The Fruit of the Spirit: Joy

“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.”

1 Peter 1:8

Joy is one of my absolute favorite topics in the Bible. It is also one of the most frequently mentioned words throughout scripture. From Nehemiah to 1 Peter (just the word itself), we find a remarkable number of references to the topic of joy: 

  • Nehemiah 8:10:And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” 
  • Psalm 4:7:You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound”
  • Habakkuk 3:18: “I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

We also find the command to “rejoice” several times in scripture, which is the outpouring of a joy in a visible, active way. To rejoice means to be filled with joy, to cause joy, and to give joy to (someone). 

In Romans 12, Paul tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice.” In Philippians, “rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.”

It is a core quality of a Christian to be filled with joy, and to spread that feeling with those around us.

What is Joy?

“Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as He causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.”

John Piper

I often refer to John Piper’s definitions or use articles on Desiring God to research for my writing. The topic of joy is by far one of Piper’s most common themes, and he has thoroughly broken down this definition of what joy is:

  1. A Good Feeling: not an idea or a conviction, not a persuasion or a decision, but a feeling.
  2. In the Soul: not the body
  3. Produced by the Holy Spirit: as one of the fruits of the Spirit, it is a work of the Spirit
  4. Sight of Jesus: work of the Spirit results from seeing the glory and beauty of Jesus
    1. The Spirit opens the eyes of my heart to see the beauty of Christ, and then my heart is drawn towards Him in joy.
  5. In the Word and the World
    1. Word: it is most clear in the Bible (which is inspired by the Holy Spirit)
    2. World: through gifts and people, nature, food, and so much more

“Our experiences of the Spirit’s joy does not define our assurance of the Spirit’s presence.”

Dane Ortlund in: Joy Doesn’t Always Look Happy

Joy is an objective reality; it is a basic, non-optional element of what the indwelling Spirit gives to believers. Essentially, if you have the Spirit within you, you will have the ability to rejoice with a joy that is “inexpressible and filled with glory.”

In all honesty, it is remarkable to me that joy is not based on our circumstances. I think that growing up, most of us associate the word “joy” with the word “happy,” because that’s the closest synonym in our dictionaries. 

But really, joy is so much more than that. Joy is an unstoppable force of God’s character that makes happy look small in comparison. Joy is an overwhelming feeling within us that our basic emotions can’t crack. It’s the thing that makes people who have lost a loved one still smile, because they know that death has already been conquered, and it is nothing to fear anymore. 

Joy is the outworking of our union with Christ, and it flows from the taste of the sweetness of grace. It ”springs from knowing the true value of what God has given us.” (Derek Thomas)

How to “Joy”

Just like knowing who God is is different than knowing God, knowing what joy is doesn’t help so much with knowing how to feel it. 

As I mentioned before, joy is one of John Piper’s most discussed topics. As such, he has come up with “Fifteen tactics for joy” that I’d like to share with you here:

  1. Realize that authentic joy in God is a gift.

 It is not an assumed characteristic of a Christian’s life, you don’t just receive joy when you receive Christ necessarily, it’s a gift in addition to the salvation we receive.

  1. Realize that joy must be fought for relentlessly. 

I’m sure you know that joy isn’t easy, it isn’t natural. It’s hard to just “have joy.” It must be fought for, strived after, chased. But it’s worth it.

  1. Resolve to attack all known sin in your life, by the power of the Holy spirit.

 If we’re living in our sin we’ll never be able to fully grasp hold of joy, that sin is holding our hand back just enough to keep us from holding onto joy. We have to completely let go of the world’s hold on our lives.

  1. Learn the secret of gutsy guilt-how to fight like a justified sinner. 

Know that it is only God who can redeem you, and fight for that. Know that it is only God who can cleanse you, who can pull you from that sin, and fight for that.

  1. Realize that the primary battle is a fight to see- to see God for who He is! 

There is nothing like seeing and knowing our God.

  1. Meditate on the word of God day and night.

 Like David singing psalms in the kingdom to Saul, or Daniel defying the king’s orders and praying openly to his King in heaven, let us find joy in speaking with our God! Let’s be hungry for communication with our Father.

  1. Pray earnestly and continually for open heart-eyes and an inclination for God. 

Often in the Psalms we see David asking that his voice be heard by God. This honest plea to be heard is not unfamiliar. God can hear you, all you have to do is ask!

