Joy in the Lord!
And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
This passage ends a section of the Book of Acts that describes the Gospel being taken to the whole of the region – including to the Gentiles. The church began in Jewish circles – of course – since Jesus and the early disciples were Jewish. And although many were moved to accept Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah – some had a hard time being open to the message that God was also available to all people – including the non-Jewish people. In the King James Version of the Bible the word for non-Jewish people is pagan – the ungodly.
Here are a few verses from just before today’s passage concluding with today’s verse. Acts 13:49-52 – 49 The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
If you heard today’s verse all by itself – you might have thought something else was going on. I mean – from the verses just before today’s passage – it sounds like they were under attack from some of the well-to-do people in their religious world. I mean – the Word of God was spreading through the whole region – that part is good. But some of the Jews were inciting some of the well-to-do and connected women – God-fearing women – and some of the leading men (remember Saul/Paul was a God-fearing man who thought persecuting the Christians was what God wanted) – to persecute them. They were being expelled from the community – kicked out – and so they dusted their feet and left the area. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
It is at this point that my little old saying comes into play – Happiness is circumstantially driven, while Joy is spiritually derived. The disciples may not have been happy – they were being persecuted. But they had joy because they were about the Lord’s work. Have you ever been in such a place? A place where you were persecuted – things were just not going the way you planned. If you were to rate your happiness in these circumstances – on a scale of 1-10 – 10 being the highest level of happiness you might rate a 1 only because that was as low as the scale would go. Even without any level of happiness you had a peace – a joy – because you felt like you were about the work of the Lord? I have been in those places – and I imagine others have as well. It was this kind of place I imagine the disciples were from today’s passage.
The Joy that comes from serving God – from being in the place you feel God has placed you – even with very little happiness associated with it – is a peaceful place. I pray that you feel the joy of serving Jesus in what you do each day. I also pray for some happiness in your life. You can be happy (circumstantially driven) and joyous (spiritually derived) at the same time – but that doesn’t always happen. Having peace and joy in Christ is more important than the emotion of happiness.
Just something to think about today as you go on your way.
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