The fruit (singular) of the Spirit is love and joy. It’s singular fruit which means they all work together. You can’t have one without the other. There is no doubt in any of our lives that true love produces joy. Joy comes from acceptance. As a baby when you felt acceptance from your mom or dad, you experienced joy or delight. It filled your little baby soul. Over time, this joy increased with each new experience of acceptance. And even when you were bad, your parents brought you back into their loving arms of acceptance after your “time out” or spanking, and they delighted in you and you in them.
Our joy in Christ comes from the acceptance of God. Joy is the delight we experience when we receive the love of God and see the character of God. We delight in God for both who he is and what he does. We find joy simply in his presence.
Psalm 16:11. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Often Christians separate joy from happiness. But should we? Isn’t happiness an emotional response of delight? And isn’t that what joy is? Do we do this because we are afraid to think of joy as an emotion; as if emotions are bad, or can’t be commanded or controlled or trusted? The Bible doesn’t separate joy from happiness, but it does distinguish sources. What is your source of happiness and joy? That is the real question.
The answer to that question may reveal a fake “joy of the Lord” that many of us experience. It’s fake when it is not really from the Lord, but from another source. Or, if you are only happy when God is “blessing” you, then that is not the “joy of the Lord.” It is the “joy of the Lord’s stuff.”
Another sign of a fake “joy of the Lord” is extreme mood swings. As Christians we are to be always rejoicing and always sorrowing. If you are constantly moving back and forth on a pendulum of these two emotions then the joy you feel is most likely not from the Lord, but from your circumstances.
The opposite of joy is despair or hopelessness. And being insecure in our salvation is a joy killer. Without the joy that comes from the acceptance of Christ eventually all motivation for the Christian life will dissolve away.
“To live is Christ” means that we live with a real and resolute joy that comes from knowing that you are loved. Christ in us allows us to fight for joy in every situation of life, because we know that we are never forsaken and have an eternal love from God. This “joy of the Lord” will be your strength. It is Christ’s indwelling power that allows you to look life in the face and smile knowing that nothing can steal your hope.
What is stealing your joy? Do you experience a constant joy alongside a constant sorrow in your life? Is the gospel producing joy in your life, or is it just your circumstances? Are you seeing the “joy of the Lord” growing in your heart?
Bonus song: for those of you who like to jump around!