The fruit of joy, part 1
In our overall Fruits of the Spirit series, we are now commencing a study of the fruit of joy. First, I am going to introduce you to my Christian friend, Wilbur. As you listen to Wilbur, imagine hearing him as he is: his voice has no inflection—very much in monotone. He is essentially lifeless and joyless and his attitude about everything is—well,…negative would be an understatement. So listen now to Wilbur as he tells you about his life.
My name is Wilbur. I know it’s sunny outside this morning, but I wish the weather were better. Too much sun can give you skin cancer, you know. I am a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. I’ve been a Christian all my life. I go to church every Sunday—morning and evening, and most of the time, on Wednesday evenings, too. I am very glad that I am a Christian.
Last week my cat… got…my cat got run over by a car.
I have many friends. They’re all Christians and go to my church. They’re all happy people, too—like me. Last month my car broke down…on a trip…and I had to have a new… transmixer—or whatever that thing is called. It cost me $3,000. But I didn’t mind because I have a credit card.
At church we learn about Jesus and how to get saved. I got saved a long time ago, so mostly at church I just hear about Jesus and how not to go to hell and how to rejoice in the Lord.
Six months ago, my wife divorced me. When I asked her why she wanted a divorce, she said I was such a drag, such an unhappy and negative person to live with. But I told her she was really messed up and she was so blind because she can’t even see that I’m one of the happiest people in the world.
As a Christian, you’re supposed to be happy. I know that because that’s what my preacher said…and so that is what I do. I am a very happy person.
My boss has the same problem as my wife—I mean my ex-wife—because two weeks ago, he called me into his office and told me I ought to lighten up and try to find some joy in life. He said that I was too pesta—too pestamistic or something, whatever that is, and that I was always dwelling on the negative.
I told him that wasn’t true because I’m a Christian and therefore I am very happy. Plus, I told him some other things that I can’t repeat here. I admit, they weren’t too nice. The next week he fired me…it was the same day I ran over my cat.
All in all, it really doesn’t matter. So what if I lost my job. It wasn’t my fault. My boss was a jerk anyhow! So what if my wife divorced me; it isn’t my fault that she can’t see how cheerful I am all the time.
Well, to tell you the truth, I really don’t have that many friends, even at church anymore. That’s OK though. They’re all just a bunch of heretics and hypocrites anyhow. I can deal with that. I’ll just go on being the same joyful person I always have been.
Alright, that’s enough of Wilbur. The Bible does say of course, that there is a time to mourn and a time to weep, but this guy is ridiculous. I was exaggerating to make the point, but I will bet that we all know people like that.
The kind of person who, if they were told they just won the Powerball lottery in the amount of 300 million dollars, would react by saying something like: “Oh, that’s just great; I’ll probably get in a wreck and die on my way to pick it up.”
The person I attempted to portray in the caricature is the antithesis of the truly joyful Christian.
In the next few online essays I are going to examine joy, along with some other fruits of the Spirit.
As I commenced this study on the fruits of the Spirit, I presented a general introduction where we learned the difference between the gifts of the Spirit and the fruits of the Spirit. We also found that the term “godliness” encompasses all the fruits of the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit come to us through the grace of God and therefore we presented some studies on the topic of grace.
Most recently, we have presented a number of essays on the fruit of humility. The fruits of the spirit (more or less of them) are mentioned in a number of places in the New Testament, but the most complete list is in Galatians.
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
All these virtues and others fall under the general term godliness. Godliness is not an option for a Christian. The pursuit of godliness is the work of a Christian. We seek the grace of all these gifts and we seek to practice them in our daily lives, not in order to earn salvation, because salvation is not earned. It is a free gift.
Instead, we practice the fruits because we are already saved (justification phase), not to get saved. We practice the fruits because doing so is pleasing to our heavenly Father. We want to please Him because He has already saved us unto eternal life. But then godliness is part of our sanctification process (our we-are-being-saved process).
Joy…just what is joy? Well, to attempt to define it we can turn to a dictionary and we can turn to the Bible. Let me give you the dictionary definition first—not because it is the highest authority. It is not. But we turn there first because after we consult its definition, we can set it aside and spend the rest of our time seeing how the Bible uses it and in that manner come to a biblical understanding of the word joy.
I like Webster’s 1828 dictionary because it was imbued by Mr. Webster with a large degree of biblical correctness, if we may use that term as opposed to political correctness. Webster’s says for the word joy:
“1. The passion or emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good; that excitement of pleasurable feelings which is caused by success, good fortune, the gratification of desire or some good possessed, or by a rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire; gladness; exultation; exhilaration of spirits.
2. Gayety; mirth; festivity.
3. Happiness; felicity.
4. A glorious and triumphant state. (Who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross. Heb. 12)
5. The cause of joy or happiness. (For ye are our glory and joy. 1 Ths 2)”
And then Mr. Webster gives the verb forms. To see how the Bible defines joy, we simply take our concordance and begin to look up all occurrences of the word joy or its various forms, including joyful, joyfully, joyfulness, joyous and we must not neglect rejoice, rejoicing, etc. Because if we neglected the rejoice words, we would miss over half the approximately 500 occurrences.
And obviously, we don’t have either the time to examine all those occurrences for the present Bible study, but we will try to capture the essence of joy so that we can understand it sufficiently in order to progress in our spiritual maturity.
The Bible teaches that we are trichotomous beings. We consist of body and soul and spirit. The soul is the mind, the will and the emotions. In other words, the soul is what we think, what we decide and what we feel. Narrowing it down to just the emotions part of our soul now, let me list some emotions. Let’s list some negative emotions first. There is sadness, grief, fear, anxiety, angry, rage, bitterness, etc.
Some positive emotions would include being happy, peaceful, elated, excited, amazed, loving, warm (emotionally; i.e, affectionate), and so forth.
Normally, when people talk of joy they would classify it among the positive emotions, right? But isn’t that quizzical? Isn’t that puzzling? Because joy is biblically defined as a fruit of holy spirit, so would it not properly be categorized as belonging to the spiritual realm then?
Can you see why so many people think that the soul and spirit are the same thing? Yet we know they are not, but certainly there is some inter-relatedness. You see, true and godly joy is a quality of the heart.
And when we say the heart, we mean more than that flesh and blood organ in your chest which circulates your blood throughout your body. From the most ancient times, the heart has been a metaphor for the very center and essence of our being, of both soul and spirit.
And so we appear to have both a soulish side and a spiritual side to our being, with some of the same qualities applying to both. Therefore when we speak of joy as being a quality of the heart, it is both spiritual and soulish—and it also appertains to the physical body as well. You see, in Proverbs 15:13 it says:
Proverbs 15:13 A merry heart maketh a cheerful [glad, joyful] countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
The word merry there is also translated joyful, and the word broken is better understood today by the word wounded. So, substituting…
Proverbs 15:13 A joyful heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is wounded.
We can see how the idea is derived that the joy which originates in the heart then manifests on our face. I think that a genuine smile is detected by seeing a full-face smile. You can see the warmth in the eyes. (To be continued.)