3 John 1:1-4; Phil. 1:15-21; Nehemiah 8:10
The second aspect of the Fruit (singular) of the Spirit is joy. Of course this is a very special characteristic for me, since it also happens to be the name of my wife! And a more aptly-named person I’ve never met: She brings her namesake into my life every day.
So what do we mean by this term? Here are some thoughts. . .
• It’s not the same as fun or even what we usually mean by the term “happiness.” Those things are heavily dependent on outward circumstances. If you’re enjoying your favorite activity, then you’re having fun. If you’re life is going pretty much the way you want it to, then you claim to be happy. This is not what we’re talking about.
• MacArthur says it’s “A happiness based on unchanging divine promises and eternal spiritual realities. It is the sense of well being experienced by one who knows all is well between himself and the Lord.”
• That’s why I picked the passages I did. The Apostle of Love also had a few things to say about joy as well. What was it that brought John joy? Yes, he enjoyed his own relationship with Jesus, but according to today’s passage he notes two things: 1) The faithfulness he hears about concerning Gaius, and 2) That his spiritual “children” are walking in the truth.
• Paul was in prison, probably chained to a Roman guard 24-7. His outlook was bleak, at least from a human perspective. And to top all this, he heard that some other believers were taking advantage of this. Apparently they were trying to make him jealous by outdoing him in the field of evangelism. Some undoubtedly were preaching from purer motives, but some were preaching out of envy or other bad motivations. How much did Paul care about this? Not a bit! He cared about one thing: That the Good News of Christ was being proclaimed. As long as God’s kingdom was being advanced, he couldn’t care less about peoples’ motives or about his own circumstances. In this he found his joy.
• That brings us to the last verse from today’s reading. Nehemiah was facing a people whose “Morale Meter” was on empty. They were downcast, because—again—they were focused on their circumstances instead of the divine promises and eternal spiritual realities. Once they focused on what’s really important, then the joy of the Lord would be their strength.
• I think that Jonathan Edwards, probably the greatest theologian that America produced, had a good point about joy. He considered despair a sin and joy a virtue. If you don’t see any joy in your life, then something’s desperately wrong.
• Again I want to remind you that this is not something you need to manufacture or “rustle up.” As you cultivate your relationship with your Savior, you’ll see joy sprout up as a natural result. It’s not so much a feeling but a settled focus of your thoughts.
Have I mastered this? I wish! I let my circumstances get me down as well. But I’m trying to keep my thoughts focused on God and his truth, and I find it a bit easier when I do.
Lord Jesus, you found joy in the presence of your Father, and I want that. Please draw me in, and never let me go.