  1. Learn to preach to yourself rather than listen to yourself. 

This point, I believe, is one of the most important-at least for me. We need to turn our grumblings into lessons for ourselves, push ourselves forward, motivate ourselves with words from scripture and prayers to our God.

  1. Spend time with God-saturated people who help you see God and fight the fight. 

We become like the five people we spend the most time with. If the five people we spend time with are God-saturated, we will start to imitate that behavior, to desire to be God-saturated too, and we won’t be able to turn our backs to the words of God.

  1. Be patient in the night of God’s seeming absence.

 I know this is hard, it’s not an easy thing to be patient in any situation. And it’s scary to feel like God isn’t there. But I promise He is there, He won’t leave, and He’s working in your life to make everything more beautiful than you could ever possibly hope for.

  1. Get the rest, exercise, and proper diet that your body was designed by God to have. 

Our bodies were created by God, they are precious creations that require special care. Don’t abuse that creation, but have dominion (care-taking) over your body.

  1. Make a proper use of God’s revelation in nature – take a walk in the woods.

 With precautions, of course, but there is nothing like a walk in the woods to open your eyes to the nature of God.

  1. Read great books about God and biographies of great saints.

 It may seem dry at first, but these people have been saturated with knowledge of the gospel and it is thrilling to hear what they have to say.

  1. Do the hard and loving thing for the sake of others (your verbal witness and deeds of mercy). 

It isn’t always easy to be kind, but we are walking witnesses of Christ, lights in the darkness of this world and we can change the world simply by imitating Christ; doing the hard and loving thing.

  1. Get a global vision for the cause of Christ, and pour yourself out for the unreached. 

Our little circle of the world is not the only part that’s fighting for the gospel. It’s important to realize the global impact of the gospel and how that’s affecting our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world.

“Every moment of our existence is cause enough for joy: the good and the bad together should integrate to form a hallelujah symphony to the praise of almighty God.”

Derek Thomas

We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (the second shortest verse in the Bible) to “Rejoice always.”

Ellen B

One of my favorite people in the Bible, Paul, writes a lot about joy in suffering in his letters to various churches in the new testament. While in prison, under guard, in trials legally and figuratively, he finds joy. He is able to separate his circumstances from the overwhelming understanding that through all of it, God is still there. God is still God. 

While there isn’t one fix-all solution to feeling joy, I think that reading about the people in scripture who have felt joy and expressed joy no matter their circumstances can certainly help inspire anyone to have a more joyful attitude towards their own life. 

I know that no matter what I go through, remembering Paul’s example, Job’s arguments, Esther’s faith, David’s psalms, and Christ’s prayers unfailingly help me to turn my attitude around. 

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:3-5

A Prayer for All Us Mountain Goats

I sincerely pray that each of you can find a way to experience joy in the Lord. I pray specifically that you can find joy when it’s hardest to feel it, that you can rejoice boldly and with certainty that God is there, that God has redeemed you, and that God is working in you to make you whole, complete, lacking in nothing. I pray that we as a body of Christians can shine with joy so brightly that people question us, and recognize that we are glowing with something more powerful than we can understand. 

Lydia Cannon

Christian, Writer, Coffee Addict

Supporting Verses

Nehemiah 8:10

Psalm 4:7

Isaiah 9:3

Psalm 21:6

Ps 16:11

Psalm 66:1

Ps 81:1

Ps 95:1

Ps 98:6

Joel 2:23

Habakkuk 3:18

Luke 1:44

Luke 2:10

Galatians 5:22

1 Thessalonians 1:6

Acts 13:44-52

James 1:2

1 Peter 1:6-9

Psalm 98:4

Psalm 118:24

Romans 12:15

Philippians 4:4

Philippians 3:1

1 Thessalonians 5:16

Don’t forget to check out the Recommendations page for links to other Christian organizations and Bible study tools!

Practices in Faith: Meditation and the Bible

“…but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

Psalms 1:2

If you’re anything like me, when you hear the word “meditate,” one of the first images that comes to your mind is of candles, “oms”, and a search for inner peace.

Of course, none of these are inherently bad, but they portray a false impression of biblical meditation.

While traditional Eastern meditation is focused on clearing your mind and finding an inward sense of peace, biblical meditation focuses on the Law of God.

“This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do what is written in it…” 

Joshua 1:8

The “Law” in this passage (and in others) refers not just to the ten commandments or the Mosaic law, but to scripture as a whole; the promises, commands, and records of God’s activity. 

“The Law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; 
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.”

