The Fruit of the Spirit is Joy
Bernard Osborne, Dinas Powys, Wales [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
‘Good tidings of great joy’. That is how the angel described the message he brought. It concerned the coming into this scene of the Redeemer, or, as the angel continued, ‘a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord’. Indeed, ‘good tidings of great joy’! We were not there when the proclamation was made - only shepherds were its recipients. Obediently they went to the stable, and saw the Babe lying in a manger, and departed ‘praising and glorifying God’. We believe these historical facts, and though we have never seen the One who is the cause of such joy, ‘yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory’,1 Pet. 1. 8.
The epistle which exemplifies joy is that to the Philippians. ‘The whole point of the epistle’, says Bengel, is ‘I do rejoice, do you rejoice?’ Joy fills the epistle. There is the joy of Christian prayer. Says Paul, ‘Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy’, 1. 4. Here is the joy of bringing those we love and those who are dear to us to the mercy seat of God.
There is the joy that Christ is preached, ‘Whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice’, Paul writes, 1. 18. He rises above the fact that some preached Christ even of envy and strife, and some not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to his bonds. Yet he rises above it all in the knowledge that Christ is preached. When a person enjoys a great blessing surely his first instinct must be to share it, and this is the joy of knowing that the gospel is being preached.
There is the joy of faith, 1. 25. If Christianity does not make us joyful, it will not make anything at all. ‘They looked on Him and were radiant’, Ps. 34. 5, NKJV. There is the joy of Christian fellowship. ‘Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind’, 2. 2; compare for reference Ps. 133. 1. There is peace and joy for no one where there are broken human relationships and strife between one and another.
There is the joy of suffering for Christ. As Paul looks to the possibility of execution, he writes, ‘If I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all’, 2. 17. The prospect was a violent death, but his outlook was one of joy based on a confidence that death is gain because by it Christ is magnified, 1. 2, and the gospel proclaimed. What Paul is in effect saying here is something like this, ‘I have such an exalted conception of what you are doing for Christ that I would rejoice if the pouring out of my blood under the executioner’s sword could be regarded as a drink offering to complete the offering of your service’. What must the Philippians have thought? If all the service of the Philippians were put together it would not compare in extent and importance with the mighty work Paul had done over a continent. How ashamed they would feel if they had been exalting their particular little spheres of service above another’s, when Paul, instead of laying stress on his own great work, had been filled with admiration for theirs?
There is the joy of the news of a loved one. So Paul describes his sending of Epaphroditus back home to his family and friends, 2. 28. Added to this there is the joy of Christian hospitality. They were to receive him ‘with all joy’, 2. 29. They had heard he had been sick, and they were concerned. And he was ‘full of heaviness’ because of their worries over him!, 2. 26, 27. With what joy they would receive him to themselves again.
There is the joy of the man in Christ, 3. 1; 4. 4. That man says twice over, though in bonds in prison, ‘Rejoice in the Lord’. That was how the Philippians remembered him - a man of joy, Acts 16. 25. That joy is not found in circumstances or in happenings, but in a Person. It is human nature to be happy when we are with the person we love and Christ is the Lover and the Loved One from whom nothing in time or eternity can ever separate us.
There is the joy of one who has won a soul for Christ, 4. 1. To the Christian, evangelism should not be just a duty; it should be a joy.
There was joy in a gift. Paul writes ‘But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again, 4. 10. Here is the joy of being remembered, the joy of realizing that someone cared, and that you have not been forgotten.
Paul finds it necessary to repeat his injunction, ‘Rejoice in the Lord’, 3. 1; 4. 4. ‘Find your joy in the Lord, and in Him alone’, he is saying. There is a certain indestructibility in Christian joy, and it is because it is ‘in the Lord’. The Christian may lose all things, and he may lose all people, but he can never lose Christ. The true source of joy lies in union with the Lord. Nothing more certainly indicates that we have fellowship with God than the radiance of this joy in our bearing. In His presence is ‘fullness of joy’ and at His right hand are ‘pleasures for ever more’, Ps. 16. 11. We can enjoy that now. We may not be able to rejoice in our circumstances, friends or prospects, but we can always rejoice in the Lord. A sad face and a doleful voice do not commend the Christian faith. If we are truly walking in the Spirit our lives will radiate Christian joy.
AUTHOR PROFILE: Bernard Osborne is retired from a career in education and is in fellowship in the assembly at Dinas Powis, Wales. He is a gifted Bible teacher and travels extensively in ministry throughout the UK and N. America.