On Joy

R.J. Lago | January 14, 2020

Knockoffs. They are everywhere. Grocery stores fill their shelves with knockoff brands. From toilet paper to peanuts, the knockoffs are abundant. One of the largest knockoffs is a place: Disney World. 

Hear me out, you Disney World lovers. I have been to both Disney theme parks, and the votes are in. Disney World is a knockoff of Disneyland. From the history to the experience in the parks, there is no doubt that Disneyland is far superior. And that’s okay! Some people like knockoffs.

Why bring this silly debate up? Well, you are reading an article in a series of articles on the fruit of the Spirit. One of the strange things about discussing the fruit fo the Spirit is that you see these descriptions everywhere. 

You have probably seen people who love others extremely well, but they don’t know Jesus. You have probably seen people self-controlled in all aspects of life, but they don’t love Jesus. You have most likely seen people who are extremely kind, patient, and other aspects of the Christian faith. These are common graces from the Lord. Nevertheless, these are nothing in the sight of the Lord beside filthy rags (Romans 3:10–12).

The trick with knockoffs is knowing the truth from the lie. When you know what the truth is, the lies fade away. The fruit of the Spirit is legitimate compared to the knockoff the world produces. Worldly fruit has the individual as the center. The fruit of the Spirit has Jesus at the center. 

The world creates good works based on invented ideas of what good should be. The fruit of the Spirit is not an invention, but imitation. Christians are not to make up what we think joy should be (Proverbs 15:21). Instead, Christians must study Christ and see true joy. 

No knockoffs. Let’s examine how the Spirit bears this fruit in us, keeping in mind the Man who made it possible. 

Joy defined

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”

In his letter to the Galatian church, Paul describes the battle over our souls. I have written more about this in another article.

Paul is describing joy as a part of the single fruit of the Spirit. Like an apple tree only yielding an apple, that same apple is explained in greater detail by the look and taste. The Spirit produces one fruit with nine ways to describe it. When you see an apple, you know it came from an apple tree. When you know someone bearing the fruit of the Spirit, you see Jesus portrayed.

The Greek word used for joy in this passage is χαρά (Chara). Joy is specific in this passage. Every aspect of the Christian life should be founded on the joy that Christ gives His followers. “[Joy is the] state of delight and well being that results from knowing and serving God.” Joy is essential to your faith like water in a pool.

Joy is essential to the Christian life. 

There are many faces to joyfulness, let’s consider three:

Christian, be joyful in your obedience

One of the most stressful aspects of any Disney themed park is the mass of screaming children. For the happiest place on earth, there’s a lot of unhappy children. If you overhear many of the conversations of the parents and the children, there is conflict over obedience. The parents give a command, the child disobeys, and the world continues to spin. 

Obedience is a heated topic in our culture. Children are not alone on the issue of rules; our culture is drenched in defiance. Submission is an even larger forest fire of rage. Our culture seems to have no room for obedience or the implications that it brings. 

Nonetheless, obedience is central to the Christian faith (Titus 3:1). What is the attitude that should accompany the Christian? Are we to be drones without any emotion as we slave for the Lord? Are we to complain when He tells us to do something? Or are we to pitch a fit like a child at Disney’s Magic Kingdom?

When considering all that God has done for you, are you thankful? Or are you spoiled on these gifts? Thankfulness causes joy. There is nothing that God has withheld from those in Christ (Ephesians 1:3–14). When we consider all that Christ gives His followers, why do we complain when given commands? Why do we ignore or delay commands to worship Him, study His word, pray diligently, and other Spiritual disciplines?

Seek to obey Christ with joy. Start seeking this joy through prayer! Ask for this joy to be evident more in how you live your life (Philippians 1:3–11). Seek to cultivate a discipline of praying for this joy in all things that you do for the Lord. Prayer is sustained through a knowledge of God’s Word. A healthy love for the Scriptures bleeds into maintaining a strong prayer life. From these two disciplines, joy can begin to take root in how you love others, and make Christ known (1 Thessalonians 1:2–10). 

