Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22) Let us take a look at the roots, the source of this fruit. There is always a cause for joy. In order to partake of this joy, it is not enough to know that there is something called “joy.” We need to know how to obtain it. We shall not pursue joy as a treasure in and of itself; joy is the mind’s pleasure over that which has been obtained. Therefore, we shall not pursue joy; on the contrary, we are to pursue the things that are pleasing to God, and this will give us joy. Paul says, “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.” 1 Timothy 6:11. It is futile to seek joy apart from these things; it is like harvesting fruit from a tree without roots. However, wherever these things are found and are growing, God’s pleasure will rest over the heart, and that is precisely the believer’s joy.
When it comes to joy, there are many people who want to possess it without these roots. That is just pursuing and striving after a joy that will never rise above the human level. This kind of joy has nothing to do with the joy that is a fruit of the Spirit. This striving for joy under a cloak of spirituality carries the greatest dangers with it.
The preacher does his utmost to set the feelings of the entire assembly in motion in order to produce joy. This will result in joy in the body instead of in the spirit. This kind of joy that is worked up in the body carries with it all human lusts that often end up in the most carnal forms, whose manifestations have caused great pain to God’s people. To get the assembly into a transport of joy is a goal for many conceited preachers, whose glory and fame depend on how many “rejoicing meetings” they can produce. But they do not ask whether this joy is a fruit of funny stories, jokes, or other carnal means. Therefore, they can also advertise “rejoicing meetings” in assemblies that are saturated with unrighteousness, debt, immorality, greed, and all things evil. But God “cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.” Isaiah 1:13. What a responsibility such people have who force this kind of joy on top of all this wretchedness! Many people believe that their spiritual worth is according to the joy they imagine they have. However, the spiritual worth of a man depends on his walk in purity and truth.
Let us look at some of the roots of joy in God’s kingdom.
1. “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20. This joy is a fruit of a humble and thankful mind, because God took this person out of the world and translated him into His kingdom.
2. “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in My love … These things I have spoken to you … that your joy may be full.” John 15:10-11. This joy is a fruit of obedience to God’s will. Be obedient, and you will have joy. And the one who has this joy does not need to strive to be glad. All striving to be glad is evidence that the person is not obedient. Proclaim obedience to the Word, and joy will come with obedience. You don’t need to work the assembly into a state of euphoria when you come into this joy. Obedience to God is the root that bears all kinds of precious fruits.
3. “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” Hebrews 1:9. A person is anointed with the oil of gladness if he hates lawlessness and loves righteousness. We read the same thing in Isaiah 7:15, “Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good.” Refuse all the evil that is in the world, in yourself, in the church – from the speaker’s platform as well as in the assembly; spare nothing, and the Lord will anoint your head with the oil of gladness. Unfortunately, only a few people have the courage to refuse folly even though they see it; therefore, they do not partake of this joy either, which is why they need to seek it in some other way. But if they had loved righteousness, they would have rejected all the evil they saw. This is what it means to love the truth, and love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but it rejoices in the truth. There is joy in the tents of the righteous.
4. “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” 1 John 1:3-4. Walking in the light (1 John 1:7) results in fellowship in purity. Fellowship in purity results in fullness of joy. Wherever you have fellowship in the light, you will also have love in the Spirit. There you will have joy because you love each other. This joy is not a noisy joy, but a quiet joy that is rooted in mutual trust because you walk in the light, and no one has anything that he would rather hide in the darkness.
Quite often you will hear people say, “I like it best when I am alone.” They like it best when they are alone because there is so much impurity in the churches, so much strife, constant quarrelling, and arguing. There, one is ignorant of the joy that is born in the light of purity and trust among the members. If a preacher is present, people will flock around him as the focal point, but once he is gone, only a few of them are left. Among these it is usually said, “Oh, it’s only he who is going to preach today, and that’s not worth listening to.” This is mocking each other instead of loving each other. Who are those who find each other in purity and unity? Those who love the truth will love all those who walk in the truth. They will become one. Is there such fellowship on earth? Yes, Christ the Head is in heaven; His body, the church, is formed on earth. If the head is beautiful, then the body is also beautiful. But there is a covering over everything glorious, and only a few are partakers of this joy – and religious leaders are the greatest hindrance to this joy.
5. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” 3 John 1:4. God has no greater joy than that His children walk in truth, and John shared this joy. Therefore, he nourished such children with his life and his teaching. When children, in this manner, are the joy of the fathers, the fathers will also be the glory of the children. If you want to taste this joy which John called the greatest, then you have to walk in the truth yourself; then this joy will be the fruit of a life in godly fear.
We see that joy is a result of obedience. Love is not puffed up, not even over joy. The joy of a person who lives in the fear of God will become increasingly and firmly anchored in God. He does not strive in the least to put on a smiling face to be seen by men, for then he would lose that inner joy he has in God.
Only the person who knows pain knows joy.
This article was first published in Norwegian in BCC’s periodical “Skjulte Skatter” (“Hidden Treasures”) in June 1913, with the title “Joy.”
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