According to Galatians 5:22-23 the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. For me, joy is not always easily found or expressed. But the fruit is meant to be expressed. So often I hear Christians tell one another they recognized them by the joy they convey, a joy that is not often seen outside of Christ. True joy cannot be found outside of God. Job 20:5 says, “that the exulting of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless but for a moment?” Joy is not happiness. It is not contingent on circumstances; it relies on who we are and how we perceive the world and our circumstances.
The fruit or results of having the Holy Spirit within us, of walking and acting in the Spirit is transformation to the image of Christ. The characteristics listed in Galatians 5:22-23 are characteristics of Christ. The verse goes on to say that “against these things, there is no law.” When our response is one of choosing to operate in Him, we will not sin. The law is not something we have to consider as we walk in the Spirit. We are freed from the law. Romans 8:1-2 reads, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” How awesome is that? How amazing? What a wonderful reason to rejoice! It seems so difficult for so many to give up the hold of the law though. They want the rules, as long as the rules fit their worldview. They want to know what they should do or shouldn’t do and they judge anyone who doesn’t go along with those rules, even when they, themselves often do not. But following Christ is not about rules, laws, or traditions, it is about seeking God and following Jesus which means walking in the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit means having the Spirit indwell you. It means choosing to do what He leads you to do rather than what your natural self, often called “the flesh” would choose to do. Romans 8:5-10 in The Living Bible says,
Those who let themselves be controlled by their lower natures live only to please themselves, but those who follow after the Holy Spirit find themselves doing those things that please God. 6 Following after the Holy Spirit leads to life and peace, but following after the old nature leads to death 7 because the old sinful nature within us is against God. It never did obey God’s laws and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their old sinful selves, bent on following their old evil desires, can never please God.
9 But you are not like that. You are controlled by your new nature if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that if anyone doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ living in him, he is not a Christian at all.)
In the ESV verses 6-7 read this way,
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.
To set one’s mind on the Spirit is a choice. We take part in whether we will think about the Spirit and what He wants for us or on our flesh or our basal desires and pride want. Are we choosing to be hostile to God or submissive to God? To choose to follow laws can still be hostility toward God. To follow laws without the Spirit is to feed one’s pride and that does not yield to God’s will for us. To set our minds on the Spirit and respond in the image of Christ is pleasing to God, glorifies God, and results in demonstrable and demonstrated love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, the fruit or results of the Holy Spirit in our lives and hearts.
We want happiness and mistakenly think joyful expression is the result of being happy. That is backward, happiness can be the result of joy but rarely if ever will mere happiness result in true lasting joy. Happiness is transitory since it is based on conditions, events, or situations. In fact, we can have joy even when we are going through difficulties. Psalm 27:5-7 reads,
For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.
6 And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
You see David was in a day of trouble, yet he was praying and so he was able to worship, shout joyfully, and sing to God because as he sought God, God lifted David’s head. David understood that the Lord was his salvation through everything, that gave him joy. Believer, does that give you joy? No matter what is happening around you, God is your salvation.
Where is joy? Where do we find it? The answer is somewhat obvious but, obvious doesn’t always mean easily understood or accepted. We find joy in The Lord. In 1 Chronicles 16:27 when David is singing a song of praise to God, he says, “Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place.”
Once again, David was praising, he was seeking God. David was in God’s dwelling place and that is where he found strength and joy. The dwelling place of God was His Tabernacle and then the Temple, not a people but a tent and then a building. Now, the dwelling place of God is His church, it is His believers. Ephesians 2:18-22 tells us,
For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
We are joined together into a holy temple in the Lord, a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. The church is God’s dwelling place. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). If you can’t find joy, maybe you need to ask yourself when the last time you were with the church, praising and worshipping, fellowshipping and learning. Perhaps you need to consider if you are seeking God or finding yourself. I mean if Jesus is right there with us when only two or three are gathered, how can we not rejoice? If He is there when just a few of us gather, how much more will His presence be encountered, experienced and expressed when there are twenty or one hundred and twenty gathered in His name?
Joy is found in God’s presence. Joy is expressed through praising him and worshipping Him. We know joy because we know God loves us and cares what happens to us. Psalm 35:27 says, “Let those who delight in my righteousness shout for joy and be glad and say evermore, “Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant!”
Joy is found in courageous obedience to Jesus, serving Him and His glory, and being a good steward over what He gives us. In The Parable of the Talents, Jesus tells the story of three servants who were entrusted with money from their master. The first was given five talents, the second was given two talents, and the third was given one talent. Upon the master’s return, he found that the first and second servant had traded and doubled the master’s money. The third merely buried the money in the ground. The master took the talent from the third servant. He then told each of the first two servants, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:14-46).
Other kinds of obedience result in joy as well. Spreading the good news about Jesus and helping them by demonstrating His love gives us joy. But the greater joy, the best joy is knowing we are chosen and known by God; we are saved. When Jesus sent out seventy-two disciples, they came back rejoicing over the great things they had done in Jesus name. Luke 10:17-20 reads,
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
Just after this Jesus prayed in the Holy Spirit. The Bible refers to this as rejoicing! Consider that when we pray in the Spirit, we are rejoicing. Also think about this, in this passage (Luke 10:21-24), as Jesus prays in the Spirit to the Father, God’s triunity is shown so gloriously to us and He invites us into that unity with Him.
In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
23 Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
We rejoice over our salvation and Jesus’ revelation to us and to those He allows us to show Jesus to. We rejoice because we know Him and because we are known by Him! Do you understand this is The LORD, God Almighty, Creator, Lord of Hosts? He is God and He knows us, and He wants us to know Him! Praise God! That is a magnificent reason to be filled with joy.
There is so much more to say on this topic! Joy is a gift from God, it is a choice we are able make in the Holy Spirit. It is a blessing that we can and should openly express. I leave you with this benediction today.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13