It is the Christian’s moral obligation to be joyful, and the failure of the Christian to be joyful is sin.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control..." (vv. 22, 23, Galatians 5:22–26).
The song of praise that the Israelites sang on the shore of the Red Sea was born from hearts filled with joy. This joy is something that should be a part of every Christian life. It is not merely icing on the cake to be tasted once in a while but it is an abiding obligation.
Joy is a normal fruit of the Spirit. We often consider happiness or joy as something that happens to us, not something that should flow from us. We don’t consider joy as a duty to be performed, but as an emotional state to be received passively and involuntarily. But when we look at the concept of joy in the Bible, it is expressed as an imperative, something we do by faith.
It is the Christian’s moral obligation to be joyful, and the failure of the Christian to be joyful is sin. Unhappiness and a lack of joy, in many circumstances, is a manifestation of the flesh. Certainly, there are times when we are filled with sorrow. Jesus Himself was called a man of sorrows. The Scripture tells us that it is better to go to the house of mourning than to spend our days in the house of feasting. Even Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” We must understand that it is legitimate to feel sorrow and grief. But a person can have a sense of joy even in the midst of mourning and profound grief. This is because our sorrow is directed toward a circumstance, but our joy is focused on and flows from God.
Joy, therefore, not being opposed to sorrow, is a fruit of the Spirit. It is our duty to be joyful: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Being joyful is a matter of the will. The key to being joyful all the time is “in the Lord.” If Christ is in me and I in Him, that relationship is constant. Therefore, there is always a reason for joy. That is why, in the midst of difficulties, we can rejoice in Christ—or because He is always present in us.
The fruits of the Holy Spirit are not the same as the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Gifts are distributed differently among various members of Christ’s body. But when it comes to the fruit of the Spirit, we are all to bear these fruits (albeit by differing degrees). This means that the more we grow in grace, the more joyful we will become. The Christian life is not to be dour and miserable. It will often be sorrowful, but it should always be filled with joy that flows from Jesus Christ.
The New Testament not only commands us to be joyful, but it tells us how. Basically, we can be joyful by focusing our attention on the source of our joy. If you find yourself depressed, down, afflicted focus your mind and meditations on that which is excellent and praiseworthy. Focus on Jesus Christ, who is the source of your blessedness.
Passages for Further Study
John 15:11; 17:13
; Philippians 4:3–9
; Hebrews 12:1–2