Fruit of the Spirit: Joy (Part 6)
There is a superadded joy that belongs to those Christians who share their faith, and whom God privileges to see the fruit of their labours—especially pastors. The Christian minister can take as his example the apostle Paul and the joy that he had as an instrument in God’s hand in making converts, and seeing them grow through his ministry (1 Corinthians 3.5-7). He also rejoiced in ministry of others of like faith, faithfulness in doctrine, and labours.
It is not that Paul’s motive for preaching and pastoring was to get more and more of this joy for himself—but this was certainly a by-product that he experienced; one that he often spoke of in his epistles. And he even referred to it in his exhorting all the churches under his care (2 Corinthians 11.28), to motivate them toward greater Christian love, obedience, and maturity.
- “And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all” (2 Corinthians 2.3).
- “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2.19-20).
- “For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God” (1 Thessalonians 3.9; see also Philippians 2.2; 4.1).
The apostle John likewise wrote of the joy he had as a pastor: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 1.4). The apostle of love’s greatest earthly joy was in watching Christ-likeness grow in his converts, his spiritual children.
We also know of the heart-ache that Paul had, as a Christian, when the gospel of the Messiah was rejected by his fellow-Israelites, whom he loved. He had not merely the absence of this superadded joy but its supersubtracted opposite! “I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9.2-3).
We feel the lamentation in Paul’s words: “Brethren [fellow Christians], my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved” (10.1). But he drew comfort and hope for his kinspeople from the yet-to-be fulfilled prophecy where God has promised, “…that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer [Messiah], and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (11.25-26).
Now consider Philemon. Paul gives thanks to God for the “love and faith” which this man had toward Christ and all the Christian believers (“all saints”) in his fellowship, the church that met together, and perhaps lived together as a family, in his house (Philemon v.2). Whenever Paul prayed for Philemon, he petitioned God, “That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus” (Philemon v.4-6). Probably Philemon was a pastor, for Paul regards him as a “fellowlabourer” (v.1).
Paul’s motive, and argument to God, in this prayer for Philemon’s success in communicating his faith to others in his locality was as follows: that Paul and Timothy (v.1) “have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother” (v.7). The apostle prays to God that Philemon, this man of love and faith, would have the joy of seeing good fruits of his labours beyond the church in his house—a joy superadded to the joy he evidently had in his service to all the saints.
All Christians can be, and ought to be, blessed by God with this superadded joy of soul-winning.
- We are all called to be the salt of the earth and the light on the hill (Matthew 5.13-17).
- We should all be shining before the watching world, and all be “holding forth the word of life” in our various capacities (Philippians 2.15-16).
- We should all be taking the opportunities that God provides, giving gracious answers to seekers and humble apologetic defenses against gainsayers (Colossians 4.5-6; 1 Peter 3.15). And,
- We should all be known as people who praise God and give him glory by the way we live (1 Peter 2.9-12).
Christian parents should be and do all these things, and more, for their own children—they should certainly share their faith with them (e.g. 2 Timothy 1.5; Ephesians 6.4).1 And since children are commanded by God to “honour thy father and thy mother” (Exodus 20.12; Ephesians 6.1-3), then it is encumbent upon fathers and mothers to be worthy of such honour (Romans 6.6-7; Eph 2.10).
See also Exodus 10.9; Josh. 4.4-7; Psalms 103.17-18; 128 (all); Acts. 2.39; Galatians 3.7-9, 26-29; 4.26-28, 31. Hebrews 11.23). ↩