Gal. 5:22-23 lists nine fruit of the Spirit. The second one is joy. What is it? Giddiness, or does it go deeper? Also discussed here is the differences between happiness and joy.
Joy is a fruit or product or result of living in the Spirit. It should be growing naturally-supernaturally out of your heart and soul and mind. Here’s what the reality behind the word means in your life.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (NIV).
“Fruit” is singular, which means each fruit grows together and feeds from the same life-source. They are united, one collective. But it is okay to enumerate them one at a time, as nine fruits (plural). Just don’t separate them by highlighting one and ignoring another one in your life. They all grow equally strong together, as a unit, by the indwelling and power of the Spirit.
Now let’s look at the basics of joy and the various contexts in which the word appears in the New Testament. Then let’s end with an application section.
Basic definitions of joy
The formal definition is clear and to be expected.
The noun chara (pronounced khah-rah and used 59 times in the NT) means “joy, rejoicing, happiness, gladness” (Zondervan’s Interlinear). BDAG, the authoritative dictionary of the Greek NT, says it means “the experience of gladness”; “a state of joyfulness”; “a person or thing that causes joy, joy.” It is the noun that appears in Gal. 5:22.
The verb is chairō (pronounced khy-roh and used 74 times) is not in this verse, but let’s cover it quickly. It means “to be in a state of happiness and well-being, rejoice, be glad (BDAG). It is also a standard greeting in the NT: “a formalized greeting, wishing you well.” Examples: “Welcome, good day, hail (to you), I am glad to see you” (BDAG). It is often translated “Greetings!” It can be used in the imperative (command): “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).
Now let’s look at how the noun is used in the NT, so we can understand this fruit better.
What the New Testament says.
A.. God himself is the source of joy.
God sends messengers to announce joy. An angel announced to the shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). The birth of the Messiah has brought joy to the entire world, for those with the eyes to see it. Along with this idea, John the (future) Baptist was about to bring joy and delight to his older parents, and many were about to rejoice because of his birth (Luke 1:14).
Speaking of angels, there is great joy in the presence of angels when one sinner repents than “ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:10). Note that it says “in the presence of angels.” Yes, the phrase means angels celebrate, and so does God. Beings in heaven rejoice, and they give the gift—fruit—of joy to humans. We are created in God’s image, and he is joyful, and so can we earthlings experience joy. 1 Thess. 1:6 spells this out clearly. The Thessalonians “welcomed Paul’s message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” The source of real joy is the Spirit—not the joy that the world has, but the full and compete joy from God.
See this post:
I have been talking about God being the source of joy. Jesus said that as the Father loved him, so he loves us his disciples. If we keep his commands, we will remain in his love, just as he kept the Father’s commands and remained in his love. What’s the result? Jesus’s joy is to remain in us, so that our joy may be made complete (John 15:9-11). Joy comes first from God and his Son, it gets transferred to us, and then we can spread it around to others. Jesus said in his great high priestly prayer that his disciples would have the full measure of his joy in them (John 17:13).
Paul prayed that the Roman believers that God would fill them with all joy and peace (Rom. 15:13).
B.. Successful ministry can bring joy.
After the seventy-two disciples returned from their tour of ministry—call it a short-term mission trip away from Jesus—they were filled with joy because even demons submitted to Jesus’s name (Luke 10:17). Ministry results can bring joy, and expect it when you work in the ministry. If you have depression over long stretches of time, you need fellowship with other ministers and elders or a team of some sort. If you have your prayer language, use it. It will break the power of depression, if it is natural or exacerbated by Satan. Remember, demons are subject to his name. (No, not all depression is demonic in origins, but it can be stimulated by a demon. I know that from experience.)
In another case of a joyful result of ministry, Philip went down to Samaria (it was actually north of Jerusalem, but the capital was on high ground) and spoke about Jesus and ministered the power of God. Impure spirits were thrown out of people, and many paralyzed and lame were healed. “So there was great joy in the city” (Acts 8:8, NIV). In my own experience, when I ministered to ill people and saw results like that, I had great joy.
In a summary verse about Paul’s and Barnabas’s ministry in Pisidian Antioch, they got expelled from the city, but now without the Gentiles receiving the good news. “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. The third person of the Trinity is the source of joy. The Spirit and joy are connected.
However, let’s look at a bad result. People who first hear the gospel can receive it with great joy, but then they depart from it soon afterwards because troubles and persecution (Matt. 13:20 // Mark 4:16 // Luke 8:13). So this looks more like enthusiasm and excitement than deeper joy. Nonetheless, it does say chara. Joy by itself is not enough to sustain faith in and commitment to the Lord. This takes the power of the Spirit and fellowship. Let’s all celebrate that there is more than one fruit of the Spirit—joy. The other eight need to grow together in the born-again believer.
