FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT: JOY

     If I were to ask a group of people how many felt some depression the last 6 months, it is quite possible that several of would put up their hands. Depression has in fact become a common thing in the western world and it seems to be on the rise.

     It is a scientific fact that depression, in many cases, is caused by various physical factors. The major physical causes are hormonal imbalances, specifically thyroid dysfunction; adrenal gland dysfunctions; hypoglycemia; allergies, be it environmental or food related; seasonal affective disorders, etc.. Many people, though, are depressed because of psychological factors. These are usually related to, low self-esteem, losses of various kinds, etc.

     The solution sought by many people? In many cases, anti-depressants. In some cases, drugs and alcohol. In other cases, nothing. People simply choose to suffer in silence.

     In some cases some people come up with esoteric solutions. On the Internet one can find various and sundry creative solutions to the problem.

Here are some web sites dealing with the topic:

How To Be Happy - A Step By Step Guide To Being Happy - Reduce Stress ...

Choose To Be Happy

Happy with What You Have to Be Happy With -

I Want to Be Happy

How to truly be happy in a sad world!

Things To Be Happy About

Put in the Effort to Be Happy

How to be happy again -

    The happiness market is vast. The reason? Because the number of unhappy people is vast.
     But what about us?

     Are we Christians immune to sadness and depression?  No we are not. We all experience at one time or another bouts of sadness, discouragement or depression. Again, in some cases the causes are physical in some cases psychological. In many cases depression is temporary; in a few cases the depression lasts and lasts.

    The Bible informs us that there is a spiritual antidote to depression. A sure way to fight back and get relief whether we are talking about physically based or psychologically based depression. I am referring to the second gift of the spirit: Joy.

     Last time we dealt with the foundational gift of the Spirit: Agape. Today we will deal with the second: Joy.

     Some of us may have read and re-read this part of scripture and we might have said to ourselves: Where is the joy? There is no joy in my life. Others seem joyful, but not me.

     The fact that we are down, instead of being joyful may actually add to the depression. Seeing other joyful people in the church may also add to the problem.

     Today we will take a very close look at the topic of joy. Specifically we will explore what “spiritual” Joy is; the “paradox” of spiritual joy, and how we can get ever-increasing amounts of Joy. 

WHAT KIND OF JOY IS PAUL TALKING ABOUT IN GALATIANS 5?

     The word used in Galatians is CHARA= (Noun), and CHAIRO OR CHAREIN (Verb).

In Strong’s Concordance Chara is defined as "Cheerfulness, calm delight, gladness, joy."

VINE'S DICTIONARY defines it as: "joy, delight" (Noun); "To rejoice, to be glad." (Verb).

THAYER'S DICTIONARY defines it as, "Joy, gladness."
     To understand what CHARA is, we must first of all understand what it is not. It is not, first of all, AGALLIASIS, another word translated joy in the New Testament.

VINES DICTIONARY: AGALLIASIS: "Exuberant Joy, exultation." That is a state of exuberance.

Luke 1:38-44--(Context: The announcement by Gabriel to Mary that she would conceive the Messiah.) And Mary said, 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.' And the angel departed from her.  39And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;  40And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. 41And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. (AGALLIASIS)

Jude 1:24--Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, (AGALLIASIS.

IT IS ALSO NOT, "Euphrosune," another word which can be translated joy.

VINES translates it, "Good cheer, joy, mirth, gladness of heart."

     That is the kind of gladness that comes from the simple joys of life: Food, wine, being with friends, festivities, etc.

Ac 14:17   Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.

      CHARA, the joy that Galatians five refers to, is not excessive exuberance; it  is not a reaction to the simple joys of life; it is a different kind of joy which can be in us continually, if we do our part.

     Though it is not dependent on circumstances, it can be can amplified by circumstances.

Acts 15:31--After the Jerusalem conference, a letter was sent to the Gentile churches explaining the decision the apostles had arrived at in regards to circumcision and the total keeping of the Law. 30 So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter. 31 When they had read it, they rejoiced(CHARA) over its encouragement.

