And There Was Joy!
As Paul and Barnabas were on mission sharing the good news about Jesus, they encountered resistance among some of the Jewish population while Gentiles were giving them more of a hearing. Luke reports on this response from Gentile who had grasped what Paul and Barnabas announced to them:
“For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have placed you as a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation that you may bring salvation to the end of the earth.'” When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:47-52)
The good news was announced, and those who heard it rejoiced. After the message had come home to these people–even after Paul and Barnabas had left–these followers of Jesus “were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Even when the messengers who brought the good news were driven away because of persecution, joy is what remained in their wake.
Where the Gospel went, joy followed. Where people had come to understand what God had done for them in and through Jesus, joy was the fruit. Joy followed in the wake of the Gospel.
That causes me to wonder. What has happened in my soul when I am not tasting that joy? Having heard and responded to the truth of Jesus’ gift of life, why am I not continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit?
Luke’s account is not a mandate–he is not telling us to “do this.” But his description of the lives of those who heard and responded to the Gospel raises questions about my own journey. If joy in Jesus is normal, if it is what follows in the wake of the good news coming home to those who hear, what does it mean about my life with Jesus that I, at times, am experiencing little joy?