“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy…” (Galatians 5:22). Love is the first of the fruit, love for God, love for Christ, love for others, love for Scripture, and love for the moral law as a way to demonstrate love. Joy quickly follows. This joy is not effervescent and fading. It is not like the froth on a root-beer float that quickly evaporates. It is an anchor for the soul. It is a buoy keeping us afloat on the sea of life.
Shortly after my conversion, the man who led me to Christ saw me and asked, “What’s the matter? Have you lost your joy?” His questions forced some quick introspection. No, I thought, it has not been a particularly good day; but “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). My joy in Christ was intact. It was a stabilizing influence in the midst of a pressure-packed day.
Nehemiah 8:10 exhorts, “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” The people of old experienced grief because of their sins. They heard the reading and preaching of the Word of God (Nehemiah 8:1-8). The result was shock and sorrow. “All the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law” (Nehemiah 8:9).
The Spirit of God applying Scripture to our hearts may cause us to feel guilt. This sudden recognition of guilt may provoke deep sorrow for sin. Such godly sorrow “produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Godly sorrow therefore has a positive side. “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
And so, when the people of old heard the Word of God, it was not just a day for weeping and sadness. It was a holy day, a Sabbath to the Lord (Leviticus 23:24-25). It was a day for remembering. “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:15). It was a day to remember the salvation of God and to rejoice in His grace.
You too may grieve your circumstances or have sorrow over your sins. When you hear the Word of God regarding the work of Christ and the grace of Christ, “you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19). And when the light of Christ arises in your heart, it is the dawning of a new day.
You experience the joy of the LORD, that is, the joy that comes from the LORD who renews your heart. He takes a spiritual scalpel and removes that old angry heart and disposition. He replaces it with a new heart. You experience the joy of being forgiven, the joy of adoption into God’s family, and the joy of new purpose, God’s purpose, for living. You have a new joy and confidence born of the Spirit.
This joy in God and from God is an inner strength of heart. It is a quiet godly assurance. You gladly pursue God’s purposes in your work and in your family. God becomes the stabilizing influence in your life. You actually experience and exhibit real joy, the fruit of the Spirit.