God specifies the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. It consists of a number of components which, considered as a whole, make up this fruit, and actually are characteristics that everyone who has God’s Spirit will display in their lives to one degree or another.
The second component of this fruit is joy. So, what is joy? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines joy as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” This implies that when things are going well, or expected to go well, we can be joyful.
There are many examples in the Bible of people expressing joy. Two of them are in the book of Ezra. This was a time when the temple had finally been finished after a great amount of local opposition and around twenty years since King Cyrus had made his decree that the temple was to be rebuilt. It was also a time between a little over a month before the Passover, and just after the Passover. Ezra 6:16 states: “Then the children of Israel, the priests and the Levites and the rest of the descendants of the captivity, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy.”
As well as that, they had finally received favour from the king of Assyria. Ezra 6:22 tells us: “And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy; for the LORD made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.”
So, after many years of opposition, trials, setbacks and difficulties, things were finally going well for them, and the people were joyful. Just like in the definition above. God had blessed them and made them joyful.
Both the apostle Paul and Titus were also joyful when things were going well in the Church. 2 Corinthians 7:13 reads: “Therefore we have been comforted in your comfort. And we rejoiced exceedingly more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.”
The apostle John also repeated this sentiment in 3 John 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”
This joy was mainly because of happy events in the present. There is an additional definition of joy that I found on the internet. It is the meaning used many times especially in the New Testament, and explains: “Joy… remains even amidst the suffering… Joy is an emotion that’s acquired by the anticipation, acquisition or even the expectation of something great or wonderful.”
The greatest example of someone having this type of joy would be in Hebrews 12:2, describing Jesus Christ: “… 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.”
Anticipating the beating and crucifixion that He had to endure was not something that would make Christ happy in itself. He had joy because He knew that the suffering He was going to go through would enable God’s Family to be vastly expanded—a great and wonderful result.
At this time approaching the Passover, we are reminded of just how much He suffered, and that this suffering was for us in this age and for all others in the future, and this can help us to be joyful as well as thankful. Following this example of Jesus, the next quote would likewise apply to us. James 1:2-4 states: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
Again, trials are not usually pleasant, but when we consider the intended outcome of trials, the patience and perfection (the marginal reading for “perfect” is “mature”), we can have joy because of the end result of those trials. They lead to eternal life as God beings with God the Father and Jesus Christ.
With the knowledge that Jesus went through extreme trials for us, and that we go through trials for our perfection, we can indeed be people of joy. We should remember and be encouraged by Psalm 16:11 in which David tells us: “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures for evermore.”