Fruit of the Spirit: True Joy in Jesus
Paul begins his letter to the Philippian church with a confession of joy, which might’ve been a little unexpected for the believers in Philippi. At this point in his ministry, Paul was imprisoned in Rome, and from his vantage point, it was quite possible that he could be killed for spreading the gospel.
Still, he starts this letter to a church that he loves saying that when he prays for them, he always prays with joy (Phil. 1:3-6). How can he possibly be filled with joy in the middle of such devasting circumstances?
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:4-6).
Joy is a natural outpouring of a believer in Jesus.
Galatians 5:22 lists joy as the second fruit of this Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is what believers produce and experience when they’ve placed their trust in Jesus and follow him. So joy is a natural outpouring of a believer in Jesus.Why is it, then, that we don’t always feel joy?
Sometimes our sight may get clouded by the things in front of us. There’s not a lot to be joyful about, we might think. There is famine and war, an unsettling political climate, and a virus that has impacted the world, taken lives, and divided families. On top of that, we all have suffering we walk through on a daily basis due to this broken, fallen world.
Horrible things happen. Despair seems to be waiting outside every door we walk through, whether it finds us or someone we know. There are plenty of things to mourn over, and we will experience the crushing blow of grief in life; the Bible is very clear about that (Psalm 34:18). It’s also very clear that the Lord will save us from it. We will not remain there forever. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). Do you know how some interpreters translate the word “blessed”?
How can both of these things be true? How can we experience sorrow and joy at the same time?
We believe in the gospel. When we believe the gospel, we have hope for the future and the present. Jesus Christ is ruling and reigning over all. That’s not a promise of things to come. That’s true right here and right now. The gospel gives us hope that death, disease, famine, and war do not have the final say. God has spoken, love has won, and Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection is central to that truth.
We remember. Remembrance is the doorway to joy. Has God carried you in your suffering? Has he redeemed lost years? Was he gentle with you when the world showed you harshness? Did he give you hope in a time when cynicism seemed like the only option? Remember his goodness. It pursues you and gives you joy.
We remain in Christ. “Rejoice in the Lord always,” Paul writes in Philippians (Phil. 4:4). In the Lord is the key to this verse. Circumstances might seem hopeless, and the world might seem more and more dismal as the days go on, but Christ is our source of joy and eternal life. When we choose allegiance to him over the world, our joy is not a thing that comes and goes because he is a never-ending supply of it. Paul knew that his imprisonment and impending death could not separate him from the love of Christ, and he found joy in that truth.
Today, make a list of what brings you joy. Is it a good meal with friends and family? Watching your child’s face light up with delight? Do you find joy in nature and beauty?
We can see God in the things that bring us joy because they are good gifts from him. Whether you’re experiencing unimaginable grief or incredible joy this week, may the gospel be the place where your hope rests as you remain in Christ and he remains in you.