Galatians 5:22-23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (NLT)
Look up the word Joy in the dictionary and you will of course be provided a list of other words intended to describe it. e.g. Delight, happiness, elation, glee, exuberance etc.
None of these however can truly capture what the apostle Paul is referring to. The Greek word he uses is chara (khar-ah’) and while joy is an accurate translation, we need to remember that he is talking about something that has a spiritual quality to it.
This kind of joy goes beyond the words given in our English dictionary. You see, this ‘chara’ joy and has a quality of not just in the here and now, but also extending into eternity.
Feelings of delight, happiness and elation often depend on the moment and current circumstances, but circumstances can change and therefore these feelings can also be lost. For those who are living in the wonderful intimate relationship with Jesus their Lord and Saviour, and who are convinced of their future being assured, they experience ‘chara’ joy which is much deeper, and not easily stolen away when life gets difficult.
Spiritual joy is dependent on our relationship with God and in particular on our understanding of His love for us – This is why it is listed as a spiritual fruit. It’s important to remember that like other spiritual fruits, the fruit of joy requires the fruit of love. Perhaps this is why Paul put love first in the list?
The fact is, there can be no spiritual fruit of joy if the fruit of love is not established in your life. You need to understand God’s great love for you if you are to truly trust in His promises. When this is the case, the troubles of life lose a lot of their power to pull us down.
Joy provides protection against despair and there is so much in this world that can pull people down into that dark place where they see no hope. Our loving Father does not want us to live with despair but instead wants to lift us up. The joy He provides does not make us ignorant or insensitive to worldly troubles, and it does not mean that we will never grieve; rather it stops our life circumstances getting the better of us. His joy helps us to keep walking with Him with an internal, faithful determination of what is to come and this is a powerful witness to those around us.
Yes, even in our darkest hours, God can shine His light and remind us that He is always with us. The gift of His ‘chara’ joy provides us with great comfort and contentment. It is the water that truly quenches our thirst and emptiness. ‘Chara’ joy is an eternal spring for us to draw from that no-one, or any circumstance can take away. It is the source that stops Christians from experiencing despair even in their most troubling times. King David knew this when he wrote Psalm 23 and penned the words, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
‘Chara’ joy is a fruit that nourishes our weary soul and also decorates our festive table in times of great celebration. This fruit sustains us on our pilgrimage during all times. This ‘chara’ joy was in Jesus and is available to His followers. This ‘chara’ joy was what kept Jesus’ eyes focused upon eternity and enabled Him to endure the cross and it will sustain us to endure our own. Read Hebrews 12:1-4 this joy in Jesus is ‘Chara’ joy and is available to us too…
Hebrews 12:1-4 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.
Spiritual joy does not depend on our own emotional response to God’s love but is kindled within us by the Holy Spirit. We cannot depend on our own strength but this does not mean that joy comes automatically. We need to be constantly feeding ourselves upon the source of this fruit which is God’s Word and our relationship with Him through reading it prayerfully. Remember, when difficult times come, as they do to us all, we need to intentionally gain clarity through focusing on God’s unchanging promises and that is why we are told to set our sights on what is above, just as Jesus did.
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. Colossians 3:1-4.
It’s true we may not always understand God’s purposes in allowing hardships in life, but we can be absolutely certain that He is always with us and is willing to give us His strength, assurance and even fill our hearts with joy.
After reading take some time to consider the following questions:
Q1. What is the difference between the regular use of the English word ‘joy’ and the biblical use of ‘Chara’ joy?
Q2. Can you remember a time of hardship when you experienced God’s ‘Chara’ joy? If not, you may like to pray to receive this fruit. But if you have, spend some time reflecting upon what occurred during that time that helped you to experience it.
Q3. Do you desire to experience more ‘Chara’ joy? What things could you intentionally do to work towards this?
Have you enjoyed this study on the spiritual fruit of JOY?
You may like to go back and begin at the beginning of this whole series, to do so click here.
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