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The Fruit of the Holy Spirit - Chapter 4


Joy, like love, is another of those English words which can have so many different and what are really contradictory meanings. People can have joy over wrong things as well as right, evil as well as good, the nasty as well as the nice. It is the kind of motives and character we have that governs the things and persons over which we rejoice. So, we can divide joy into three types, as we shall see now.

There is a joy which can be really called nothing but devilish. There is no getting away from the fact that there are some people so evil and brutal that they delight in wrong doing, and in the suffering of others. They rejoice in planning evil, and in carrying out their plans.

But by no means are all people like this. There is a natural, human joy which is good. The joy of a mother over her baby; the joy gained by success in a noble cause; the joy of friendship and human love, and many others. This is one of God’s delightful gifts to humanity. This gift is spoilt so often by sin and selfishness, but it is very real and one of life’s treasures.

There is another kind of joy and it is this of which we are thinking in this study. It is divine joy. It is God’s gift in a special way. Actually, it is more than a gift, it is a fruit of God’s Spirit. It is one of the workings of God which comes with His provision of salvation and eternal life. It is far superior to natural joy. It is planted deep within our beings. It is something real within us, and the emotional side of it which often comes, is but the overflow of this deep inward reality. People around, who know nothing of it, sometimes fail to understand it!

Let us think now of a few things that are connected with this joy. First of all it has to do with salvation from sin, both in the sense of pardon, and the deliverance from the power of sin. The message of the angels when Christ was born was one of joy, as we read in Luke’s Gospel chapter 2. They said to the shepherds: ‘‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord’’. That was at the birth of Jesus, and after His resurrection the same atmosphere is there. The women were filled with joy at the empty tomb and when they heard the message of the angels: ‘‘He is not here. He is risen!’’ The disciples could hardly believe as with joy and amazement they saw Jesus alive again, and saw the marks of the crucifixion in His hands and feet. Later on, in writing his letter to the Romans, Paul tells us that the main factors in the kingdom of God are ‘‘righteousness, JOY and peace in the Holy Spirit’’.

Because this joy is connected with salvation, it is evidently DIVINE JOY, the joy of Jesus Himself. Jesus spoke often about His joy. In John’s Gospel chapter 15 He says that He has taught His disciples so that ‘‘My joy might be in you, and your joy might be complete’’. This joy transforms our human joy and makes it supernatural and divine. As we said just now, this joy is part of our Christian faith. It goes deeper than merely the emotions, although there IS emotion, there must be. The amount of emotion on the surface for all to see varies considerably with different people, but this joy is a deep inner reality which helps to hold us steady in all the circumstances of life.

The third point about this joy is that it is somehow independent of our circumstances. It is not just happiness. Happiness is dependent on our circumstances and our feelings. We are happy when everything happens to please us. Joy goes deeper than this. It is there when the storm clouds of life are overhead. It is our source of strength in the midst of all of life’s difficulties and hardships. Nehemiah told the Jews struggling with him to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem against strong opposition, ‘‘The joy of the Lord is your strength!’’ (Nehemiah chapter 8 v. 10)

It is remarkable how closely related joy is to trouble and suffering in the New Testament. For instance, Jesus is speaking about His joy and giving it to His disciples right on the eve of His crucifixion, and when, naturally speaking, He would have felt no joy. Then again in Acts chapter 13 verse 52 we read that the disciples were filled with joy right in the midst of persecution. In 1 Peter chapter 1, Peter is speaking of heaviness through many trials and testings, and he says at the very same time that through all this the Christians were filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. You see, this joy is IN THE LORD and NOT IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES. By faith we see that God can make all that is happening work for our good and His glory, and the well -being of others. It is not what is happening that we are rejoicing in, but in God’s presence with us, and in what He is doing and has done.

The fourth point about this joy is that it requires to be exercised and cultivated. In Philippians chapter 4, Paul urges them to ‘‘Rejoice in the Lord, and again I say rejoice!’’ In 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 verse 14, he says, ‘‘Be joyful always’’. James, too, says in chapter 1 verse 2 of his letter, ‘‘Count it all joy when you fall into all kinds of testing’’. Another version puts it, ‘‘Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds’’. He gives the reason for this as well: ‘‘Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance’’. You see we need to work with God and trust Him daily to keep this joy within us by the power of His Holy Spirit, even when things are hard. The things which test us can strengthen our joy, and make our lives more like Christ’s life, as we keep loving, trusting and obeying Him.

This joy in a wonderful fruit. It enriches our lives as we let it grow and develop to the glory of God.

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