     They were filled with CHARA which was already in them but multiplied as a result of the letter.

    Furthermore, CHARA is not produced by joyful occurrences or news, but it can be magnified by joyful occurrences or news.

In 2 Cor. 7: 7 Paul tells us that he felt high amounts of CHARA, because brethren showed him a lot of love.

And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced (Chara) the more.”

Chara was in Paul already and it was amplified by the news.

     Chara, in Paul, was also magnified because the Philippians abounded in support toward him.

Philippians 4:10--But I rejoiced (Chara) in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.

     Lastly “John” rejoiced (chara) greatly, because he received news that the church was staying faithful in the truth.

2 John 1:4--I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.

     We need to again stress that Chara has nothing to do with the senses. Food, drink, etc. do not produce Chara. It is not something that we experience temporarily, which we then crave to have again and again. It is joy that is in us and cannot be magnified by passing pleasures. And it is this special kind of joy Paul tells us we need to be filled with on an ongoing basis.

1 Thessalonians 5:16--Be joyful always; Be filled with CHARA always.

1 Thessalonians 5:16--Rejoice evermore.

1 Thessalonians 5:16--Rejoice always.

Thus, according to Paul, it is possible to be filled with this special kind of Joy continually--which is totally amazing.

                                THE JOY MENTIONED IN GALATIANS 5 IS A PARADOX

     We Christians have many reasons to rejoice. We experience the peak of joy, when we experience the bliss of being called and of having our minds opened to the truth. It is a totally joyful experience. But together with joy, immediately, or in time, come sorrows. Persecutions, trials and afflictions will invariably follow our conversion to test us and to shape us.

     The scriptures are plain about this. We are told that through much tribulation we must enter God’s kingdom.

Acts 14:22--Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.

John 15:20--Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

     True Christians will be hated and will be persecuted in manifold ways.

1 Peter 3:16--Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.

Hebrews 10:34--For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.

Matthew 10:35-36--For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36And a man's enemies shall be they of his own household.

Revelation 20:4--And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

This is what we are promised. Some will experience one type of trial; some another. All of us will experience some of the trials of the Christian life.

     Yet, in all of this, it is possible to experience Chara -- the amazing gift of joy.

     What a great contradiction. What a great paradox.  Experiencing joy, while suffering. No wonder the bright ones of this world look at the New Testament and say: "How foolish...; how irrational..."

     Challenging experiences cause mental pain. Yet with chara we are able to experience this ongoing gladness, even while in pain.

     Thus, the joy that the New Testament is talking about is a paradox. It should not exist in certain circumstances, yet it can and does exist.  The Bible assures us of that.

James 1:2--"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds..."

     Pure joy? Trials hurt. Trials hurt terribly at times. They may hurt physically and mentally. And yet we are to consider them pure joy. This is only possible through CHARA.

2 Corinthians 7:4 (New King James Version) "Great is my boldness of speech toward you; great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation."

     The NIV translation says,

2 Corinthians 7:4--I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.

Is this unbelievable or what? Paul was exceeding joyful in all his many troubles.

     Let’s pause for a minute to be reminded of his troubles, brethren, and let’s remember that while he went through all this he was filled with Chara.

II Corinthians 11: 22--Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.

Anxiety, anxiety, anxiety; pain, physical and mental and more anxiety. These were all the troubles Paul experienced, and all of them were accompanied with great quantities of CHARA (JOY), as he told us above in II Cor. 7:4 “In all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.”

     Thus we are told to be filled with this stunning gift, and we are given examples of Chara being present when suffering abounded. This gives us confidence that it is possible to accomplish what Paul told us to accomplish; that is to rejoice always – even when you are filled with anxiety and sorrow.

                                           HOW DO WE GET THIS AMAZING GIFT?

     We cannot work it out through psychological exercises. We cannot produce it through self-hypnosis. We cannot produce it through positive thinking. We cannot produce it by having lots and lots of fun. We cannot produce it with medications, alcohol, or drugs. We cannot buy it.

