The real fruit of real joy
Jesus was a joyful person! Today, his desire is to share his joy with others. He said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11) From the beginning until the end of His life here on the earth, Jesus brought joy to people around him.
Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is one born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10, 11).
And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifted up his hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while he blessed them, that he was parted from them up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and we’re continuing the temple praising and blessing God. (Luke 24:50-53).
The joy of the Lord is much different from the joy of the world; therefore, it is very valuable to our earthly experience.
The false fruit of joy
The world tries to substitute the joy of the Lord with its own earthly joy. One of the meanings of joy refers to the feeling that we have when a casual event brings us pleasure. A treasure hunter is very happy if he has enough luck to find a hidden treasure. His happiness however, depends on the treasure. If he finds a treasure but then loses it later, he would be sad. He bases his joy upon what happens to him: if it is something good, then he is happy; if it is something bad, then he is sad. He bases his internal sense of well-being to the events of his daily life, because of this, he is in the clouds one day but in the pits the next. Even when he is happy, there is an uncomfortable feeling that his happiness will not last for very long. His joy is not true, but merely a temporary feeling that disappears as quickly as it appears.
Some people try to avoid the serious aspects of life and death through foolish conversations and behavior. They attempt to cover-up their fears and insecurities with constant joking and scoffing. There is an important place for jokes and humor in the Christian life, but there are occasions when we must be serious or somber. Unfortunately, some people are like circus clowns. They may be laughing on the outside but they are crying on the inside. This is not true joy but a fake simulation much like what an actor does on a stage. What then is true joy?
The true fruit of joy
The Greek word translated “joy” in the way that was described in Galatians 5:22, is chara. It occurs 60 times in the New Testament. The verbal form chairen, means to rejoice, and is found 72 times. It is interesting to observe that the word chairen was also used as a one-word greeting that literally means “rejoice!” or “may joy be with you!” (Luke 1:28; James 1:1). Joy obviously refers to the feeling of internal delight or contentment of the heart. Christian joy has a much deeper meaning, as I hope to demonstrate.
True joy is more than just a feeling; it is a person, Jesus Christ, the Son of God! He is our joy. The joy of the Lord is the Lord himself. The “feeling” of joy is our emotional response to the “reality” of joy. Jesus is this reality. Joy is an aspect of His life, a quality of His being. Therefore, when we have Jesus in our hearts, we have the true joy of the Lord inside of us.
Jesus said that He would never leave us or abandon us. In other words, the joy of the Lord is always with us, independently of what we “feel”. The source of our joy is within us. Our joy is not affected or altered by what “happens” to or around us. This is the reason why Paul could so emphatically affirm, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4)
We do not rejoice on sad occasions or in everything that happens. However, we can rejoice in the Lord because of His presence and His promises to make “all things work together for the good”. As one brother in the faith said, “the joy of the Lord is a type of solid joy”. Christ is the solid center of our lives. We can always remain in His joy, and His joy can always remain in us. The certainty of His joy in the center of our lives is a source of great strength during times of anguish and personal weakness. The following kind and conciliatory words of Nehemiah quickly come to mind, “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Christians without joy are Christians without power. Christians without power are Christians without joy. The positive side of the issue also applies. Joyful Christians are powerful Christians. The message is clear! Yes, Jesus is the source and the center of our joy.
Just as Mary rejoiced upon recognizing her privilege of bearing the Messiah we also rejoice in Jesus as our Savior. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46, 47)
We rejoice in Jesus as our “baptizer” in the Holy Spirit. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13; Acts 13:52)
We rejoice in Jesus as the one who heals us. “The whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen.” (Luke 19:37)
We rejoice in Jesus as our coming King. “Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (John 16:22; Matthew 5:12)
Because of the fact that Jesus is the joy of our lives, we have a powerful remedy for the pain and anguish of the venom of self-pity.
The rotten fruit of the flesh
Joy is a quality of the life of Christ. The opposite fruit of the flesh would include characteristics like prolonged anguish, sadness, heaviness, depression, self-pity and the spirit of mumbling or complaining. These attitudes can lead us to depression, desperation, withdraw and even suicide.
We have all gone through occasions of anguish and sadness. In His humanity, Jesus entered into the deepest of our sufferings and internal pain. However, He had an internal force that led Him to great victory. What was the source of this inner strength that He carried during the darkest hours of His life? The writer of Hebrews gives us an important revelation with respect to this answer. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Jesus looked beyond the cross to the marvelous life that would be His (and ours) in the shining glory of heaven. He was prepared to pay this terrible price so that we could enjoy eternal fellowship with Him and the Father. Truly, the prospect of what this joy represented is what encouraged Him to persevere in bearing the suffering on the cross.
What an example and comfort for all of us! Yes, we may pass through occasions of anguish, pain and great sadness. However, we are not sad as those who have no hope. We have a strong basis of solid joy in the midst of our anguish: the joy to know that Jesus went before us and obtained the victory over death and the devil. His victory over death includes the many characteristics of death that may afflict us even before we die. As was already stated earlier, these are the venomous fruits of the flesh. However, we now have a remedy against the wounds and internal infirmities of our souls.
Jesus is at the right hand of the Father in a position of victory and power. Through His Spirit, however He is present with us in our hearts to minister His love, joy and peace. These are the qualities of His life for our health and divine healing. In addition, we can enjoy these “first fruits” right now, even while we wait for the final fulfillment of our great salvation.
This is the hope that inspired the following marvelous words of the prophet Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to comfort all who mourn, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)
We may have tears in our eyes, but even then we can see the “Sun of righteousness”, which arises each day with healing in His wings (Malachi 4:2). The remaining fog of the dark night soon dissipates in the light of the love of God. There is always promise of a new day in the Lord. This is our hope! This is our joy!