The fruit of the Spirit is…joy.
The second fruit that should grow on the tree of a Christian’s character is joy. This fruit is a little trickery to define since it refers to an affection or emotion of the heart more than it does to an act of the will. But let me try and piece it together, first by contrasting it with the type of joy that the world displays.
The joy of a Christian is not based on material possessions. The world so often finds gladness in goods. We can easily fall into this trap ourselves. The problem with getting our joy from material realities is that as Jesus points out “moth and rust can destroy and thieves can break in and steal.” The joy of a Christian is not rooted in the temporary but the eternal. Here’s a good way to test how much of your joy is wrapped up in something material and temporary: Is there any possession that if you lost it or if it broke down would cause your day to be ruined and your attitude to be soured?
Also, the joy of a Christian is not based on circumstances. Circumstances ebb and flow like the rise and fall of the ocean tide. Not only that, but our feelings about our circumstances, whether they’ve changed or not, can feel like riding a six-flags roller coaster. A tough day at work, a rough day with the kids, a tense meeting with a friend, should not dictate your joy. Don’t mistake this to mean that Christian’s always have to walk around with a plastic smile telling everyone that they feel “swell.” The joy of a Christian can be present even in the midst of real tears over real sorrows.
So if the joy of a Christian is not based on material possessions or dependent on circumstances, what is it? The joy of a Christian is a happiness of heart that is firmly rooted in God’s sovereignty and salvation.
It is rooted in God’s sovereignty, which gives the child of God the unshakeable confidence that despite my circumstances God is on the throne and He does whatever He pleases and will work out all things for His glory and my good.
And it is rooted in God’s salvation, which gives the child of God an eternal possession of greatest value that can never fade or perish unlike the things of earth.
Sadly, we often allow many weeds to grow up in our hearts that rob us of joy. For example, we allow envy, greed, and discontentment to rob us of joy. We wish we had what they have, or if only we could have that newer vehicle or bigger house then we could breath a little, or how can I be joyful when my clothes don’t fit like I’d like them to. Our joy can be robbed from a Gospel-Amnesia. We neglect to meditate on the glories of the Gospel and so our heart grows cold and damp and joyless. Also, we can lose our joy in the Lord when we harbor secret sin and live in hypocrisy. David makes it clear in Psalm 32 that secret sin sucks out all the joy of the Christian life.
For these reasons and many more we need to regularly confess our joylessness and ask the Lord to restore joy to us. Here is a prayer that can guide you down the path of confession:
Our Heavenly Father,
Forgive us for we have lacked the joy of the Spirit in our lives. At times we have honored you with our lips but our hearts have been far from You. We have choked out the joy of the Spirit with discontentment, coveting, grumbling, and hypocrisy. Create in us a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within us. Restore to us the joy of your salvation, and uphold us with a willing spirit.
In the Name of Christ we pray, Amen.
Even though you do not rejoice in the Lord as you ought, you should take great joy in the fact that the Lord rejoices over you. If you don’t believe me read it for yourself from Zephaniah 3:14-17:
Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil…The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
Did you catch that? God “rejoices over you with gladness.” God, the infinitely happy God, takes joy in you, his redeemed child. As a Father comes into the room of his little child to sing a sweet lullaby to them, so the Lord sings over you with deep and overflowing affection. How can you not be joyful at news such as that?