“The fruit of the Spirit is . . . joy . . .” (Galatians 5:22)
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)
In Luke 10:1-24 we read that Jesus sent a large group of disciples out on a mission. “Go!” he told them. “I’m sending you out like lambs among wolves—but don’t worry about anything! Don’t take a lot of stuff with you to make things easier for you. Stay wherever they will let you; and be content with the provisions they give you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them that the Kingdom of God is near them. If they don’t welcome you, just shrug it off. (I’ll deal with those people later!) Remember, whoever listens to you is listening to me. If they reject you, they are not only rejecting me, but also the One who sent me.”
There was a lot of joy at the debriefing following that first mission. “Lord! Even the demons submit to us in your name!” Jesus replied, “Yes, Satan did fall from heaven; Moreover, I have given you authority over the evil that comes against you. But remember, your joy does not come from success in spiritual battle; it should come from the fact that you are saved.”
When Jesus closed the meeting in prayer, the Word says that he was “full of joy through the Holy Spirit.” He thanked his Father, the Lord of heaven and earth, that even so-called “wise” men never learned the things that his disciples learned. What his disciples did learn, however, brought pleasure to his Father. Then Jesus praised his Father for entrusting him with all things––especially the privilege of revealing his Father to the chosen. In the closing benediction, Jesus told his disciples that they were blessed to see what they did for they saw what prophets and kings had longed to, but never did.
There is a joy lesson here that we all need to learn. The 72 were excited because they saw that they had spiritual authority. Seeing the demons flee––or any other “success” we might have––can be a pretty heady experience. “But,” says Jesus, “that is not the basis for your joy. Your joy is in your relationship with God.”
Jesus demonstrated what real joy is in his prayer. Joy is found when things are in line with God’s will. It brought Jesus joy to see that he fulfilled the mission he received from his Father. This shows us that joy is what happens when “what is” lines up with “what ought to be.”
Jesus had the deep-seated joy that comes from remaining in the Father’s love for him by obeying the commands the Father gave him. Jesus wanted his disciples to have that same kind of joy––the joy of knowing his own love for them and the joy of remaining in his love by their obedience to his commands.
Obedience is the last place we’d expect to find joy! We think joy depends on pleasure––on having what pleases us. But real joy comes from experiencing what pleases God. What pleases us varies from day to day and moment to moment. It all depends on how much sleep we’ve gotten, how cooperative people are, whether or not things turn out the way we expected, etc. In other words, our pleasure is a fleeting thing. But God’s pleasure is eternal––just as his will is eternal. To participate in his pleasure is true joy because it is joy that lasts. Let’s discover the “joy” of obediently remaining in God’s will.
Lord Jesus, I want to know your joy, for your joy lasts forever! My joy is incomplete; I am always looking for something more. Help me experience the joy of obeying you!