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But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. – Galatians 5:22-24
When I think of joy, several things come to mind…
- Joy to the world, the Lord has come!
- The joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10)
- I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.
- Count it all joy when you face trials of various kinds (James 1:2)
- For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame and sat down at the right hand of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
Beyond all those quotes is the fact that joy is a fruit of the Spirit. While the works of the flesh are things people do, the fruit of the Spirit is the result of the Spirit’s presence in a believer’s life. These are not things we do, but blessings given by God. These are not feelings we gin up, but gifts from the Holy Spirit.
But it’s a battle. Joy reigns in the believer’s heart insofar as he has crucified the sinful flesh. When we’re consumed by sexual immorality, excessive indulgence in sinful pleasure, anger, envy or drunkenness, joy is far away. And although these do not bring joy, they appeal to a side of us that will never be satisfied by their pursuit. Drunkenness of any kind is never satisfied and yields only the rue of hangover or the disappointment of poor choices’ outcomes.
Experiencing joy of this kind is a two-fold process. First is to crucify the sinful flesh. Denying the impulses to self-service, cheap thrills, and emotions’ reign. Second is to lean into the Holy Spirit’s presence in our hearts, through the word of God and prayer. All this is a matter of faith. Looking beyond the glitter and glory of the world’s lure, we attach our hearts to God’s promises, goodness, grace, and faithfulness. And his love.
This takes me back to the first of the joy thoughts above. The Lord has come to us. He has come to teach us the truth about God. He has come to bring God’s grace to us. He has come to forgive our sins. He has come to give us abundant life. And when he came he looked beyond even his suffering and death to the joy that God gives to his own in his presence. Jesus has taught us the truth about God so that his joy may be in us and our joy may be complete. This is God’s gift.
The closer we remain to Jesus and his word, and the more resolute in prayer we are for his blessing and grace the deeper and more true will be our joy. Come, Holy Spirit! Enlighten the hearts of your people and bring us true joy! Amen