Fruit of the Spirit.... Joy

Over the last few weeks I have made it my habit to ask people to define the word ‘joy’ for me and I have been amazed at the variety of answers I have received. The Oxford English dictionary says: “Joy; a vivid emotion of pleasure; extreme gladness, satisfaction, success.”
Many people define their deepest feelings of satisfaction, gratification or pleasure as joy. One website I visited described joy as: “Lying in bed listening to the rain.” “A good conversation.” “Having someone tell you that you’re beautiful.” The website goes on to list moments, feelings and experiences that cause a certain chemical reaction within most people but are these actually joy? Should we make a distinction between pleasure, happiness etc and joy?
Perhaps a better way to ask the question is this: Is joy a circumstance-dependant emotion or is it in fact a more enduring reality that can take precedence over our natural reactions to the events of our daily lives?
C.S. Lewis puts it this way: "Joy, must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure.  Joy has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again...I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasure in the world.  But Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is."                                                                                                      
Joy is never in our power!? But don’t passages like Romans 12v12 (“Be joyful in hope...”) and 1 Thessalonians 5v16 (“Be joyful always.”) command us to be joyful? Surely we have some power to be or not to be joyful?
This series of posts is based on the passage in Galatians 5v22 that calls joy one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, joy is something that you will expect to see in Spirit-filled men, women and children because it’s something that the Spirit brings about. The opposite is also true; you will never find true joy in a person who doesn’t know the Lord because joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit not a fruit of the spirit of darkness. Jeremiah 31v13 says that Yahweh is the one who gives joy to his own people.
Christian, you have been created, commanded and called to be joyful. A display of joy is one of the clearest ways in which you will display your true colours –Christ’s colours. In speaking of praise in the Psalms Lewis says that joyful praise is not only a faithful expression of the reality but it has a joy of its own! Joyless Christians not only fail to communicate the reality of God’s goodness, they are actually less blessed!
Philippians 4v4 tells us to be joyful all the time. James tells us that we are to consider trials the purest form of joy; joy with all the impurities refined out. So is grieving over trials ungodly? What about grieving about someone else’s trials? Should we just go through life with grins on our faces? What are we meant to do when every part of us says it doesn’t make sense to be joyful? Just because God’s in control doesn’t mean we don’t have trials and pain right now –so how are we meant to respond? What does joy look like when things get tough?
Some questions worthy of reflection wouldn’t you say? Why don’t you think about them and then post a comment?

Article by David van den Broek

1 comment:

  1. A great article on an important topic, so thank-you; and definately some food for thought!

    How is joy obtainable, especially when we are going through tough times? I was thinking deeply about this one, when the Lord brought to mind an accrostic I saw written down years ago, and made such an impression upon me, it has stuck with me every since. It goes like this:

    J = Jesus First
    O = Others Second
    Y = Yourself Last

    This, I think, is the secret to true joy. As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit in our lives, and the fruits of the Spirit are a result of His presence within us, but of course, we need to do something, too!

    First of all, I think it is paramount that Christ is our focus the whole day through in all things. We maintain that focus by spending time with Him daily in prayer, reading His Word and worship, which will make us joyful people anyway! How can we spend time with our beloved Lord and not be joyful in consequence?! As the psalmist says, God should be the health of our countenance!

    Also, true joy will follow if we serve Christ first, others second and put ourselves last. If indeed, we are dying to self and putting Christ and others before we even think about fulfilling our own desires, we are in fact being loving, which is the first fruit of the Holy Sprit! If we possess love, than all the other fruits will follow and just fall into place, because they all follow the pattern of love!

    Being joyful though, through tough times and stressful circumstances, is much harder, and easier said than done! But I do believe (going back to the above accrostic) that if we a)Put Christ first by seeking His face through prayer and asking Him what He is teaching us and what He wants us to learn through the hard times, and b) rely on His promises that He does indeed have plans to prosper and not to harm us (Jer 29:11) and that all good things work together for the good of them that love God (Rom 8:28) than we will find joy much easier to achieve. My Mum has given me some very practical and good advice on this in the past. She said that if we praise God when we feel down, then we will be joyful because you can't praise God and feel down at the same time! So praise God if you are feeling down, and the spirit of heaviness will leave you! Remember Satan will do anything in his power to keep God's people from being a joyful people, so praise God - even if you don't feel like it! You can't actually be miserable and feel sorry for yourself as well as praising God!

    Also, we must realise that we are not being loving to others around us if we are moping around because we are going through hard times. Misery breeds misery, and if we go around feeling and looking miserable, we'll make everyone else miserable, too, which is selfish, and definately not loving!

    Regarding grieving with others when they suffer trials, we are told in the book of Romans 12:15 to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep. We are also told in the Bible that if one part of the body suffers, then all the other parts suffer with it. This, in fact, demonstrates love. We should be there to sympathise and comfort those who are grieving, and also to pray with and for them. Christ Himself wept when He beheld the grief of Lazarus's sisters who wept at their brother's death, even though He knew He was about to raise him back to life!

    Sorry for rambling on again, folks! I can never seem to just leave a simple comment, can I?!

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