In Acts 15:3, Paul and Barnabas went up to Jerusalem, traveling through Phoenicia and Samaria and recounted all the salvation results. Gentiles turned or converted to the Lord. “This news made all the believers very glad.”
C.. Fellowship can bring joy.
Rhoda was the servant girl of Mary, who lived in Jerusalem. She was the mother of John Mark, the Mark who wrote the second Gospel, and she hosted a rather large church at her sizable house. Peter was arrested by Herod and was about to be executed. But an angel rescued him at night, and Peter went straight to Mary’s house, where believers were praying for a miracle. Peter knocked on the gate, and Rhoda answered it. She recognized his voice, and without opening it she ran back into the house, overjoyed. Peter had to keep knocking, and he was finally let in, for Rhoda settled down. Miracles can bring so much joy that one cannot think straight.
Paul worked for the Corinthians for their joy (2 Cor. 1:24).
Despite Paul’s troubles with opponents, his joy had no bounds (2 Cor. 7:4).
The Macedonians gave money despite their severe trial, their overwhelming joy welled up in rich generosity. They gave money out of joy. (2 Cor. 8:2).
Paul wanted the Philippians to continue in joy and progress in the faith (1:21). They could complete his joy by being like-minded in spirit and the same mind (2:2). Unity in the church can bring joy.
What is Paul’s and Silas’s and Timothy’s hope and joy and crown in which they all glory in the presence of the Lord Jesus when he comes? It is the Thessalonians themselves. “Indeed, you are our glory and joy” (1 Thess. 2:28). They brought Paul and Silas and Timothy joy in the presence of God. Once again the presence of God—which speaks of the Spirit—is the source of joy. The psalmist writes, “In his presence if fullness of joy” (Ps. 16:11).
Believers are supposed to have confidence in their leaders and submit to their authority as those who must give an account. When we do, their work becomes a joy, not a burden, “for that would be of no benefit to you” (Heb. 13:17). It is interesting that ministry can be a burden when people become unruly, while confidence and (reasonable) submission can bring everyone inline and increase the joy.
When we go through trials, James says we are supposed to count it pure joy (Jas. 1:2), I believe we need to experience joy in trials together.
We have not seen Jesus in the flesh, but we love him, and “even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Pet. 1:8). We are in this together. And the results of our love for the Lord adds those two modifiers to joy: inexpressible and glorious. Joy is a wonderful gift or fruit.
Finally, John wrote his first epistle to make his joy complete (1 John 1:4). Joy is transferrable even by writing a letter.
What is the difference between joy and happiness?
In English happiness is related to the Middle English (1300-1475) word happenen, from hap. It is easily seen that happen comes from those two words too. It means “chance” or “luck” or “fortune.”
The Greek word makarios (pronounced mah-kah-ree-ohss and used 50 times) is roughly equivalent. For regular people, it pertains to being “fortunate or happy because of circumstances, fortunate, happy” (BDAG). Paul felt fortunate to speak at his trial before King Agrippa (Acts 26:2). And a widow who remains unmarried is happier than if she got married (1 Cor. 7:40). However, when makarios is used of transcendent beings, like God, it is better to say “blessed.” For humans who follow God, the range is also positive. It pertains to being “favored, blessed, fortunate, happy, privileged” (BDAG). In the Sermon on the Mount, followers of Jesus are blessed, so that section is called the beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-11). But some translators have “happy.” A quick look at the NIV translations of the fifty usages, it always has “blessed.”
In comparison, chara always seems to be in a Christian context and goes a little deeper. But honestly, it is hard to say that chara is so qualitatively superior that makarios is shallow and chara is divine.
When God infuses a person’s life, makarios and chara both words are elevated. Joy and blessedness (and happiness) are closely related in meaning, in a Christian context. Let’s not see them as so distinct that we build entire sermons on the nuanced differences. Both words, reflecting our experience in our souls, can be deep gifts from God.
How does this post about joy help me grow in the Lord?
For fruit to grow, it has to be attached to a source. The fruit doesn’t grow in isolation. An apple left on a table will rot. Apple seeds must be planted and watered and tended. Joy must have its source in God, not your own emotions which you were born with; the source is not your positive brain chemicals like endorphin and dopamine. Joy ultimately comes from God. Get your joy from your relationship with him. Even when you go through trials you can have joy. It comes from the Holy Spirit.
Finally, as noted in the other posts in this series, the fruit of the Spirit should flow out of you, like grapes grow from the branches that are connected to the vine (John 15:1-8). Some teachers say that fruit comes from the vine without effort, and that’s true, but Jesus also said that every branch that does not bear fruit gets pruned, so that it may bear more (and better) fruit. The Father must prune you, or else your fruit will be substandard, sour maybe. Pruning can be painful, but it has to be done. The fruit of the Spirit needs his tending and divine management. Accept it from your loving Father; he knows what you need.
Have you asked your Father in heaven to give you joy today, by the power of the Spirit?