The Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23 speaks of the fruit of the Spirit, that is, the nine-fold characteristic of the growing Christian life. Each of the aspects is related to the others and they all are to be cultivated together. The second quality of the fruit of the Spirit is “joy.” Joy for believers in Jesus Christ is one of the recurring themes of the New Testament. The Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John, and the Epistle to the Philippians, are especially filled with encouragements to be joyful.
Joy, from the Greek word, chara, can be defined as “finding our constant delight in God.” Abiding joy differs from temporary happiness. Joy is a quality grounded in our conscious relationship to God (Psalm 35:9, Romans 5:11), rather than an emotion based on events, feelings, or situations. Our joy begins in our acceptance by our gracious God, made possible by the atonement-in our place–of Jesus Christ on the cross. As God is constant, so our satisfaction in him remains stable.
Scriptural joy is a trait with its source in the eternal God. It comes from believing the Gospel, growing in Christ, and being a part of the church. The incarnation brings confidence and hope to the believer, and that assurance brings joy (John 17:13). Souls respond in gladness to the Gospel proclamation. God intends for us to pursue our joy in Christ (Psalm 37:4). Indeed, our chief aim in life “is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
The joy of the Christian is a full, remaining, and complete joy (John 15:11), though we may lose our joyful experience when we focus on events, people, or our own feelings and fears, and we become discouraged. Our joy deepens when we recall that we have Christ’s commission, his power, and his authority to do all that God commands us (Matthew 28:1920). We have resources that are more than sufficient to meet every need (Philippians 4:19).
Our joy or pleasure in God may be cultivated by reveling in the Word of God. God’s Word tells us what God is like, his faithfulness to his people in history, and his promises for the future. Thankful living also aids in developing joy. When we find God’s hand in everything, thank him for it, and delight in him, we grow in joy (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Obedience to the Gospel results in growing satisfaction. Our capacity for joy may be increased by sorrow (Romans 5:3), by persecution (Matthew 5:11), and faith in God’s promises and person (Romans 15: 13).
The Apostle Paul, imprisoned and chained to a Roman guard, still reminds the Philippian believers to rejoice in spite of their circumstances. “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).