If you were making a list of Christian virtues, where would you put joy? Where would you expect a Calvinist to put joy? Somewhere after orthodoxy, sobriety, and humility…right? Or maybe joy doesn’t belong on the list at all. Christianity and joy just do not seem to go together. But in the inspired order of the fruit of the Spirit Rev. Smit explains, “Significantly, joy...is near the beginning of the list…right beside love.” Joy is a gift of the Spirit and an important part of the experience of the ordinary Christian life. By the operation of the Spirit Christians have joy!
In this chapter Rev. Smit explains what spiritual joy is, contrasts it with joy in sin and joy in mere earthly pleasures, and describes how the joy of Christ can be experienced in every circumstance of life.
One distinctive aspect of Christian joy is that it is in the Lord. Rev. Smit quotes Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say rejoice in the Lord.” Joy sought apart from the Lord is an illusion. Rev. Smit uses a helpful illustration (a fish living and thriving in water) to explain how happiness is only obtained by living in subjection to God (37).
Joy filled the hearts and lives of Adam and Eve before the fall into sin. Now God restores joy to His people through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. The gift of joy is not only the privilege of serving God, but the joy of fellowship with God in the Lord Jesus Christ. Rev. Smit writes, that we are ““In the Lord” includes the idea that we count it all joy to belong to Christ spiritually and to know that he is our friend-sovereign who will never leave us nor forsake us” (39).
This joy in Christ is spiritual, heavenly, and eternal. Therefore, Christian joy is the only joy that does not depend on the circumstances of life. Christians experience this spiritual joy in times of prosperity but also in seasons of want (48). Rev. Smit mentions persecution, tribulations, depression, loneliness, and impending death (49). In these times no joy is found in “the wicked pursuits of covetousness, gambling, fornication, reveling, drunkenness and the like” (37). Only the joy that is the fruit of the Spirit has the power to fill the heart with joy in those circumstances.
What knowledge brings believers joy in every circumstance of life? That is answered beautifully in the heart of the chapter on pages 42-47. Do you struggle to find joy in your life as a Christian? Does the church emphasize enough the joy of the Christian life? Are we teaching our children and young people to enjoy Christ, as opposed to merely teaching them that the Christian life consists of following a list of do’s and don’ts? May God give us the joy of Christ!
Other articles by Rev. Spronk on The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ:
This article was written by guest blogger Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Peace Protestant Reformed Church in Lansing, IL. Rev. Spronk will be blogging for us several times a month, taking us first through a brief study of Richard Smit's newly released book, The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. If there is a topic you'd like to Rev. Spronk to address, please contact us.