The Overcomer Trust

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By George Aston

According to holy Scripture, it is God’s will that all His people should be full of joy.  The Lord Jesus said, “I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15 v11).  I am sure that this joy is greater than all earthly pleasures and must not be thought of as happiness, even the happiness spoken about in Scripture.  Happiness is very much dependent on circumstances, but the Lord’s joy is permanent.

It is important to understand for ourselves what this treasure is.  Scripture tells us that the “Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace” (Galatians 5 v22), and so on, giving nine virtues in total which form a single Fruit.  If we look at nature we see a picture of this spiritual Fruit in, for instance, the raspberry or blackberry.  You will notice that the raspberry is made up of many parts containing a seed which is capable of producing a plant exactly like the parent plant.  Just as one of these small parts of the raspberry does not make a whole raspberry, so also joy does not make the complete Fruit of the Spirit.  

We might think about eating a raspberry and have a desire for it, but what we need to know is how to find some.  A little story from memory may help here.  It was summer and early in the evening while I was working in my garden, a young man walked by with a basket in his hand.  I lived in a forest, over a mile from houses, so was surprised to see him, and asked what he was looking for.  His reply was that his mother had sent him out to find some blackberries, and asked if I could tell him where to find some.  I knew the forest well and began to tell him of some very large berries about a mile away.  That seemed a long way because he had already come far but without success, so I tried to explain to him that it was worth his time to go that distance, for he would fill his basket much quicker than wandering from place to place in hope.  Just then my mother, who had been listening to our conversation called through the open window and said, “take him there, otherwise he is likely to get lost”.  That advice has never left me, and I have sought to put it into practice in spiritual things.  I like to take any questioner by hand and lead them, step by step, into God’s promised blessings.

Having satisfied ourselves that joy is the Fruit of the Spirit, let us search out the Person and virtues of that Spirit.  Many expressions are used in Scripture to present the characteristics of the Holy Spirit and they are important to our understanding of the subject.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ.  He is God Himself and He is the way by which the invisible, almighty, eternal God, comes to dwell within His people.  Paul uses the expression, “Christ in you, the Hope of Glory”, Father, Son and Holy Spirit being one.  So joy, the Fruit of the Spirit, is the product of the life of God within us.  He is also referred to as the Spirit of Holiness, the Eternal Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Glory, the Spirit of Power, the Spirit of Wisdom and the Spirit of Promise.

Keeping all this in mind, and understanding that God’s will for us is that we should be filled with all the fullness of God, what fruit should we expect to produce?  Firstly, I believe the position is one which has to be received by faith.  Each individual needs to recognise the need, like the young man with his empty basket in the story.  Secondly, we have to be willing to be led to where the fruit is to be found, then to obtain it for ourselves.  Receiving or taking the fullness of God is by faith and this is the way to fullness of joy.

Having obtained joy, it needs to be maintained.  A hymn writer once wrote, “my love is often low, my joy still comes and goes, but peace with God remains the same, Jehovah knows no change”.  It is true that God knows no change and does not change like shifting shadows, but it is sad that our joy comes and goes.  One evangelist from the nineteenth century was reported to have said, “I am filled with the Spirit, but the trouble is that I leak”.   This is what needs to be fought against if we wish to know continual joy.  Those leaks need to be sealed.  It is God’s work to fill us, and we cannot do His work for Him, but we have to remove all obstacles which are capable of preventing Him.  If we grieve the Holy Spirit in any of His attributes  then that joy will flow away.

Remembering again that the Lord Jesus said, “that my joy may be in you” (John 15 v11).  You need to believe that this is His purpose for you and take all the necessary steps to maintain that position by putting away every thought and imagination of the heart that is opposed to it, and honouring the Lord by believing what He has said.  “He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10 v23).  We have seen that this joy has to be obtained and then it has to be maintained.  Sadly, sometimes it needs to be regained.  The Psalmist needed to pray, “restore to me the joy of your salvation” (Psalm 51 v12).  He had grieved the Spirit of God and was out of touch with Him, and if we believers do the same and despise the Spirit of Grace we will lose our joy.  In these times the way back is to confess our guilt, realise our need and humbly ask for forgiveness.

I want to take you back now to our original example of the berries.  We saw that joy is never on its own, it is part of a whole fruit.  Another term for this is that it is “part of a package”.  This exactly describes it, each part of the berry has to be good in order to make the fruit acceptable and edible.  Look at the other eight parts of the package (Galatians 5 v22-23) and you will immediately see that if any of those were faulty, the balance of the fruit would be affected and the Joy of the Lord would be impaired.  Therefore it is necessary for “all the fullness of God” to be present if all the joy is to be experienced.  Do not let that scare you away from the subject, for this is exactly what God wished for you, and exactly what He has planned.  He is absolutely faithful to His promises and if we exercise the faith, He will perform what He has said.  Are you surprised when God answers prayer?  Please don’t be, just ask and receive that your joy may be full.

To close, let us link some of the qualities of this joy to the various aspects of the Holy Spirit.  Peter speaks about being “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1 v8).  Take time to meditate on that.  It is a joy that cannot be explained fully, so amazing it is and so full of Glory.  That is the joy that the Lord Jesus honoured us with when He said that, “My joy may be in you” (John 15 v11), and the glory when He prayed, “I have given them the glory that you gave Me” (John 17 v22).  It is important to soak in those thoughts of our Lord.  Glorious and unspeakable joy, all from the Spirit of Christ within us.

Isaiah said that those whom the Lord has rescued will return with “everlasting joy” (Isaiah 35 v10).  This is exactly the character of the Holy Spirit.  It is a joy like God Himself who never fades and who is the same yesterday, today and forever.  We read that “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8 v10).  While we find that certain conditions make joy available, it is also true that a living experience of joy advances our Christian life, and daily strength comes from that joy which the Lord produces.  The Spirit of Power then works with the joy of the Lord.

After writing these thoughts, I am aware that fullness of joy may not appear immediately.  A fruit takes time to grow and ripen, and so it takes a little time to fully appreciate these precious truths.  However, if you have been made alive to the Spirit of God, and already have a hunger for the Lord, then He will make a way for you to produce all the parts of the package, which is the birthright of every Child of God.

We find in Scripture various degrees of personal joy, such as when Paul said to some converts that they were his “joy and crown” (Philippians 4 v 1).  John said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1 v4).  Others expressed joy in various types of service for the Lord, but while rewarded service does indeed produce joy to the worker, the real joy and greatest of all is the presence of God, the Eternal Spirit dwelling inside us.