Let’s focus on JOY, the second fruit of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. You may have heard it said that “happiness” is dependent upon circumstances, but joy is “an inside job.” It is an inner delight, no matter one’s circumstances. How easy it is for us Christians to be emotionally dragged down by the preponderance of wickedness, tragedy, and stress fomented all around us by the “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4). It is a constant battle for us to show forth the fruit of the spirit amidst such overwhelming mental pressure, but it is possible, and JOY is a big key to doing so.
Nehemiah 8:1-3; 8-11
1 Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. 2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. 3 Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law… 8 So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading. 9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11 So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.
This passage is loaded with principle, and we want to grasp its message so that the joy of the Lord is also our strength. First, Ezra and Nehemiah and other leaders stepped up and taught people the Word of God in such a way that they could understand and apply it. As Romans 10:14 says, how can anyone believe if he does not hear, and how can he hear unless someone preaches the Word? Second, the people listened to the Word, took it to heart, repented, and went forth to do what the Word says. For them, the “joy of the Lord” was that they understood His forgiveness and their hope as the chosen people of God. Here are some other verses from the Hebrew Scriptures showing reasons why God’s people can live with joy:
But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You.
You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Let them shout for joy and be glad, Who favor my righteous cause; And let them say continually, “Let the LORD be magnified, Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.”
No one ever had worse circumstances than Jesus did near the end of his life, and it was joy that sustained him as he endured and eventually triumphed over them.
Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
What gave Jesus his burning inner delight was his HOPE of God raising him from the dead and with him establishing an everlasting Paradise. As we now find ourselves amidst countless trials and tribulations, we too can focus the eyes of our hearts on the HOPE that is set before us, thus making a choice to rejoice in the assurance that our Lord will rescue us from this present, evil age and receive us to everlasting fellowship with him and all our brethren.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the holy spirit.
The HOPE we have is what underlies our ability to manifest each of the fruit of the spirit inherent in the divine nature we have been given. No matter how bad things get in this world, we have the guarantee of a glorious life beyond our imagination. Hallelujah!!!