Notes before you begin reading:
I’ve created a playlist and a few study notes for anyone interested. The study notes are Bible study style if you are interested in learning and growing more in this area. Feel free to print them, mark them up, and share them. Or ignore them altogether. The playlist is comprised of songs specific to the topic that touched my heart as I wrote out the blog and study notes.
Spotify Playlist linked here
Study notes linked here
Thank you for joining me on this journey,
While we are only 2 fruits into the series, we see that the fruits of the Spirit are not meant to stand alone, but rather they work together. In the past I’ve been taught to think of the fruits of the Spirit as 1 type of fruit coming from 1 type of tree, the “good” tree. When studying the Spirit, love, and joy I’ve learned that the Spirit is more complex than that of a tree. Yes, a tree is living just as the Spirit is living and a tree can produce fruit just as the Spirit produces fruit, but that is about where the similarities end. The Spirit produces 9 fruits that are different in taste and texture and type, but that work together to equal a Christlike life. My immediate thought for this was the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), it mentions two of the 9 fruits (peace and faith). Armor tends to imply war or battle or violence. Fruit does not have the same implications. The New Testament has a lot to say about fruit – it is mentioned 66 times. It tells us (as would your science teacher) that “each tree is known by its own fruit” (Luke 6:44). We don’t go to a fig tree expecting a pear, nor do we go to a mango tree expecting an apple. Yet, the Holy Spirit, the Godhead, defies our own understanding by offering us multiple “fruits” from the same place. I’m able to gather joy from the same place I’m gathering love and peace and patience (etc.).
We see joy in conjunction with other fruits of the Spirit throughout the New Testament. It is interesting that joy, in some verses, is referenced with love and/or peace (the surrounding fruits in Galatians 5:22-24). We see peace and joy in the book of Romans (14:17, 15:13), Hebrews (11:12); we see love and joy in Philippians (2:2, 4:1) and Philemon (1:7).
We often do not think about joy alongside love or peace, but rather we often confuse happiness for joyfulness. While happiness and joyfulness do come together, the two are not mutually exclusive. Biblically, joy is present in moments of fear and moments of gladness. The best example of this comes from John 16:21,
“When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.”
This joy seems tightly woven with hope. There is hope in childbirth that a child will be born. Beginning in the book of Matthew we see this hope and joy manifest within the wise men: “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Mt 2:10). The shepherds were told by an angel of the Lord which led them to joy and hope, “And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Lk 2:10). There was an expectation, an anticipation of hope to come. The wise men felt joy and hoped for the birth of Christ. The shepherds heard that it would be joy for all the people. Hope. Paul, in explanation that Christ is the hope of all says: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).
Paul and Barnabas were ministering at Antioch in Pisidia. Jews began to incite others around them and began persecuting them, yet it says that the “disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:50-52).
“But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”
Persecution is not a happy occasion, so viewing happiness and joy as the same doesn’t quite fit. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Rm 8:35). He knew there was greater joy, greater hope, on the other side of persecution. While each of these items in the Romans 8 list can lead us into anxiety, he tells us that “the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit”.
The author of Hebrews, writing to Christians, says “For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one” (Hebrews 10:34). To joyfully accept the plundering of property seems impossible. Acceptance of any theft or crime seems difficult, let alone accepting it joyfully. I had a bike stolen as a child, I did not accept that joyfully. I didn’t accept it at all for a long time. Later when we found out it had been chopped up and sold for parts, I was definitely not joyful. I wanted my freaking bike back.
I think about some of the most joyful people I know and they are the ones who are not attached to things. When things break or get stolen or go missing, it is not a huge deal. Things are replaceable. Things that go missing or get stolen are usually not things required for life. We tend to put far more value on things than we should which displaces joy and puts in control.
It seems that joy comes with love and peace and hope and reliance on God. If we try to find our joy in anything other than Christ, other than eternal things, we will not experience true joy. We will have manufactured, flimsy, temporal happiness disguised as joy.
Where are you finding joy?