As Christians, we are promised Joy as a result of living a life centered on the truth of God’s love for us.
“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
We find in the Bible that when someone chooses to live a life in accordance to God’s word and love, they produce “fruit” or attributes as a result of the Holy Spirit working within them to change their heart to a heart that reflects God’s own heart.
Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Pastor Tim Keller used the original Greek to define these attributes:
Agape = love. It means to serve a person for their good and intrinsic value, not for what the person brings you. Its opposite is fear: self-protection and abusing people. Its counterfeit (a fake version) is selfish affection, where you are attracted to someone and treat them well because of how they make you feel about yourself.
Chara = joy, a delight in God for the sheer beauty and worth of who He is. Its opposite is hopelessness or despair, and its counterfeit is an elation that is based on experiencing blessings, not the Blesser, causing mood swings based on circumstances.
Irene = peace, meaning a confidence and rest in the wisdom and control of God, rather than in your own. It replaces anxiety and worry. The fake version of peace is indifference, apathy, not caring about something.
Makrothumia = patience, an ability to face trouble without blowing up or hitting out. Its opposite is resentment toward God and tothers and its counterfeits are cynicism or lack of care: “This is too small to care about”
Chrestotes = kindness, which is an ability to serve others practically in a way which makes me vulnerable, which comes from having a deep inner security. Its opposite is envy, which leaves me unable to rejoice in another’s joy. And its fake alternative is manipulative good deeds, doing good for others so I can congratulate myself and feel I am “good enough” for others or for God.
Agathosune = goodness, integrity; being the same person in every situation, rather than a phony or a hypocrite. This is not the same as being always truthful but not always loving; getting things off your chest just to make yourself feel or look better.
Pistis = faithfulness, loyalty, courage, to be utterly reliable and true to your word. Its opposite is to be an opportunist, a friend only in good times. And its counterfeit is to be loving but not truthful, so that you are never willing to confront or challenge.
Prautus = gentleness, humility, self-forgetfulness. The opposite is to be superior or self-absorbed. Humility is not the same as inferiority.
Egkrateia = self-control, the ability to pursue the important over the urgent, rather than to be always impulsive or uncontrolled. the slightly surprising counterfeit is a willpower which is based on pride, the need to feel in control.
By looking at these attributes, we see how interdependent and interconnected they are to their source, the love of Jesus Christ. You might say that you are able to live in a way that exemplifies these gifts on your own and without any intervention from God. However, when a person strives to live out these fruits long term, it is usually at the expense of other attributes. For example, a person might try really hard to be patient with someone and, as a result, begin tolerating them rather than loving them.
It is impossible to have a life that continually grows in these attributes without being connected to the source or branch feeding the fruit, Jesus Christ. You may think that you are lacking in some or all of these areas. That’s OK! A life with Christ is an ongoing process of redemption, and renewal.
Paul admitted to this when he said, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” (Philippians 3:12-13 NIV)
This doesn’t mean that Christians are always experiencing happiness either. Happiness and joy are two different things. Happiness is an external reaction to our circumstances, while joy is a constant hope and delight in what Jesus has already done for us, which is worth celebrating.
When Jesus suffered the cross, He did it for the JOY set before him, which was the knowledge that you and I would be fully free, no longer captives, and fully in community with God.
Knowing this alone calls for celebration!
Joy does not just happen, its to use freely as we choose to have Christ at the core of what we do. We need to in a way fight to keep the truth of the life that God has called us into at front line of our lives.
Seriousness is not a fruit of the spirit. Joy is.
We will not gain this by our own efforts or strengths. Only by choosing to be connected to the branch of God’s love can we hope to produce good fruit. This good fruit will then bless those around you and change your environment.
This can be seen when Paul chose to rejoice while in prison.
“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.” (Philippians 1:12-14 NIV)
It was the hope given to Paul through rejoicing in Gods love that touched the hearts of the guards and his fellow prisoners.
It’s easy to focus on circumstances in life. We easily forget how beautiful the love of Christ is for us. That is why we are commanded over and over again to celebrate and rejoice in Christ.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7 NIV)
What is keeping you from rejoicing in the hope we in Christ today?