Galatians 5:22, 23—But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
The Greek word for “joy” is chara, derived from the word charis, which is the Greek word for grace (derivative for the English word charity). This is significant to note, because it conveys the idea that chara is produced by the charis of God. In other words, joy is of divine origin—“the joy of the Lord.” It springs from God and has God for its object. The believer rejoices mainly in God himself; he is happy because there is a God, and because God is in his person and character what he is.
A further source of joy is found by the Christian, who is living near to God, with a deep sense of reconciliation to God, of acceptance with God, and, beyond that, of adoption and close relationship to God. The joy of the Lord in the spirit springs from an assurance that the future, whatever it may hold, is guaranteed by divine goodness, that being children of God, the love of God towards us abides and remains unchangeable. Essentially, we can be joyful knowing that God has everything under control.
This means that joy is not a human-based, emotional exuberance that is fickle in nature, ebbing and flowing as the situation changes. Joy is not predicated upon the favorability of our life rhythms. Rather, true joy is divine in its origin. Basically, joy is God’s grace recognized. Most people equate joy and happiness. Joy and happiness are two different entities. Real joy actually has nothing to do with happiness.
“Happiness” comes from the root word “happen.” Happiness, therefore, is based on circumstances. If something pleasing is going on, then we are happy. Happiness is tied up in emotion and “feelings.” However, God says that joy occurs even in the midst of trials—when the car breaks down, when the cupboards are bare, when the kids get sick, when the boss cuts your hours, when your spouse is in a bad mood, etc.
James 1:2 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials…” Why is James telling us to count it all joy when we fall into trials? He knew that joy allows us to fight in the midst of those trials. If we fight through the trials, we will overcome. James continues, “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (v. 4). The ultimate goal here is victory over trials, not acceptance of them.
You see, we are called to “fight the good fight of faith” (I Timothy 6:12). The problem is that many people in the body of Christ have grown tired of fighting the good fight. Their struggle is not one of stamina, though; they have lost their joy. Perhaps you are fed up with your spouse and your marriage is too far gone to fight for. Maybe you have been sick for so long that you no longer remember what it is to be healthy and you are too exhausted to fight for wellness. Possibly you once waged war against your mountain of debt. Sadly, there has not been much progress and you have become too discouraged fight for financial freedom. You may be having trouble with your rebellious children. They have been disobedient for so long that you can no longer fight for harmony. You are ready to throw in the towel.
So, what does that have to do with joy? Simply put, joy produces strength. And strength is needed to fight. Joy, in fact, is a source of great strength. One of the most popular verses in the Bible is Nehemiah 8:10—Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Joy gives us strength in several ways (Spurgeon):
- Joy strengthens our spirit—A man who walks in the sunlight of God’s countenance, for that very reason is warm and strong. The sunlight of joy usually goes with the warmth of spiritual life. As the light of joy varies so does the warmth of holy strength; he who dwells in the light of God is both happy and strong. He who goes into the shade and loses the joy of the Lord becomes weak at the same time. So the joy of the Lord becomes our strength, as being an indicator of its rise or fall.
- Joy fortifies us against temptation—What is there that he can be tempted with? He has more already than the world can offer him as a reward for treachery. He is already rich; who shall ensnare him with the wages of unrighteousness? He is already satisfied; who is he who can seduce him with pleasing baits?
- Joy gives us resolve against persecution—They may well afford to be laughed at who win at such a rate as he does. Such a man is, moreover, made strong to bear affliction; for all the sufferings put upon him are but a few drops of bitterness cast into his cup of bliss, to give a deeper tone to the sweetness which absorbs them.
A joyous man is to all intents and purposes a strong man. He is strong in a calm, restful manner. Whatever happens, he is not ruffled or disturbed. He is not afraid of evil; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.
Joy is a Spirit-given expression that flourishes even in hard times. I Thessalonians 1:6—And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. The Thessalonians were under great stress due to persecution; yet, in spite of it all, they continued to walk in great joy. The Greek implies that their supernatural joy was due to the Holy Spirit working in them. Paul called it the “joy of the Holy Spirit.”
Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” How often are we to rejoice? You know the answer—always! Why? Joy is the easiest fruit to lose. We must renew it daily. You cannot live off of yesterday’s supply of joy. Just as God’s mercies are renewed daily, so are we to renew our joy. Joy can give you strength only when you possess it. To possess it, you must walk in it. You might say, “I don’t feel like rejoicing.” God didn’t say, “Rejoice if you feel like it.” He said very clearly, “Rejoice always.” Obviously, God knows that you do not always “feel” like rejoicing. So, leave feelings out of the mix.
Habakkuk 3:17-19—“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls…” It sounds like this fellow has problems. But look at the most important word in the next verse—yet. “…yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Notice, Habakkuk refuses to surrender to his problems. He says, “The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.” In the NHT (New Herb Translation), Habakkuk 3:17, 18 reads like this: “Though there is no food in the pantry, no money in the bank; though the sickness gets worse, and the pain persists; though my children are hellions, and my spouse does not appreciate me, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
The difference between defeat and victory is attitude. An attitude of gratitude will put you over in life. This is the kind of attitude that Habakkuk had. Though no good could be found—no fruit, no crops, no sheep, and no cattle—he still had joy. After all, even if all seems lost, we still have the love of God and the hope of glory. That alone should be enough to make us shout!
Isaiah 12:2, 3—Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; ‘For Yah, the Lord, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.’ Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Did you know that there are “wells” (plural) of salvation? When you got saved, you inherited many wells. Each well contains a unique blessing. These are the benefits of salvation.
Draw from one well for healing. Draw from another for prosperity. Draw from yet another well for a sound mind. Draw a big bucket from the well of restoration. Draw a double-bucket full from the well of peace. The more you look at the wells you inherited, the more your heart rejoices. It’s joy that keeps you strong and enables you to draw from the wells of salvation.
Do not let your heart be troubled. Do not get discouraged. Why? Joy produces results.
- Joy leads to great praise. Remember Paul and Silas? In shackles, in the deepest dungeon of the jailhouse, cold, wet, and weary, they began to sing praises to God in the midnight hour. What happened? The shackles fell off and the prison doors flew open. What does that tell me? Praise breaks the chains of bondage! Where does that praise come from? The joy of salvation, the joy of hope, causes the spirit to rejoice.
- Joy leads to great sacrifice. There are people throughout the world who have sacrificed their very lives for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and did so joyfully. We may never have to give up our life’s blood, but we will give up something. Our sacrifice is typically one of time, talent, money, resources, goals, hopes, dreams, plans, etc. These things we are compelled to give cheerfully in gratitude to a God who causes all things to work together for our good (Romans 8:28) and has given us so much.
- Joy leads to family happiness. Nehemiah 12:43—Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and the children also rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard afar off. Happy is the household where the joy is not confined to one, but where all partake of it.
Challenge: Remember Habakkuk 3:17-19, and find your “yet” moment. Seek to remain joyful in the midst of a trying situation this week. Make an effort to praise God through pain, no matter how severe the situation becomes