“But the fruit of the Spirit is…joy…”
(Galatians 5:22 ESV)
Differences Between Worldly Joys and Spiritual Joys
The gleanings of spiritual joys are better than the vintage of the worldly joys.
1. Spiritual joys help to make us better, worldly joys often make us worse.
I spoke to you in your prosperity, but you said, ‘I will not listen’” (Jeremiah 22:21 ESV). Pride and luxury are the two worms which are bred from worldly pleasures. Wine is the inflamer of lust. As Satan entered in the sop, so often in the cup. But spiritual joy makes one better; it is like cordial medicine, which, as physicians say, not only cheers the heart—but purges out the noxious humors. Just so, divine joy is cordial medicine, which not only comforts but purifies; it makes a Christian more holy; it causes an antipathy against sin; it infuses strength to live and suffer for Christ. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:11 ESV). Some colors not only delight the eye—but strengthen the sight. Just so, the joys of God not only refresh the soul—but strengthen it.
2. Spiritual joys are inward, they are heart joys.
“Your hearts will rejoice” (John 16:22 ESV). True joy is hidden within, worldly joy lies on the outside, like the dew which wets the leaf. We read of those who “boast about outward appearance” (2 Corinthians 5:12 ESV), in the Greek, in the face. It goes no farther than the face, it is not within. “Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief” (Proverbs 14:13 ESV). Like a house which has a gilded frontispiece—but all the rooms within are hung in mourning. But spiritual joy lies most within. “Your hearts will rejoice” (John 16:22 ESV). Divine joy is like a spring of water which runs underground! Others can see the sufferings of a Christian—but they see not his joy. “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy” (Proverbs 14:10 ESV). His joy is hidden manna (Revelation 2:17 ESV)—hidden from the eye of the world; he has joyful music which others cannot hear. The marrow lies within, the best joy is within the heart.
3. Spiritual joys are sweeter than worldly joys.
“Your love is better than wine” (Song of Songs 1:2 ESV). Spiritual joys are a Christian’s festival; they are the golden pot and the sweet manna, they are so sweet, that they make everything else sweet! Spiritual joys sweeten health and estate, as sweet water poured on flowers makes them more fragrant and aromatic. Divine joys are so delicious and ravishing, that they put our mouth out of taste for earthly delights; just as he who has been drinking cordials tastes little sweetness in water. Paul had so tasted these divine joys, that his mouth was out of taste for worldly things; the world was crucified to him, it was like a dead thing, he could find no sweetness in it (Galatians 6:14).
4. Spiritual joys are more pure, they are not tempered with any bitter ingredients.
A sinner’s joy is mixed with dregs, it is embittered with fear and guilt—he drinks wormwood wine. But spiritual joy is not muddied with guilt—but like a crystal stream, it runs pure. It is a rose without prickles; it is honey without wax.
5. Spiritual joys are satisfying joys.
“Ask… that your joy may be full” (John 16:24 ESV). Worldly joys can no more fill the heart than a drop can fill an ocean; they may please the palate or imagination—but cannot satisfy the soul. No matter how much we see—we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear—we are not content (Ecclesiastes 1:8). But the joys of God satisfy. “Your consolations cheer my soul” (Psalm 94:19 ESV). There is as much difference between spiritual joys and earthly joys—as between a banquet which is eaten—and one which is painted on the wall!
6. Spiritual joys are stronger joys than worldly joys.
“Strong encouragement” (Hebrews 6:18 ESV). They are strong joys indeed, which can bear up a Christian’s heart in trials and afflictions. “You received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6 ESV). These joys are roses which grow in winter! These joys can sweeten the bitter waters of Marah! He who has these joys, can gather grapes from thorns, and fetch honey out of the carcass of a lion! “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10 ESV). At the end of the rod—a Christian tastes honey!
7. Spiritual joys are unwearied joys.
Other joys, when in excess, often cause loathing; too much honey nauseates. One may be tired of pleasure, as well as labor. King Xerxes offered a reward to him who could find out a new pleasure! But the joys of God, though they satisfy—yet they never glut. A drop of joy is sweet—but the more of this wine the better! Such as drink of the joys of heaven—are never glutted. Their satiety is without loathing, because they still desire more of the joy with which they are satiated.
8. Spiritual joys are abiding joys.
Worldly joys are soon gone. Such as crown themselves with rosebuds, and bathe in the perfumed waters of pleasure—may have joys which seem to be sweet—but they are swift. They are like meteors, which give a bright and sudden flash, and then disappear. But the joys which believers have are abiding; they are a blossom of eternity—a pledge of those rivers of pleasure which run at God’s right hand! “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11 ESV).