     IT IS A FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

     Galatians 5 assures us that Joy is something which God wants to give to us for free.

Romans 15:13--May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God is the source of this joy just as he is the source of agape love.

     But how do we become filled with it?  Simply, by being filled with the Holy Spirit.

     How do we get filled with the Holy Spirit? We know we receive the Holy Spirit at conversion through the laying on of hands. We know that we can be "filled" with the Holy Spirit. This automatically implies the opposite, that we can also have small quantities of its power within us.

Ephesians 5:18--"And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit..."

     Paul is saying do not try to cope with life or to add pleasure to your challenging Christian lives by heavy drinking, which has negative consequences, be filled instead with the Holy Spirit  and experience what you seek: true joy, in abundance.

     Thus, the greater the quantities of Holy Spirit in us the greater the amounts of Joy: Chara.

     Clearly, if we live a sinful life, we cannot be filled with the Holy Spirit; thus we cannot be filled with joy.

     Furthermore, if we neglect the powerful spiritual tools of prayer, Bible study and fasting, we will not be filled with the Holy Spirit; thus, we cannot expect to be filled with Joy either.

     But there is more Paul adds which can multiply that joy and it is found in Ephesians 5.

Ephesians 5: 19--"Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord..."

Singing out loud, as we do in services, and inside our minds can magnify that joy.

Paul continues… "20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ..."

Always expressing gratitude to God for what we have, for what he has done for us, for his calling, his promises, for what he has done for the brethren, for his love and Christ’s love. This will multiply Chara in us and will help maintain it,

     A religious leader of the past suggested that our prayers consist of about 1/3 thanksgiving. I think it’s a great suggestion.

     Joy, therefore, is first of all the result of the choices we make. The first choice should be that God and His righteousness be first in our lives.

     Are we seeking God and His righteousness first? If we are, then we will stay close to God, and the result is that we will be filled with His Spirit, which gives us the wonderful blessing of being filled with Joy, no matter what the trials.

2 Corinthians 6:10--As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;

2 Corinthians 6:4-11-- But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, 5 in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; 6 by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, 7 by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

     This scripture encapsulates the Christian life and its amazing paradoxes. Tribulation, distresses, sleeplessness, dishonor, false accusations, pressed beyond human ability, on occasion, sorrowful and in continual strain -- yet always rejoicing.

     In sorrow, yet experiencing joy. In anxiety yet experiencing joy.  In physical pain yet experiencing joy. Stressed and strained to the max, yet experiencing joy.  Joy that is inside of us, that may not be necessarily seen, because we are in sorrow. In fact people may look at us and see sorrow. Yet we are rejoicing inside.

     It’s the kind of joy that “bubbles inside of you,” as one of our older members in my congregation told me some weeks ago.

     But How? Paul places the answer within the paragraph, lest we get the wrong idea that it was his spirituality that did it.

     Let’s read it again more carefully:

2 Corinthians 6:4-114 But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, 5 in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; 6 by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, 7 by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

That is the amazing gift that God wants us to have. That is the gift that accompanied the Apostles through their great trials and persecutions as they brought the Gospel into hostile territory.

     That is the amazing gift that accompanied Christ while he agonized over his coming death. Together with the great sorrow, Christ was filled with this Chara that energized him and neutralized some of the human anguish.

     This is the gift that God wants to give to us. This is the special gift God wants to place in us as we tackle the many sorrowful challenges of the Christian life.

     Do we want it? Do we really want it? Then let’s stay close to God and let’s be “filled” with the Holy Spirit. And let’s ask for Chara and don’t stop asking for it. Grab on to the Throne and beg for it until it’s there

     This is Chara, brethren. A state of gladness that is in no way related to circumstances or to sensual pleasures. It is a paradox and a miracle. It is the result of being filled with God’s Spirit. It is what God our Father wants us to have, but we must do our part.

     Little investment, little return. Much investment, much return, much chara -- much joy.

 THE NEXT ARTICLE ON THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT:  PEACE

 © Copyright, Michael Caputo, 2009