on a Saturday morning, stand outside Monsoon Indian restaurant for an hour and give out flyers and gospel magazines to passers-by. I was very apprehensive before carrying out this idea. But once I started and had some conversations with passers-by, I had an unexpected joy in doing so.
Joy in generosity
Paul in Acts 20:35 wrote “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’
Paul also commented on the Macedonian churches “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity…They gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us (2 Corinthians 8: 2-5)
Joy in fellowship
There is joy in fellowship with other Christians and in serving them. Paul thought of the Philippians as his joy. Joy, of course, is the theme of the book of Philippians. He had prayed for them in joy (Phil 1:4). He asked that they would “make my joy complete by being of the same mind …” (Phil 2:2) and in his letter he wanted to share his joy with them (2:17).
2 John 12, the Apostle John writes “I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete”
Joy in trials
Perhaps most amazing of all is the biblical witness that this joy can be known within circumstances where happiness and comfort would usually be completely lacking:
Here are direct references from my NIV Study Bible: In Tribulation, examples of:
Famine Hab.3:17, 18 “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour” (Mt.5:12; Lk. 6:23)
Persecution: Acts 5:41 “The apostles left the Sanhedrin rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name”
Imprisonment: Acts 16:23, 24 “After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown in prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them
Loss of Property: Heb.10:34 “You sympathised with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions”
Fiery trials: 1 Pet.4:12,13 “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed”
I read recently about the man J.I. Packer. Like many young boys, he loved to run, play, get in the dirt, and be with friends. But around the age of 10 Packer was hit by a truck while he was playing. His skull was fractured. He asked for a bike for Christmas, his parents bought him a typewriter because he would never be allowed to play sports or ride a bike. He became one of the most prolific Christian writers in history. When I read his book ‘Knowing God’ he sounded like a man who had spent much time with Jesus.
James writes “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything” (1:1-4)
James is saying choose joy in trials. But I do not want to minimize the pain and challenge of trials. Sam Allberry in his book James For You strikes a nice balance: “We are not to pretend trials and grief do not hurt us; it is natural and normal that they do, and it would be a denial of our humanity to think that we should be immune to the pains of hardship in our lives and the lives of others…James is saying that it is what God can accomplish through suffering that is good, not the suffering itself. Suffering is an opportunity to gain the most valuable thing on earth.”
Joy in expectation of Christ’s presence after death
Finally within the greatest trial we will all face one day, we can know this joy in Christ.
Jude verse 24 states “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy”
This verse is a great encouragement that the Lord by His power and might will be able to bring us through death and into a joyful meeting with Him
This joy for the believer is well captured by Matthew Henry’s ‘Weep not for me’, and with this I close:
Weep not for me
Would you like to know where I am? I am at home in my Father’s house, in the mansions prepared for me here. I am where I want to be – no longer on the stormy sea, but in God’s safe, quiet harbour. My sowing time is done and I am reaping; my joy is as the joy of harvest
Would you like to know how it is with me? I am made perfect in holiness. Grace is swallowed up in glory. Would you like to know what I am doing? I see God, not as through a glass darkly, but face to face. I am engaged in the sweet enjoyment of my precious Redeemer. I am singing hallelujahs to Him who sits upon the throne, and I am constantly praising Him.
Would you know what blessed company I keep? It is better than the best on earth. Here are the holy angels and the spirits of just men made perfect…. I am with many of my old acquaintances with whom I worked and prayed, and who have come here before me.
Lastly, would you know how long this will continue? It is a dawn that never fades! After millions and millions of ages, it will be as fresh as it is now. Therefore, weep not for me!”
David Barnes 8/3/23