Joy

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-26 ESV). The dictionary defines “joy” as a feeling of great pleasure or happiness. My question then becomes: “How’s your joy?” It’s often important to assure despondent Christians that Jesus himself sometimes plumbed the emotional depths. But it’s equally important to guard against the opposite extreme, as if joy were a luxury we could well do without. There are ample examples of this principle in the Scripture. Our reading today makes it very clear that one of the Holy Spirit’s gifts to every believer is joy. So, either the dictionary is wrong, or the Bible is mistaken. I think I will trust the latter to be a better source! However, let’s explore a bit. Jesus was known as a “man of sorrows,” though that was only one side of his life. The Clearly he found joy in his special relationship with his Father; and as he approached the end of his ministry, it was the prospect of the joy set before him that strengthened him to endure the cross (cf. Hebrews 12:2). This was not merely the anticipation of joy; it was the joy of anticipation; and, it was a key element in the psychology of his obedience. Peter speaks of a similar joy when he describes believers as “greatly rejoicing” in anticipation of their final salvation (cf. 1 Peter 1:6). Indeed, joy is part of the spiritual profile of every Christian. It has little to do, however, either with our natural temperament or with our personal circumstances. It is the fruit of the Spirit, and it is worth noting that when Paul uses that phrase, he speaks not of “fruits” in the plural, but of “fruit” in the singular. The fruit is one indivisible organic whole, which means that whenever the Spirit comes to live in a human soul the result is love and joy and peace, and all the other graces which the apostle mentions in our reading. It is one fruit, with many segments. There cannot, therefore, not be joy in a Christian heart. Even its temporary absence is a symptom of some underlying spiritual malady. On the other hand, the fruit is not produced mechanically, but grows from the seed that is sown in our souls and tended through each phase of growth until the harvest is gathered. It is the result of a living relationship with the Holy Spirit. No wonder Paul tells us to “keep in step” with him. Our joy simply does not develop when we do not walk in the journey he has ordained for us. That grieves him resulting in the loss of joy. We’ll explore this a bit more in the coming days. Today, commit yourself to the path he has given you. That is the beginning of great pleasure and...

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