The wisest man who ever lived declared, “For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy … ” (Ecclesiastes 2:26).
Note the order of things here. The gift of joy follows the receiving of wisdom and knowledge. In order to receive the gift of joy, it is first necessary to receive the revelation of God that imparts wisdom from on high and the knowledge of truth.
It is through the gift of the Holy Spirit that God’s called-out ones receive the wisdom and knowledge of God. As Jesus Christ declared, “Howbeit when [it], the Spirit of truth, is come, [it] will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). It follows then that joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. In fact, it is the second fruit listed in order by the Apostle Paul: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy …” (Galatians 5:22).
Do you really possess that Spirit of true, God-given joy? Do you truly know what it is to exult, to really scintillate with the fruit of joy? Can you truly declare, with the psalmist, “my cup runneth over”? (Psalm 23:5). Does that fruit of joy override the pain, the suffering, the travail of daily living? Does real, Christ-like joy carry you through the tests, trials, tribulations, the persecutions that we all face, daily, in this human existence?
Speaking of the Church of God in Macedonia, the Apostle Paul declared, “[I]n a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality” (2 Corinthians 8:2).
Can you truly express real joy in the midst of criticism, even under reproach or persecution for your faith? Remember the Apostle Peter’s admonition, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye …” (1 Peter 4:12-14).
What about when we are under correction? Can there be real joy in that? In Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews, he stated, “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11). The key to handling correction is to not be distracted by that which seems not to be part of the way of joy, and avoid focusing overly on the wounds that the correction inflicts. Have the vision to see beyond the correction to the wonderful fruit of growth in righteous character that it is designed to yield. In that there is, indeed, true joy!
The point is that true fruit of joyful elation, promised by God as a gift to the righteous, will be experienced by a converted servant of God in direct proportion to his possession of, use of and growth in the very first of the fruits of God’s Spirit, love! (Galatians 5:22).
To the degree that we submit to, obey and apply God’s law in our lives, we shall receive, experience and produce the fruit of joy! For as the Scriptures declare, “[T]his is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3).
You see, the love of God living within us by the power of His Holy Spirit lifts the burden of continuing sin from us as we increasingly learn to obey His law. Daily exercising that love for God’s law (Psalm 119:97) progressively dispenses with the grief that the burden of sin once produced in our lives and replaces that with the very direct opposite of the fruit that those sins once wrought in our lives, the fruit of true joy!
It is even as Christ declared in one of His parables on the Family of God, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field” (Matthew 13:44).
You can tell very readily the degree to which a servant of God is experiencing that real joy of the Spirit. For as Proverbs 15:30 declares, “The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart ….” The Hebrew word translated heart is leb. It literally means the center of all learning, of the feelings, the will and the intellect. It denotes the human mind, or, as we speak of it, the spirit in man! Thus, the psalmist is simply declaring here that the eyes express the inner feelings, thoughts and intent of the mind.
We all know the difference between sad eyes and glad eyes. The eyes mirror the heart. Thus the real change wrought by the power of the Holy Spirit in a person is a very observable thing. You can see it in his eyes! As Jesus Christ declared of the ministry that He gave the Apostle Paul, the Holy Spirit will “open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light …” (Acts 26:18).
Look in the mirror. If you have God’s Spirit dwelling in you, do your eyes reflect the true joy of that Spirit? To what degree are your eyes truly lit up by the Spirit of Christ’s joy, literally the joy of the Father? The more that light truly shines in your eyes, the less the corners of your mouth will tend to droop, and the more the inclination to beam in a real smile of true joy to the world!
The fruit of joy is also heard in the voice of the righteous, for as the Scriptures declare, “[O]ut of the abundance of the heart [spirit in man] the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34; see also Luke 6:45). When the Spirit of joy motivates the thoughts that trigger the spoken words, the result is a righteous witness of God’s way of life. “A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!” (Proverbs 15:23).
Remember those wise men of the east? They could not contain their sheer joy at just observing the star that would give them their bearing in navigating their way to the side of the Christ child (Matthew 2:10).
Just the greeting expressed by Mary to Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, was sufficient to produce within her the elation of overwhelming joy toward the human mother of Jesus: “For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy” (Luke 1:44).
How much more joy we can express through Christ actually living in us! Jesus Christ promised us that gift of His own perfect joy, if only we would continue in His love! “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full ” (John 15:10-11).
Surely there be few indeed who would not desire to be more happy, to be truly more joyful.
Here is the key to true happiness. Take on more of the love of God by submitting ever more directly, more carefully, more perfectly—by the power of the Holy Spirit—to God’s law. The reward will be growth of the fruit of Christ’s own joy within you and a dramatic increase in the expression of that joy, in return, to your heavenly Father, to your fellow brethren in the Family of God, and, indeed, as a witness of your faith to everyone around you!