Joy As A Fruit?

What’s your mental image of “joy”?

I’ve been thinking about what I wrote yesterday (Joy? In Adversity? Seriously?).

I do that a lot, especially when I write something that actually makes sense to me. I wonder if I got inside my own head and made up what I call “The Bible according to Rich.”

I was trying to understand this verse:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds. James 1:2

Earlier in the year I wrote a series of posts about interpreting the Bible accurately. One principle involved making sure I understand the meaning of key words. So, in a rare flash of insight, I decided to do a bit of research.

When I hear the word “joy” I think of excitement. I picture jump for joy or the joy of Christmas morning. Turns out that’s not really what “joy” means; I found some clues in another well-known passage that uses the word “joy”:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness … Galatians 5:21-23

According to my deep knowledge of Greek (and the Internet), the word used for ‘joy’ is chara. It’s derived from the word charis, the Greek word for ‘grace.’ As I understand it, charis produces chara. ‘Joy’ is a supernatural gift produced by God’s grace.

This makes more sense. Biblical ‘joy’ isn’t human happiness that ebbs and flows with circumstance. It’s a true fruit of the Spirit that can develop and flourish even in difficult times.

I also learned that the Greek word for ‘pleasure’ is hedonia, from which we get hedonism. Clearly the Bible distinguishes situational cheeriness from a deeper, more lasting joy.

Spiritual fitness

This makes sense in terms of the metaphor of developing my “spiritual fitness.”

I don’t like fake smiles, and I suspect God doesn’t either. When something hurts, when there’s sadness or grief or despair, I think God wants us to be honest about it. Pretending to be happy when we’re not isn’t what He has in mind.

But we can experience His chara (joy) inspired by His charis (grace) no matter what our circumstances.

Amazing—so often I think that re-writing and twisting Scripture to fit my pre-conceived ideas will make it easier to follow. But almost always, when I take time to really understand, I find a message of peace and rest.

Maybe He’s trying to tell me something.

What’s your response to this notion of supernatural joy flowing from grace?

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Copyright 2010 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site

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