The fruit of the Spirit
The apostle Paul in Galatians it talks about the fruit of the Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.Galatians 5:22-23
When we walk through the countryside we usually see trees across the landscape. As we look at each tree, we can identify the type of tree it is by the fruit it bears. God does the same observation and identification with us. Our behaviour shows to him what type of person we are. The fruit of the Spirit verses show what attributes we need to develop to be pleasing to God (and be good Christians).
One of these fruits is joy.
When you feel joy in your emotions, you are experiencing great pleasure and happiness. It is an emotion that most of us pursue throughout our lives. If we think back over our lives, we can remember the times of joy quite easily as they are the pleasant highlights in our life. Perhaps it is the joy you feel when you first look at your newly born son or daughter. Maybe it is the joy you feel as you walk out of the church with your new wife/husband. It is these moments of joy that lift your life to a higher level of satisfaction.
The joy of the fruit of the spirit refers to something which is always there not just at particular moments. It is a steady, quiet feeling which grows like fruit slowly and steadily grows on a tree. It means gladness and delight. It means a feeling of assurance that we are under the care of God and that he has a plan for our future.
The joy of Paul and Silas
Believers should experience joy even in difficult circumstances.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,James 1:2
In a jail at Philippi, two men sat. Their backs had been torn and lacerated by severe floggings. They were chained up in the lowest and darkest part of the prison, held down by the stocks around parts of their bodies.
You would think these two men, Paul and Silas, would have been in the deepest of emotional turmoil. But we are told what they were doing whilst sitting locked up in that prison:
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them,Acts 16:25
Despite the suffering they were going through, they showed great joy by praying and singing hymns at around midnight. They weren’t singing just to make themselves happy, but rather they were singing for joy. Their backs hurt and the stocks caused them pain, but they experienced joy and wanted to praise God. They knew that they were living their lives dedicated to God and felt joy with what God promised for the future. They knew that a future glory will come from their godly way of life now. They will be rewarded with glory in the future.
Paul and Silas knew that their bodies were in the hands of the jailor but spiritually they were in the hands of God. They had a strong belief that nothing could separate them from the love of Christ. They knew that no power on earth could prevent God’s future kingdom being established. They knew they would be part of this future kingdom. They knew that sin would be pardoned and death removed for those entering this kingdom. This gave them joy and led them to sing hymns.
Joy during trials in our life
Paul wrote to the believers in Rome about joy and suffering:
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,Romans 5:3
The joyful endurance of trials and tribulations now will be a preparation for the ultimate glory in the future.
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.Romans 8:30
Tribulations can either destroy or develop our character. Unfortunately, some may turn away from God, to avoid persecutions or difficulties. However, those who endure under difficulty know that God has control over all our circumstances. They know that the purpose of tribulation is to develop their character and make them stronger. They know they will become more like the character of Jesus who faced opposition and persecution at the hands of both Jew and Gentile.
Jesus also suffered but still demonstrated great joy.
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:2
Jesus found joy and was comforted by thinking about the future kingdom. His death on the cross paved the way for believers to be part of the future kingdom promised by God.
When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.Acts 14:21-22
The word “tribulation” comes from the Greek word  thlipsis which indicates pressure and compression. Christ teaches us that, if our faith is to be sufficiently developed, such pressure is unavoidable.
In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.John 16:33
This pressure will come from many directions – personal habits, the influence of the world we live in, the challenges of our employment. But we are to feel joy when we are faced with these tribulations and overcome them. For we are developing our faith and we are drawing closer to our successful entry into the kingdom offered to all baptised believers by God.
Joy for the sinner
King David in Psalm 51 talks about the sin which he committed on a recurring basis. He acknowledged that this sin had caused him to lose the joy of his salvation.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.Psalm 51:9-10
So what action did David do to regain that joy? He gives us the answer in Psalm 32.
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.Psalm 32:3-5
He acknowledged his sins before God and asked for forgiveness.
We are all sinners and this is a disappointment to God. So you can imagine the great rejoicing there is in heaven when a sinner repents – when he/she expresses regret at their wrongdoing. The person themselves feels great joy at repenting of a sin which they had worried about.
Joy for the obedient
Joy can also be experienced with obedience. The Israelite King David wrote these words (referring to the Christ):
I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”Psalm 40:8
To delight in doing something means experiencing joy. So we are being told here that you will experience joy from doing God’s will. This is so true. Those who are sinning and continue with it, would in most cases admit that deep inside their conscience, they are experiencing no joy. At the time of the sin he enjoys the temporary satisfaction, but afterwards he only gets misery from the remorse he feels.
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.Psalm 66:18
How can we experience joy, when we know God is not listening to our prayers (because of us taking pleasure in sinning)?
but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.Isaiah 59:2
King Saul is an example of such a person. King Saul had not been obedient to God. Then one day he saw the army of the Philistines coming towards him and his army at Gilboa (1 Samuel 28). He didn’t know what to do so he decided to ask the advice of a witch. Saul disguised himself and went to the witch woman of En-dor at night time. What a sad picture. He had been a king who was once chosen by God. But he had allowed to slide into sin. This downward spiral was so bad that he now was seeking witches in the middle of the night. Saul was not experiencing joy here. Joy comes from obedience to God.
Jesus said these words:
“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”Luke 11:28
The blessedness that comes to the obedient believer is full of joy. There is such a wonderful feeling of joy when we are faithfully obedient to God’s word and will.
Impediment to joy
Sometimes fear can make the believer not experience joy. This is not talking about the reverential fear that is an essential part of worship and service, but rather a fear of the judgement seat. People with this type of fear see God with eyes of fire rather than with a voice of love. Judgement is certainly something all baptised believers must face, but it is not intended to take joy away from our life.
God is not trying to trap us. Rather he is a loving Father who wants nothing else but for us to besaved so that we can be with Him in the future plans for this world. He wants us to succeed. Knowing this, should give us joy.
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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 March 2015