Literally, the "fruit of the Spirit" is what happens when the Holy Spirit indwells a believer. The "fruit" is the product of the Holy Spirit’s cultivation of character in a heart. Galatians 5:22-23 describes what that fruit looks like; the second characteristic listed is joy.
The Greek word for joy is chara. Joy is the natural reaction to the work of God, whether promised or fulfilled. Joy expresses God’s kingdom—His influence on earth (Romans 14:17). The Spirit’s production of joy can manifest in several different ways:
The joy of deliverance: When God sets someone free, rejoicing is in order.
1 Samuel 2:1: Hannah was filled with joy at her deliverance from her enemies.
Acts 12:14: The servant girl was so overjoyed that God had rescued Peter from prison that she forgot to let Peter in the house.
The joy of salvation: Our greatest reason to be joyful is that God wants to save us and spend eternity with us. Nothing is better than this.
Luke 15:7: All heaven is joyful when a person accepts God’s provision of salvation.
Acts 8:8: The people of Samaria were joyful as they heard the gospel and saw God’s power in healing the sick.
Acts 13:52; 15:3: Jewish believers rejoiced when they heard of the work of the Holy Spirit in saving Gentiles.
The joy of spiritual maturity: As the Holy Spirit works in us to bear more fruit, we become confident in God’s promises and rejoice in our walk with Him and with other believers.
John 15:11: The fullness of joy comes to those who continue in the love of Christ and obey Him.
2 Corinthians 1:24; 2:3; 7:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20; 3:9: Paul knew joy as the churches gave evidence of the Holy Spirit working among them.
Philippians 2:2: Groups of believers who unite in demonstrating the mind, love, and purpose of Christ bring joy to others.
Hebrews 10:34; 12:2; James 1:2-4: Believers, following the example of Jesus, endure persecution because of the promise of future joy.
The joy of God’s presence: The Holy Spirit draws us to God, in whose presence we can know true joy. Without the Holy Spirit, no one would seek God.
Psalm 16:11: “You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
Matthew 2:10; Luke 1:14: Mary and the shepherds were joyful because Immanuel had been born.
Matthew 28:8; Luke 24:41: The women who went to Jesus’ tomb and the disciples were overjoyed that He rose from the dead.
The Greek chara is closely related to charis, which means “grace” or “a gift.” Chara is the normal response to charis—we have joy because of God’s grace. The next step in the progression is to allow our joy to become an action as we express it, although sometimes joy can be so great it is inexpressible (1 Peter 1:8).
Possessing joy is a choice. We choose whether to value God’s presence, promises, and work in our lives. When we yield to the Spirit, He opens our eyes to God’s grace around us and fills us with joy (Romans 15:13). Joy is not to be found in a fallen world; it is only fellowship with God that can make our joy complete (1 John 1:4).