Psalms 19:7-9

These descriptions of the Law of God completely encompass everything we deem desirable. What more could we ask? They endure forever, are righteous, and rejoice the heart. We literally find joy by meditating on the Law. It makes wise the simple and enlightens the eyes.

“Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things He has done for you.”

1 Samuel 12:24

There are several passages within scripture that give us a reason why we should meditate. In Deuteronomy 10:21-22, Moses reminds us that the Israelites went to Egypt as seventy people, and left “as numerous as the stars”. Philippians 2:8 states:

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

What greater act could God have done for us, than to give us His only Son, and through Him, save us from our own sin. These reasons alone stand out to me as reason enough to meditate; to stop and consider the great love with which Christ died for us. 

Reasons aren’t enough, though. Even if you’ve decided to meditate, it will mean nothing if you don’t know how to meditate. If you don’t teach yourself how to do something, and do it wrong, it won’t benefit you the way it should—or at least, not nearly as well as it has the potential to. 

Discovering how to meditate can be a challenge in and of itself. To help you get started, here are five general steps to a healthy meditation routine.

Examine Scripture Often

Reading the Bible is a rather crucial aspect of biblical meditation. It’s important to have a recent familiarity with the passages you are attempting to meditate on. This will remind you of the presence of God, the “now-ness” of God, and help you understand as you read.

My favorite example of meditation is referenced by Paul in Acts 17.

“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”

Acts 17:11

“Examining” is a strong word to use, and it is used quite intentionally. We aren’t meant to simply read a passage and think fleetingly on its surface meaning, but instead to deeply study the words taught in the Bible. 

“All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

2 Timothy 3:16 

These God-breathed words are meant to be examined “with all eagerness.” 

A post by David Mathis on Desiring God states, “God wants our sitting down with His book each day to be more like coming to dinner than going to the grocery store. Don’t try to save up truth for tomorrow, come to enjoy Him today.” 

Meditation is an enjoyable experience, a gathering with our heavenly Father for communion and fellowship. But it does require a certain amount of focus and intention.

Observe and Understand the Context

No verse in scripture stands on its own. I can’t stress enough how important it is to read the surrounding verses in order to fully understand the one verse that catches your attention. 

Look at the verses before and after the paragraph, the chapter, and even the book of the Bible that your verse is in. Who wrote the book? Who did they write it to? What was their purpose for writing it? Was it being well received and why? What is the overall theme of the section? 

Taking the section as a whole will give you a fuller understanding of the passage itself, I promise. It may not be a complete understanding, but it will definitely help shed light on whatever the verse’s intention may be.

Use What You Learn

The Bible was not written exclusively to the early church. If it were, it would not have survived as wholly as it has through the last two thousand years (since the birth of Christ). There have historically been tens, even hundreds of attempts to eradicate scripture. Obviously, and thankfully, they all failed.

That being said, there must be some reason God has preserved this ancient text. 

I remember when I was about seven years old, my dad’s jeep caught on fire. The whole interior was destroyed, as well as pretty much anything that was inside. We found, though, a Bible—one we didn’t even know was in there—that completely survived the fire. Besides some black around the outsides of the pages, the Bible was completely whole.

Mark 13:31 states, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” In His own words, God claimed the Bible will not perish, but last so others can read and believe in its teachings. Leaders such as Diocletian and Antiochus Epiphanes ordered the destruction of the New Testament, yet it survives. 

So take a look at the passage before you and see how it applies to you and your current situation. Maybe it is simply intended to give you a better perspective on faith, on Christ, or on the purpose of the writer. Whatever you may learn from it, the Bible is our guide for life, our connection to our Father, and the most secure place to seek comfort and understanding.  

Pray and Connect

The Bible is God’s words to us and is His communication with us. While “the heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim the works of His hands” (Ps 19:1), we have the privilege of hearing from our God directly through scripture. “All scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim 3:16) and we shouldn’t take for granted the fact that it’s there. 

We have a mediator through Christ, who intercedes for us to the Father. Connecting with Him through prayer is a gift and is our way of communicating with our God what we have learned about Him and where we seek more understanding. 

Don’t Leave It Behind!

So often, we become filled with purpose and inspiration from a Bible study or a church service, leave motivated to reach the whole world with the gospel or change everything about our habits and relationships, only to turn around and get crushed by the duties of daily life. That inspiration we found becomes forgotten, and we become distracted by the responsibilities before us. 

