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The Fruit of the Spirit - Joy

Foundation for a Positive Life

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The Fruit of the Spirit - Joy: Foundation for a Positive Life

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Wouldn’t you like to experience deep and enduring joy? Wouldn’t you like to be joy-full? Please be assured— you can.

The world has a woeful shortage of joy and a surplus of fear, worry, discouragement and depression. Even the “pursuit of happiness” and obsessive pleasure-seeking do not bring deep and lasting joy.

Let’s first understand the difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is an emotion, and God never intended for people to be in that emotional state all the time. There is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4 Ecclesiastes 3:4A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
American King James Version×
).

Biblical joy—the true joy—comes from filling the spiritual void with good relationships, primarily an intimate relationship with the One who is pure joy. Jesus put it this way: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (John 15:5 John 15:5I am the vine, you are the branches: He that stays in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.
American King James Version×
). That fruit includes much joy!

The Bible speaks much more often of joy than of being happy. “Hap” means chance and is the root of several words— happen, happening, haphazard (dependent on mere chance), hapless, happenstance (a chance circumstance) and  happy.

Happiness is a glad feeling that depends on something good happening. God wants you to experience happy times (as long as God approves of what is happening). But His greater desire is that you have unconditional joy. Jesus said His joy would “remain in you” and “your joy no one will take from you” (John 15:11 John 15:11These things have I spoken to you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
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; John 16:22 John 16:22And you now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man takes from you.
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, emphasis added throughout).

Think of joy as a strong foundation that supports a variety of healthy emotions, including happiness. The long-range evidence of joy is general gratitude, contentment, optimism, a sense of freedom and other positive attitudes.

Joy looks out and up, not inward

A common mistake is to think that getting something will make you happy. We tell ourselves, “If only …” But joy and happiness come much more from giving and serving than from  getting.

The apostle Paul reminded his listeners that Jesus Christ had taught this very thing: “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving” (Acts 20:35 Acts 20:35I have showed you all things, how that so laboring you ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
American King James Version×
, Today’s English Version).

To grow in joy, we must resist not only self-pity but also being self-centered and self-absorbed. For joy to flourish, we must focus on loving others and especially on loving God.

Joy is largely composed of gratitude —gratitude for the wonderful things God has done for us and His “exceedingly great and precious promises” for our future (2 Peter 1:4 2 Peter 1:4Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
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). Gratitude produces joy (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 16 Rejoice ever more. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
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). And our gratitude should be for other people’s blessings as well as for our own (Romans 12:15 Romans 12:15Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
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).

Try to follow this biblical formula: Add to your life gratitude, humility, forgiveness, faith, hope, patience and love. Take away resentment, anger, fear, worry, materialism, greed, jealousy, complaining and pride. The result? Joy!

Joy is spiritual, supernatural and essential

God is joyful—far more than any human being ever was! It’s tragic that many people think of God as somber and stern rather than cheerful and smiling with a great sense of humor. He is enjoying His creation, and especially the delightful anticipation of many new “sons of God” (Romans 8:14 Romans 8:14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
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; Romans 8:19 Romans 8:19For the earnest expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God.
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).

True followers (imitators) of God will be joyful also. Psalms 68:3 Psalms 68:3But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yes, let them exceedingly rejoice.
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says, “Let the righteous be glad; … let them rejoice exceedingly.” God desires that we serve Him “with joy and gladness of heart” (Deuteronomy 28:47 Deuteronomy 28:47Because you served not the LORD your God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things;
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).

Paul spoke of the “joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6 1 Thessalonians 1:6And you became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.
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). It is through His Spirit that God shares and communicates His joy.

And when Paul lists the “fruit of the Spirit,” joy is second, preceded only by love (Galatians 5:22-23 Galatians 5:22-23 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
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). If we are filled with godly love, won’t that produce joy? Of course it will.

Being second in the list surprises many people who mistakenly think joy is spiritually unimportant. Some religious people even shun joy, at least subconsciously, thinking that pious people should instead be solemn. A few even choose asceticism, which God abhors.

Joy is a major topic in the Bible. In the King James Version, “joy” appears 158 times and “rejoice” 198 times (not counting other variations such as joyful, joyfully, joyous, jubilant, happy and glad ).

