Saturday, June 18, 2011

More on Joy

A few mornings ago in my Paul study, I was reading a comparison between Paul and Jonah.  One of the passages used was John 15:10-11 where Jesus said,

"If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commands and remain in His love.  I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete."

I have heard this passage my whole life, but as I read it a simple but profound truth stood out to me - joy comes in obedience to God.

The irony is this...most people have the false assumption that obeying God and following His design for abundant living will rob them of their joy.  They think that if they have to live within the boundaries He set in place that are ultimately for our protection and fulfillment, they will "miss out on all the fun" and be miserable and unhappy.  They are sure doing things their own way will be the ticket to finding happiness.

Of course, what inevitably happens when we do things our own way and intentionally disobey God is that we suffer the consequences of sin, and though we may have fun for a season, we end up miserable and having to seek that temporary happiness all over again.  Because while the joy that comes from God is rooted deep within us and can sustain us through even the hardest of times, temporary happiness is just that - temporary.

That is why you see people get trapped in vicious cycles of addiction, heavy partying, doomed relationships, and other self-destructive behavior.  It's never enough.  The temporary satisfaction only lasts so long, and then reality sets in.  So they have to seek the same pleasures again and again because they never quite satisfy.  

And it's really sad.  Honestly, it breaks my heart.

But I can testify that the truest, purest form of joy - the kind of joy that is abundant, full, overflowing, and not relying on circumstances - is found in people who walk with God faithfully and obey Him eagerly.  Like Jesus said, that is when His joy is in us and when our joy is complete.  I have seen this kind of joy in people whose circumstances have been incredibly difficult, but whose roots are planted in Christ and whose hearts are submissive to Him. It's amazing.

Jonah ran in disobedience from God.  Most of us know his story of how it led him to the belly of a big fish. Paul, on the other hand, was passionate to obey God and follow His direction for his life as soon as he met Jesus on the road to Damascus.  I loved this quote by Beth Moore in the study that day...

"Although Jonah was ultimately obedient and surprisingly successful, you will search in vain for a single hint of joy in his life.  Although Paul seemed to suffer at every turn, he had more to say about joy than any other mouthpiece in the Word of God."

For any of you who are reading this who may be desperately searching for joy and chasing temporary happiness that ultimately lets you down and leaves you empty, listen to the words of Jesus!  Obey His commands and remain in His love so that your joy may be complete.

You will never regret obedience.

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