This scenario is detrimental to our spiritual journey in faith. If we don’t hold these teachings fast in our minds everyday and neglect building a strong personal relationship with God, we will fall further and further away from His grace. 

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love… for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”

2 Peter 1:5-10

God is for us. With Him we cannot fail, but we may “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Only through Christ and meditating on God’s word can we truly clear our hearts and minds of all evil and achieve a real, lasting sense of inner peace.

A Prayer for All Us Mountain Goats

I pray that as Christians, we all gain a personal hunger to meditate on scripture, and that we truly build a desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I pray the Spirit communicates clearly with us, so that we may understand what we read, so we may apply it to our daily lives. And lastly, I pray that we appreciate the gift of communion with our Father, and thank God for opening up a path of communication and thanks, and His enlightenment through Scripture.

Lydia Cannon

Christian, Writer, Coffee Addict

Supporting Verses

Philippians 4:8
Job 22:21-26
Philippians 3:1
Philippians 4:4
Matthew 6:33
Psalms 37:4
Job 37:14
Psalms 119:97
Psalms 104
Psalms 19:14
Psalms 19:2
Numbers 4:10

Don’t forget to check out the Recommendations page for links to other Christian organizations and Bible study tools!

How To Build a Relationship with God

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ…I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” 

Philippians 3:7-8a

How beautiful is the relationship between Paul and Christ? He counts everything as loss for the sake of Christ our King, and even refers to everything as “rubbish” or “dung” in comparison to His splendor. 

It is even more beautiful when you realize that Paul never met Christ on earth. He literally went from murdering Christians to becoming one in the matter of a week (really, a day), and went on to write most of the new testament and spread the gospel further than any of the apostles before him.

I want a relationship with God like Paul’s with Christ; one which is all consuming and fills me with bountiful, eternal joy. I want to be so filled with a passion for God that I can’t stop talking about Him, writing about Him, and sharing His truth with everyone around me, like Paul did.

So what’s stopping me? In fact, what’s preventing any of us who want to build a stronger relationship with God from doing so?

There are many facets of today’s daily life that crave our attention and time. From work and school, to friends, family, pets, and social media, our minds are constantly being pulled in every direction, horizontally.

These distractions cause us to make conscious decisions everyday that strain our relationship with God, decisions even I choose to make. And that’s not okay. 

Why is that? Why do we, who are so passionate for and constantly craving God’s presence, choose these distractions over our Creator?

Simply put, it’s easy. 

It’s easy to sleep an extra thirty minutes instead of getting up for communion with God. It’s easy to watch the next episode of a show instead of reading His Word. It’s easy to set aside time for friends or family, but never even devote five minutes to building a strong spiritual relationship with our Father.

Pushing God away is part of the fall, making it natural for us to choose against Him. What isn’t natural is setting aside time for someone we don’t know, someone we can’t physically see or hear, and it’s hard to consciously make those kinds of decisions.

Yet that’s exactly what we are called to do.

The Internal Struggle Between Right and Wrong

Building a relationship with God is a difficult endeavor. J.I. Packer, in His book Knowing God, claims “…Christian minds have been conformed to the modern spirit: the spirit, that is, that spawns great thoughts of man and leaves room for only small thoughts of God.”

Packer has recognized our passion for greatness and our lack of zeal for a God who, by nature, is Great. The contradiction of our own desires creates a burning sense of confusion among those who can’t see the magnificence of the character of God — and don’t try to.

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or His ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.”

Isaiah 59:1-2

Our sin nature is the crux of what separates us from a desire to know God, to really desire Him, His presence, and His will. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The “natural” is our sin, our nature

That sin nature, however, can’t actually keep us from knowing God if we actively choose to seek Him. Staying active in our faith gives us access to the most extraordinary relationship in eternity (literally). It builds within us a will for something greater. God promises in Psalm 37:4 to give us the desires of our hearts if we delight ourselves in the Lord. If we choose God, our desire will be God. 

There is an internal battle between right and wrong within us, governing each decision we make. Choosing God is one thing, but overcoming sin is a whole other story.

Overcoming Sin

The first step to building a relationship with God is getting to know Him.

Just like at the start of any personal relationship, you want to know who you are going to be spending your time with, talking to, talking about, and eventually, trusting.

You also don’t want to just simply know about God. For example, I know a lot about J.R.R. Tolkien, but I don’t know him personally. It’s a personal connection you’re after, not just information.

The best way you can go about getting to know anyone is simple, you communicate.

Communion with God

Communication with our God is a privilege, one in which we are invited and called to indulge. 

