Fruit of the Spirit – Joy.
Some people think it’s difficult to be a Christian and to laugh, but I think it’s the other way around. God writes a lot of comedy, it's just that he has so many bad actors.
On a more serious note (!),
Kaufmann Kohler states in the Jewish Encyclopedia that no language has as many words for joy and rejoicing as does Hebrew. In the Old Testament thirteen Hebrew roots, found in twenty-seven different words, are used primarily for some aspect of joy or joyful participation in religious worship. Hebrew religious ritual demonstrates God as the source of joy. In contrast to the rituals of other faiths of the East, Israelite worship was essentially a joyous proclamation and celebration. The good Israelite regarded the act of thanking God as the supreme joy of his life. Pure joy is joy in God as both its source and object.
Nehemiah 8:10 tells us, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Isn’t it interesting that after love, in the list of the fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5:22 we find Joy comes next? The outworking of God’s spirit in us brings JOY. People may be forgiven for not knowing this when they look at some Christians. I’ve previously quoted the suggestion from C H Spurgeon:
When you speak of heaven, let your face light up.
When you speak of hell—well, then your everyday face will do.
The Bible tells us that if we have the Spirit of God at work in us, joy will be there. Notice it says joy not the more trivial word happiness. Happiness comes from the old English root hap, meaning luck or circumstance. “Happenstance” is a combination word taken from happen + circumstance. Joy is happiness, but it is not dependent on circumstances. It depends on the control of God in all circumstances, and here it is defined not by the presence of “happy” circumstances but the presence of the Spirit. That’s why Paul can write elsewhere,
Be joyful always (1 Thes 5:16)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Phil 4:4)
And look at what Paul sees as central to the Kingdom of God in Romans 14:17…
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
We would almost certainly see righteousness as central to the Kingdom – being right with God. We would like to think peace is the ensuing dividend of being a Christian. But do we see joy in the Holy Spirit is an essential part of the package?
Proverbs 17:22 says, A cheerful heart is good medicine…Society has started to understand the importance of laughter. It can be therapeutic. It is good for the body. If physical, circumstantial happiness is good for the body, how much better is the joy of the Lord for the soul! But if this joy is not “circumstantial” it still has to cope and “over-ride” the negative circumstances. How can you be joyful when life hits you with its hard knocks? Can I offer you seven aspects to cultivating “Biblical joy”. I’m sure they are not the only issues, but they are the ones I came upon as I searched the scriptures…
1. Continually Develop your trust in God. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:13). Here’s the point that God’s joy comes from God. He will give it. But we have to trust him. Trust is not simply about trusting him to rescue us – becoming a Christian – but about walking daily in trust.
2. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.(James 1:2-3) You will never feel joyful through suffering if you can’t see a point to the suffering. But if you know that God is working in you, developing perseverance and maturity, there’s joy even in the pain. An attitude of gratitude will see through the suffering to the joy.
3. Develop the joy of service. In the parable of the talents, the master said to the ones who had used them wisely, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness![joy] (Matt 25:21). If we are not serving God, our only joy will be the joy of receiving. It’s as though we are saying to God, just create circumstances where I can receive joy. That is just a spiritualised form of “happiness”. “Lord, make me feel happy”. But God says we get God’s joy by serving him. You can’t expect God’s joy if you’re not doing the things he uses to bring joy!
4. Develop the joy that comes from sharing Jesus. 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) Paul is speaking about the Thessalonians coming to faith. He writes in ch 3, How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? (v9) We all ought to know the joy of seeing people coming to faith. Baptisms bring a sense of joy. When people don’t come to faith in the life of a church, a fundamental joy is missing. When we as individuals don’t share our faith something of the ensuing joy is missing. Cultivate a perspective of looking to share faith and you will find a fundamental sense of joy in your life.
5. pursue joyful friendships. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints. (Philemon 7). We all need to ask, “How can I bring joy to other people? How can I be refreshing?” Paul writes to the Romans in ch 15, …by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. (v32). We all know people can either drain us or inspire us. Paul commends Philemon for bringing joyful refreshment and he wants to bring refreshment to the Romans. Do you pursue joyful friendships?
6. Commit to obeying your spiritual leaders. Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Heb 13:17). Nobody wants a grim church with grim leaders! Commit to making your leaders’ work a labour of joy, and the whole church reaps a harvest of joy. Make your leaders miserable and the whole church will be miserable!
7. Keep your spiritual eye on the ultimate joy. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:2) Jesus got through the cross because he could see the throne room of God. Coming back to where we started, this is the supreme example of how our joy comes from God not circumstances. Jesus’ circumstances were as grim as any human could have. More so. The perfect God/man who had done no wrong was crucified – subjected to the most excruciating pain (even the word excruciating comes from “crucifixion). There were no joyful circumstances in that. But for the joy set before him He endured the cross. In all the un-happiness of life we can be joyful because of the joy set before us – the goal of our salvation: seeing Jesus. Do you have that joy?
To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and for evermore! Amen. (Jude 24)
 Garrison Keillor, presentation at Goshen College, quoted in Reflections, Christianity Today.