Rejoice is the verb form of joy, meaning to feel or have joy! Clearly there is great emphasis in the Bible on feeling and expressing joy. That explains why the Bible also emphasizes prayers and songs that praise (celebrate) God (James 5:13 James 5:13Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
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; Colossians 3:16-17 Colossians 3:16-17 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
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).

Joy is not optional. The Bible repeatedly commands us to rejoice! The most emphatic exhortation is in Philippians 4:4 Philippians 4:4Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.
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, where Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say,  rejoice!”

Is it wrong to have sorrow?

The Bible describes two kinds of sorrow. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10 2 Corinthians 7:10For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world works death.
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).

Those who have joy frequently experience godly sorrow at the same time. It can be the sorrow of repentance toward God. Those who feel the worst about their sins feel the greatest joy about their forgiveness and God’s amazing grace.

Another example is mourning over the suffering of others while having the joy of knowing that God will eventually solve all problems (Matthew 5:4 Matthew 5:4Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
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).

Worldly sorrow is generally self-pity or a victim mentality. While one indulges in worldly sorrow, it’s virtually impossible to have either godly sorrow or joy.

Isaiah’s prophecy said Jesus would be “a Man of sorrows”—sorrows over mankind’s sins and suffering (Isaiah 53:3 Isaiah 53:3He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
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). Yet He was also prophesied to be “anointed … with the oil of gladness more than [His] companions” (Hebrews 1:8-9 Hebrews 1:8-9 8 But to the Son he said, Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.
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; Psalms 45:6-7 Psalms 45:6-7 6 Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the scepter of your kingdom is a right scepter. 7 You love righteousness, and hate wickedness: therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.
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). And indeed, Christ had great joy and also experienced great sorrow (John 17:13 John 17:13And now come I to you; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
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; Matthew 26:37-39 Matthew 26:37-39 37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. 38 Then said he to them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even to death: tarry you here, and watch with me. 39 And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as you will.
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).

Grieving is a healthy response when a loved one dies. However, if we believe the truth of the resurrection, we also have comfort and joy because we know our loss is only temporary. The grief is much more painful for those “who have no hope” in a resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:13 1 Thessalonians 4:13But I would not have you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning them which are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
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).

Joy because of trials?

God’s joy continues to flow through His people even during their suffering because of their rock-solid hope. They know that all suffering is limited to this short life, and the time will soon come when “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying” (Revelation 21:4 Revelation 21:4And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
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). They “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2 Romans 5:2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
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).

We also have good reason to rejoice because of our trials when we understand how God is using those trials to help us build godly character. “And we know that all things [even severe trials] work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 Romans 8:28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
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).

More specifically, Paul wrote that “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4 Romans 5:3-4 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
American King James Version×
, New International Version).

James wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance”—perseverance in remaining faithful to God (James 1:2 James 1:2My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations;
American King James Version×
, NIV).

And because Christ suffered for each of us, we should have a special joy when we are persecuted for our faith. Jesus said, “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12 Matthew 5:11-12 11 Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
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).

The number one key to joy: God’s Spirit

Supreme joy is God’s nature and character! We see proof everywhere in God’s creation—birds singing, animals leaping, flowers blooming, brooks babbling and the sun shining! Many people would be less depressed if they would spend more time outside. God “gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17 1 Timothy 6:17Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy;
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).

Since God is exceedingly joyful, His servants should also be joyful! Sadly, many who claim to be His disciples are austere, sour and dour. But take note of Luke’s description of true disciples: “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52 Acts 13:52And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.
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).

How can we be filled with joy and the Holy Spirit? “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission [forgiveness] of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ ” (Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
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).

What then? Our unique joy begins because Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
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). He tells us to “rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20 Luke 10:20Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject to you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
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). We then have an intimate relationship with the One Psalms 43:4 Psalms 43:4Then will I go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy: yes, on the harp will I praise you, O God my God.
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calls “God my exceeding joy.” In His presence “is fullness of joy” (Psalms 16:11 Psalms 16:11You will show me the path of life: in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures for ever more.
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).

God’s Spirit is a tree of life, producing life-giving fruit (Galatians 5:22-23 Galatians 5:22-23 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
American King James Version×
). That fruit includes great joy.

Jesus prayed for His followers “that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13 John 17:13And now come I to you; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
American King James Version×
).

He also teaches us to pray for joy and for all our needs. As He tells us in John 16:24 John 16:24Till now have you asked nothing in my name: ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.
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, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full!”

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