Christian, be joyful in worship

A second way to seek joyfulness is through worship. Christians are to worship the Lord in Spirit and truth (John 4:24). Through this worship, there must be a joy that only comes through the Spirit! The reason for this worship filled joy comes from the reasoning for our worship (Luke 6:23). The Lord has done so much for us, more than we can ever imagine, the natural response should be worship (Psalm 43:4). 

Imagine first century Samaria. Many people are struggling with major health issues. From the disabled to the demonically possessed, Samaria was oppressed like most the cities of her time. Then one day, Philip comes preaching the Gospel. The impact is profound. The power of the Spirit moves through him to heal the hurt in the city. The response is intensely joyful! The city is filled with joyfulness and worship because of the Gospel of Jesus (Acts 8:4–8).

Joy must be the response of all Christians in worship. When you are standing in Church this Sunday, are you singing with joy? Are you listening to the sermon with joyfulness? Are you joining the fellowship of the body of Christ with joy? The Kingdom of heaven is based on joy in the Spirit, how much more should our worship be founded on joy (Romans 14:17)?

Praising the Lord without joy is like drinking salt water for hydration. Worship must be soaked in the joy of the Spirit (Isaiah 29:13-19). This is an indication of the Christian’s heart. Whatever is on the throne of your heart will drive your passions. If on the throne is comforts in life, then when the Lord calls you to worship Him on Sunday morning, that will impede your wishes. If on the throne is money, then when the Lord commands to care for the needy, your king will be threatened. Repent by removing everything from the throne of your heart, and worship only Christ. It is normal for you and me to have things take place on our heart’s throne, but we must remove them immediately. Do not waste time seeking to worship only the Lord, and when you worship Him be joyful. 

Christian, be joyful in your suffering

The hardest times in our lives are when we need to remember the joy the Lord offers us. In every trial, Christians must see the joy of the Lord (James 1:2–4). There is nothing that happens to the believer that is not leveraged by the Lord, for our good, and His glory. Even in prison, Christians are to be joyful (Hebrews 10:34). John had joy in his suffering by seeing the faithfulness of other Christians (3 John 4). Joy must be sought even in the darkest of days (Habakkuk 3:18).

The Christian life is difficult. How Christians are supposed to live is opposite to this world. The world would say to do what you want, work for yourself, and in the end, you are most important.  The Christian life is loving God and laying our lives down for others. The difference is stark. Nevertheless, Martin Luther states, “Therefore [God] sent his Son, not to oppress us with heaviness and sorrow, but to cheer up our souls in him.” The Christian life is not intended to be seen as a more demanding life, but a life of joy. We know the reason for living. We know the way we are to love God, through His Son. We know what pleases God and we are given an indescribable inheritance. So why we are so often a joyless people?

Christian, in sorrows our hearts must meditate on the provisions from God. If you are suffering, seek counsel from other believers in your community. Ask for help from those that God has placed around you. Pray for strength from the Lord, to be joyful in the darkest of times (Psalm 40:1–3). Jesus is filling His followers with His joy (John 15:11). Jesus is the man of sorrows because He takes our sorrows, sin, and burdens for us (Isaiah 53).

Sacrificial Joy

There is no knockoff for everlasting joy. All other forms of delight will fade (Luke 8:9–15). All other forms of joy will be squashed by the trials. There is nothing in this world that will satisfy like Jesus. 

The joy that is found in Christ is possible because of the cross. Jesus bears the shame of this world, the pain of the cross, and the sting of death. Through this endurance, He obtains the joy of our salvation (Hebrews 12:1–2).

Through the pain of the cross and destruction of our sin, Jesus has overcome the world. Pain and suffering do exist, but that does not mean that God’s promises have failed. God’s promises are completed in Christ. The sorrow that was to come to Jesus was nothing compared to the joy that He would earn for us (John 16:19–33).

There is nothing that sustains the Christian more than the rock on which their hope rests (Matthew 7:24–27). Jesus protects us, keeps us, and will one day present us as blameless before the Father. How will Jesus do this? With joy (Jude 24–25).