In Galatians, chapter 5, God — through the Apostle Paul — presents us with the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit:
“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21 a).
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).
As I read through these passages, I notice the striking contrast between the works of the flesh (those works, which come naturally from our fallen human nature) and the fruit of the Spirit (that fruit, which is the work of the Holy Spirit).
All the wicked works are ours. All the good fruit comes from the Lord.
Because joy is a fruit of the Spirit, it is not something I can produce by my own effort. None of the fruit of the Spirit proceed from my flesh. The Bible makes it so clear! However, because I am proud and foolish, I often stumble in this point. I confuse my role with God’s and lay the burden upon myself to produce the fruit of the Spirit, as though it were possible for me to do this. It is not.
By God’s grace, I understand that joy is a fruit of the Spirit. Also by His grace, I know that the Lord is the supremely worthy object of joy. Between knowing this truth and living it out, there is a gap I am unable to bridge on my own. Like the Apostle Paul, I find “the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not” (Romans 7:18). In my Spirit I always wish to rejoice in the Lord. And yet, because of my flesh, I am not always joyful.
When I am tempted to get discouraged by my own sin and folly, I read the following passage and find assurance that, because of the Lord Jesus, all is well: “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption…” (1 Corinthians 1:27-30). I am foolish, weak and base, but Christ Jesus became to me — and to every one of His people — wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption! By God’s grace, looking to the Lord Jesus (as He is described to us in Scripture: His perfection, His salvation, His power, and the absolute excellence of His person, all that He has done, all that He does, all that He will do) restores my joy.
If we are lacking in joy, let us go to our Lord in prayer and to His Word. We are His children. We depend upon Him for everything. He is the source of joy — and of all the fruit of the Spirit. It is “by His doing” that we, who are in Christ, are in Him. And it is because we are in Christ that we always have a reason to say, “I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10).