 “…far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things He has done for you.” 

1 Samuel 12:23a-24

Many strong biblical characters have their prayers recorded within scripture: 

These Christians, as well as countless others in scripture alone, are great examples of what a healthy relationship with the Father looks like. However, the most perfect example of this is the one established for us by Christ.

Jesus kept a constant communication with God. He prayed during His 40 days of temptation in the desert (Matt. 4:1-11), before every meal (Matt. 14:19), and for hours before he was brought before Pilate for his trial and crucifixion (John 17).

In Matthew 6:5-15, Jesus teaches us the benefits of communicating with God, and provides a model for prayer that many churches still follow today.

Prayer alone isn’t enough, though. We must continuously be listening for God’s response. Relationships are not one-way. God does hear us, and God does reply:

  • God’s voice is everywhere (Ps. 29:3)
  • God’s voice is powerful and full of majesty (Ps. 29:4)
  • God’s voice flashes forth flames of fire (Ps. 29:7)
  • God’s voice thunders wondrously (Job 37:5)
  • God’s voice can, however, appear through a whisper (1 Kings 19:9-12)

God is our Shepherd. If we know Him, we will know His voice (John 10:14-16).

Characteristics of a Healthy Spiritual Relationship

God has not left us alone. There is a whole community of believers around the world who are studying God’s word, building their own relationships, and sharing their knowledge with us just like Paul did with the churches of the New Testament.

One of these believers is, in fact, J. I. Packer. In Knowing God, he breaks down some of the visible signs that one has built a healthy relationship with God. These characteristics encompass active efforts of faith that grow as we get closer to Him.

Those Who Know God Have Great Energy for God

Our actions are reactions to a culture that is notably opposed to the Christian worldview and to God as a whole. When people disrespect God’s name, we should be spurred into action. 

“People who know their God are people who pray, and the first point where their zeal and energy comes to expression is through prayer.”

Packer, 1973, p. 28

Having Great Thoughts of God

This contrasts the small thoughts of God mentioned earlier. We have to set aside room in our minds for great thoughts of God, which are evident in the examples set by Daniel: 

“Praise be to the name of God forever and ever; wisdom and power are His. He changes times and seasons, He sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom. He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells within Him.”
Daniel 2:20-21

“O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with all who love Him and obey His commandments…The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving…the Lord our God is righteous in everything that He does.”
Daniel 9:4-14

Daniel recognized God in a way that was outwardly expressive and gave Him glory. He risked his life (many times, actually) to glorify and praise God.

Showing Great Boldness for God 

To use the example of Daniel once again, he was quite literally thrown to the lions because he wouldn’t compromise his faith. He was imprisoned, threatened, and persecuted, yet he never stopped praising God.

In Daniel 6, King Darius goes to see if Daniel is still alive in the lions’ den. The first thing Daniel does is exclaim God’s hand in his life/survival, then pleas for redemption from the king’s punishment. Because of this, Darius writes a decree addressing God as a living God, and Daniel prospered. 

God is with Us

If we exhibit these three characteristics, then seeking God our Father, our Savior, our King, will become more natural. We will long for communion with Him and desire that everlasting relationship we as Christians have been promised as a result of the resurrection of Christ.

“Let the Bible be the place where God meets you…let the Bible be the place where you speak back to Him.”

John Piper

We serve an active and living God who has invited us to be adopted into His kingdom. Our walk of faith is a response to the grace of our Creator, our Redeemer, our King.

We are His children and He is with us every step of the journey.

A Prayer for All of Us Mountain Goats

I could go on for pages about the love of God and the examples of that love in scripture. It is so great, that we can’t fully understand it. When I consider the overwhelming presence of His love, I am flooded with joy and I know that God is here, actively communicating with me even as I write this. 

My prayer for you—and one I pray for my own friends, family, and also myself—is that you will be filled with a deep hunger and passion to experience God’s love firsthand. I pray this passion inspires you to learn about God, grow within His Spirit, and entirely praise His majesty.

Lydia Cannon

Christian, Writer, Coffee Addict

Supporting Verses

Proverbs 3:12
Isaiah 9:6
Matthew 19:5
John 20:21
Ephesians 2:18
1 John 3:1
John 10:29
Psalm 68:5
Luke 10:27
John 3:16
Romans 5:8
Philippians 4:19
Ephesians 5:23
Colossians 1:18

Don’t forget to check out the Recommendations page for links to other Christian organizations and Bible study tools!