In our world of unprecedented prosperity and luxury—a world of boundless accomplishment and breathtaking advances—human reasoning tells us that there should be great joy throughout the world. On the contrary, however, depression, hopelessness, despair and suicide are commonplace. Materialism and man's obsession with the accumulation of physical things has never led to anything but increased sorrow.
True, lasting joy is based neither on material accumulation, nor in extraordinary physical accomplishments, but in the hope of salvation and the wonderful promises that God has set before us (Romans 15:13). Only by seeing beyond ourselves and our cares can we possess godly joy. In this third Bible study on the fruit of the Spirit, we will examine "joy"—gladness of heart (Galatians 5:22).
1. What is characteristic of worldly joy? Job 20:5; Luke 8:13; Proverbs 15:21; Hosea 9:1. When should joy be turned to gloom? James 4:8-10.
Comment: Carnal joy is temporary because it is based in self-centeredness. By the lifestyles of the average, unconverted person, we can easily see that they live their lives according to the saying, "Ignorance is bliss!" But God tells His people not to rejoice like the world. It is better to have sorrow in humility than joy in pride.
2. What are natural expressions of joy? I Samuel 18:6; I Chronicles 15:16; Ezra 3:12-13; Psalm 27:6; 32:10-11.
Comment: The ancient Israelites expressed joy by singing, dancing, playing musical instruments and shouting at victory celebrations, festivals, sacrifices and coronations. Gladness and joy are blessings from God. Gladness is the experience of pleasure, joy, or delight, resulting from happiness and joy. Joy is a quality, not simply an emotion, grounded upon God Himself and derived from Him. It should characterize our lives as Christians. Joy springs from the prospect of possessing our desires and can be temporary or long-lasting.
3. Do angels express joy? Job 38:4, 7; Luke 2:10-14. What else causes joy in heaven? Job 33:26; Luke 15:7, 10.
Comment: The terms "morning stars" and "sons of God" are biblical names for angels, who express joy when events in God's plan unfold. Not only God but also angels are thrilled when a sinner repents of his worldly ways. Prayer for forgiveness brings about joyous repentance and restoration of righteousness in a person's life.
4. To whom does God grant joy? Nehemiah 8:9-12; Psalm 5:11; Ecclesiastes 2:26; Isaiah 29:19; Matthew 25:21, 23. Does God make people joyful? II Chronicles 20:27; Ezra 6:22; Nehemiah 12:43.
Comment: Joy strengthens us when it results from our relationship with our Creator, who gives it to us as a reward for repentance, humility, trust and faithfulness.
5. What does God promise His servants? Isaiah 65:13-14; Jeremiah 31:13; John 16:20-22. Is there joy in unity? Psalm 133:1; Acts 2:42-47; I Corinthians 12:26; Philippians 2:2.
Comment: Godly unity produces joy because it overcomes the sorrow of self-seeking and fulfills the true love of outgoing concern for others. Joy through unity comes when God's people have all things in common—the same beliefs and desires working toward a common goal.
6. In what does God's ministry find joy that differs from the rest of the saints? I Thessalonians 2:19-20; Philemon 7; III John 4.
Comment: A minister labors long to help lead others to repentance and to direct them toward the Kingdom of God. When he sees progress, his encouragement manifests itself as joy.
7. Can persevering through a trial be joyous? II Corinthians 8:2; Colossians 1:9-11; I Thessalonians 1:6; Hebrews 10:34; James 1:2; I Peter 4:12-13.
Comment: Our joy through trials is a result of suffering for Christ's sake. Of the persecution we must endure, Jesus says, "Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!" (Luke 6:23). Through the Holy Spirit, God gives us His gift of joy as part of the process of spiritual completion.
8. Is joy a characteristic of the Kingdom of God? Isaiah 35:10; 65:17-19; Matthew 13:44; 25:21; Romans 14:17.
Comment: Sorrow and sighing is of the world because of sin, but joy and gladness is of the Kingdom because it is holy and good. The Kingdom of God is joy in the Holy Spirit, producing eternal spiritual fruit.
9. Should the prospect of salvation and eternal life be joyous? Psalm 21:1; 51:12; 132:16; Isaiah 12:3; Habakkuk 3:18; I Peter 1:8-9; I John 1:1-4.
Comment: There will be everlasting joy when God's Kingdom is established on earth. Joy and gladness is not only a deep inward feeling, but it is also expressed in visible celebration when God's people gather together. Speaking of the future church, Isaiah 60:15 says, "Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, so that no one went through you, I will make you an eternal excellence, a joy of many generations." In the meantime, the apostle Paul advises us to "rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4)