“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” [James 1:2-4].
Recently, my wife has had more than her share of health challenges. I told her that I wanted to write on the Holy Spirit fruit of joy for St. John Studies and I referenced the words above from James. She has recently felt quite a lot of pain and she has felt fearful, not knowing what her body was doing. She wondered aloud how she was supposed to feel joy in the midst of all these trials.
What about you?
Are you confused by James also?
What is this fruit called joy? How does it manifest itself in the believer’s life? It may be one of the most confusing behaviors that a devout Christian should show, especially when he or she is in the midst of trying circumstances.
The Greek word for joy is chara. It is used repeatedly in the New Testament to mean joy that comes from a spiritual source and we know what that spiritual source is…it is the Holy Spirit.
To begin to understand chara, maybe the best thing to do is quote from The Holy Spirit*. “Today’s world is joyless, full of shadows, disillusionment and fear. Freedom is rapidly disappearing from the face of the earth. Along with the loss of freedom, a great many of the superficial joys and pleasures of life are also disappearing, but this need not alarm us [Christians]. The Scriptures teach that our spiritual joy is not dependent on circumstances. The world’s system fails to tap the source of joy. God by His Spirit directs His joy to our bleak, problem-riddled lives, making it possible for us to be filled with joy regardless of our circumstances” [Graham, 252].
There you have it; our joy is not supposed to be dependent on the everyday trials and tribulations that we all face. Our joy is not to be dependent on the happy events that may come our way. Our joy is supposed to be grounded in The Lord.
Happiness is elusive. We can’t find it by seeking it; we can try to engineer outward circumstances to bring happiness, but often when we do, even our greatest efforts and greatest amounts of money cannot really bring happiness. Pleasure is momentary. We may think that is worth pursuing but even that does not begin to touch the joy that we can feel in The Lord.
What are some sources of joy for the Christian? The joy of deliverance happens when someone is set free from sin. The joy of salvation occurs when we come to realize that God wants to save us and spend eternity with us. The joy of spiritual maturity develops when the Holy Spirit works within us to bear more and more fruit and we not only become more confident in God’s promises but we rejoice in Him and with other believers. The joy of God’s presence is when the Holy Spirit draws us close to God, in whose presence we surely know true joy.**
Let’s stop for a minute and think about joy in the midst of trials and tribulations. If a person is experiencing joy at trying times, what does that communicate? When we look at the Apostle Paul writing his last letter to Timothy, what were his circumstances? He had suffered untold horrors in prison, his life was constantly threatened and he knew he would be dead soon, yet he wrote that the joy of The Lord filled his heart. What message does that send to believers and unbelievers?
Maybe Paul is saying look at the situation I am in, the dim future that I face, yet I find I can have joy in my heart.
Imagine an unbeliever being in that situation and thinking how they would face the stress; now imagine an unbeliever hearing about a man of God in that situation and thinking about how he is reacting.
Joy is a fruit of the spirit that serves the believer but can’t you see that this fruit can draw people to God when they see people of God exhibiting calm in the eye of the storm.
Charles Allen writes “Just as all the water in the world cannot quench the fire of the Holy Spirit, neither can all the troubles and tragedies of the world overwhelm the joy which the Spirit brings into the human heart.”
Graham closes his comments on joy with these telling words: “Joy is the flag that flies above the palace when the King is in residence” .
Think about that Christians…no truer words are spoken.
“When the King is in residence.”
*by Pastor Billy Graham
**from the gotquestions.org website