The second component that makes up the fruit of the Spirit is joy. There are different kinds of joy, but the source of all true and divine joy is God. One of the most common of these joys that we have a tendency to overlook or otherwise dismiss is the joy of Christian fellowship.
If you have a house of worship, if you have brothers and sisters who are of like mind and like heart, if you are in a community or a group of souls who are as sincere in their love for Jesus as you are, then rejoice, and be thankful to the heavenly Father. One of the most common heart cries that comes across my desk, is letters and e-mails from faithful brothers and sisters in Christ who have no place to worship, who have not found a fellowship wherein they can grow and mature in the grace and wisdom of God.
Some have been disheartened and disillusioned because they attend a certain church for a season, only to discover that they are not being spiritually fed, others simply refuse to fellowship with congregations that imitate the world more than they do Jesus, and others still are seen as divisive and strange simply because they ask Biblical questions of elders who ought to know the answers.
The joy of Christian fellowship is often taken for granted until it is gone, and only then do we realize how precious it is. True Christian fellowship gives us comfort, it brings us joy, and it strengthens us as individuals.
2 Corinthians 7:6-7 “Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced ever more.”
There is also a joy that comes from preaching the Word, from evangelizing and seeing people come to faith in Christ. Life on the road is not easy. For one, you’re always far from those you love. The weariness of sleeping in a different bed every other day, driving thousands of miles per month, and getting ‘picked at random’ six times in a row for an extra special wand search and bag check whenever you have to fly, aren’t particularly fun either, but all that goes away the instant I start talking about Jesus. It doesn’t matter how large a group, or how big a church I’m speaking to, as long as I can preach Jesus and see people being affected by the message of the cross I am happy, and feel a sense of fulfillment I have not felt doing anything else. The message of the Gospel that falls into good soil, begins with the joy of the angels, and ends with the joy of the believer.
Luke 15:10, “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
One of the greatest examples of the message of the gospel taking root in the heart of man is a short tax collector by the name of Zacchaeus. The only thing that set him apart from all the other men of his time was his incessant desire to see Jesus. There was a crowd that followed after Jesus, but they all wanted to see what He could do rather than see Him for who He was.
Zacchaeus was not interested in seeing miracles, but the worker of miracles, the Christ who had never before been to Jericho. So running ahead of the crowd, Zacchaeus climbed up into a sycamore tree, just to get a glimpse of Jesus, and because of His desire to know who He was rather than what He could do, Zacchaeus got allot more than what he had hoped for.
The Word tells us that Jesus came to the place where Zacchaeus was, looked up and saw him and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.’ Zacchaeus did not delay, he made haste, and came down, and received Jesus joyfully.
Not only is there a joy in preaching the gospel, but there is also a joy of receiving it, and allowing it to transform your life from the inside out. Zacchaeus was instantly transformed by his encounter with Jesus, and this is evidenced by his decree that he would give half his goods to the poor, and if he had taken anything from anyone by false accusation, he would restore it fourfold. If we do the math, this man, once consumed with his standing, his wealth and his possessions, would be broke in the material sense, but his joy was full because he had not only met Jesus, but Jesus would stay with him in his house. True joy follows after faith, and absent of faith in Christ, true joy, that inexpressible joy of the heart, cannot be experienced.
Zacchaeus experienced the joy of faith, the joy of believing, which is always intertwined with faith itself. When we come to faith in Christ, we receive the joy of knowing that He walks with us, that He cares for us, that He comforts us, and that He strengthens us.
For those who have been called to preach the Gospel, there is also the joy of seeing the power of God manifest in the lives of others. Doing the work of an evangelist is not an easy labor. I know of what I speak since I have been traveling throughout the world preaching the Word since I was twelve years old. Living out of a suitcase, driving countless hours, having flights delayed, finding the bed in the motel you happen to be staying in uncomfortable, all these things put an added stress on one’s countenance, yet they all disappear when you are finally able to preach Jesus to those willing to hear.
Preaching is very similar to planting seed in the ground. Very rarely is the fruit of one’s labors instantly visible, but there is strength in the joy that comes with the knowledge that you are walking in the will of God, and fulfilling your calling.
Yes there are times when the hand of God is instantly visible, as was the case of the seventy who returned to Jesus overjoyed at seeing demons flee at the name of Christ, but those cases are rare indeed, and one will inevitably face more rejection than acceptance when preaching the true and living Word of God.
Acts 11:23, “When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.”
True and lasting joy, the joy that comes from God alone cannot manifest in us when we have hidden agendas, or vested interests, when we want to build and promote our own kingdoms rather than the Kingdom of God. Our joy comes from seeing those that were once in darkness walk in the light, from seeing those that were once dead in their sins, alive in Christ. Any other joy is temporary and fleeting, contingent upon our circumstances rather than a continual and perpetual experience.
As children of God we also have joy in our trials and tribulations. This is perhaps the most important part of having the joy of the Lord considering the times in which we live, and the downward spiral the world seems to be caught up in. We are not subject to our circumstances, and though trials and afflictions may come, we know that we can have the joy of the Lord in spite of these things.
Habakkuk 3:16-18, “When I heard, my body trembled; my lips quivered at the voice; rottenness entered my bones; and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble. When he comes up to the people, he will invade them with his troops. Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; thought he labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls -yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
So what had Habakkuk heard and seen? Habakkuk had seen a vision of the Lord approaching a season when He would intervene and destroy the wicked, while saving the righteous. This so stunned Habakkuk that his body trembled, his lips quivered and rottenness entered his bones. After the initial shock of having seen what the Lord was getting ready to pour out upon the earth, he came to the realization that there was the possibility, even the probability that he would himself suffer loss, whether from the fields yielding no crop, or there being no herds in the stalls, but through it all, Habakkuk resolved to rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of his salvation.
In sharp contrast to those who were to be judged by the righteousness and justice of God, who openly manifested both their unbelief and spirit of complaint, Habakkuk openly recognizes the coming loss of all luxury, and even some of life’s necessities, but he believes nonetheless. The promised mercies of God to His people extend well beyond all material losses. Though the world may pass away, and all that we know shaken to its very foundation, God’s grace to His people will endure.
The joy of the Lord compels us to trust God even in the darkest of times, because our goal is not this earth, or the things of this earth, but heaven and the eternity that awaits us. We too might tremble at times as Habakkuk did because of the terrible devastation that God’s own people must endure prior to their full possession of the promises of God, but our trepidation is tempered and altogether nullified by the joy we posses in the God of our salvation.
1 Peter 1:6-9, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith – the salvation of your souls.”
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.