The Joy of the Lord (2)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Galatians 5.22, 23
Joy comes to us as a gift from God. Make no mistake about it, the only joy you will ever know, the joy you need for strength to travel through your valleys of weeping, and the joy you hope for beyond this life, that joy – the only true joy – is in and from God alone. We can’t gin it up from within ourselves. It does not attach to things or circumstances. Joy is a fixed condition, inherent in the Being of God, and it is bestowed, nurtured, and sustained within us by God Himself.
Joy is a primary fruit of the Spirit of God, as He works within us, willing and doing of God’s good pleasure (Phil. 2.13).
Because joy comes from without, by the work of the Spirit within, if we want to experience joy, we must understand as much as possible about the Holy Spirit, how He works within us, what He’s trying to accomplish, and how we may collaborate with Him (Phil. 2.12) for joy and all the fruit, gifts, and power He bestows.
Let’s take a closer look.
The Spirit’s goal
Joy comes from the Spirit. He exudes joy within us as He shapes us into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are made for joy, and we are made to be like Jesus. The Kingdom into which Jesus has conveyed us has joy as its defining state (Rom. 14.17, 18). One day we will be as perfectly like Jesus as is possible for each of us to be, because we will see Him as He is (1 Jn. 3.1-3). Then our joy will be complete, that is, we will be joyful and rejoicing always. At the same time, our complete joy will continue to increase as well, as we discover more and more of the infinite riches of beauty, goodness, and truth that are our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our joy will be full and increasing at that time because we will be like Jesus, Who dwells in perfect, complete, and infinite joy (Jude 1.24). Since our joy will be exceeding in “the presence of His glory” on that great day, it makes sense to believe that our joy will increase in this life to the extent that we are shaped and transformed into the image of Jesus by the inward work of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3.12-18).
This is the Spirit’s goal in your life. By sending His Spirit to dwell within you, God’s purpose is to have full and unlimited access to your soul – mind, heart, and conscience – so that He might shape your thinking, guard and nurture your affections, and shore up your priorities for a life of growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3.18). The more you become like Jesus – learning Jesus, as Paul put it (Eph. 4.17-24) – the more you can expect to experience the joy of Jesus by the work of the Spirit within.
You will be frustrated in knowing the joy of the Lord if your goal in the Christian life is anything other than that which the Spirit is seeking. If you just want to find a good church, have some reliable Christian friends, learn lots of neat things about the Bible, or be daily assured that you’re going to heaven when you die – if any of these or anything else is the goal of your Christian life, then you will not know the joy God has for you in Jesus as fully as you might.
But, by understanding and submitting to the work of the Spirit, joy can be your daily experience, and joy can grow in you day by day.
The work of the Spirit
It’s not without reason that the Scriptures instruct us to walk in the Spirit, to be filled with the Spirit, set our minds on the Spirit, sow to the Spirit, and be careful not to quench the Spirit (Gal. 5.16-23; Eph. 5.18-21; Rom. 8.5-8; Gal. 6.8; 1 Thess. 5.19). Since the joy for which we have been created and redeemed comes from the Spirit, we should do everything we can to get on board with His agenda and follow along as He leads.
This means understanding the work of the Spirit. Jesus summarized the work of the Spirit as a work of conviction (Jn. 16.8-11). Conviction means establishing something as a priority, a working principle, or a life value. The Spirit wants to convict us in every possible way to keep us moving along the path of joy, the path of becoming more like Jesus.
Conviction begins with instruction, emerges through persuasion, settles in with affirmation, and becomes a working part of our lives in specific forms of action or obedience. The Spirit wants us to be convicted about sin – so that we can recognize it, repent of it, and build up a hatred of it. He is working to convict us about righteousness – about that way of life defined by the Law and Word of God. And He wants to convict us about judgment – God’s promise to bring discipline against His wayward people when they refuse to follow His paths.
By being often in the Word of God and prayer, waiting for the Spirit to search and teach us (Ps. 139.23, 24), we can hear His instruction, submit to His persuasion, affirm His teaching, and take the necessary steps which, as we persist in them, will find us being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. Doing so will keep us in the path of righteousness and minimize the likelihood of God’s exercising His judgment against us to return us there when we stray (Heb. 12.3-11).
As we dwell in Scripture and prayer, listening for the convicting work of the Spirit, He exudes His joy within our souls, and we know it, experience it, relish and rejoice in it, and find the strength, through God’s gift of joy, to press on through our daily valley of tears.
Joy is an attribute and gift of the Spirit of God, as He works within us to will and do of God’s good pleasure. We will know joy, and increase in it, to the extent that we seek and submit to the Spirit, and are filled and walk in Him according to the teaching of God’s Word.
1. Since joy is a fruit of the Spirit, we must seek it from Him. What does this involve?
2. What’s the difference between joy and happiness? Why can we not find true joy anywhere other than in the Lord?
3. What will it require of you to submit more consistently to the work of the Spirit in your life?
Next steps – Preparation: The Spirit works to convict and transform us especially when we’re reading and meditating in the Scriptures. What can you do, during your time in God’s Word, to be more sensitive to the convicting work of the Spirit?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.