Our Defining Priority (6)
Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. Romans 14.16-18
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of ourfaith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12.1, 2
The consequence of the Kingdom
The word “consequence” typically has a negative connotation, as the Oxford Dictionary of English observes in its definition: “A result or effect, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant”. The origin of the word is from the Latin consequentia, which means “following closely”.
From this we can see that not all consequences are necessarily negative. Blessing follows closely to obedience. Peace follows closely to righteousness. And joy follows closely to righteousness and peace, as the unfading consequence of life in the Kingdom of God. Where righteousness is the ambiance and aim of our lives, peace abounds; and where righteousness and peace are present, joy is close at hand by the powerful work of the Holy Spirit.
Joy is the ultimate form of happiness, so ultimate, in fact, that it is a qualitatively different affection from happiness. Both happiness and joy are dependent on external circumstances. But the external circumstances that bring happiness are fleeting, fading, and frequently false. The external circumstances that bring joy are eternal, true, fixed, and unmovable. For joy is anchored in Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, the Prince of peace, and the Ruler of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus promised His disciples that, as they held fast to His Word, His joy would remain in them, and their joy would be full (Jn. 15.11). David reported that, in the Presence of the Lord there is fullness of joy (Ps. 16.8). God stands ready to fill us with all joy as we continue to believe in Him and pursue His calling (Rom. 15.13). Joy is a primary fruit of the Spirit’s indwelling work in our lives (Gal. 5.22). So strong and powerful an affection is joy that it can sustain us through trials, even so that we rejoice and give thanks for them (Jms. 1.2).
What is joy? How do righteousness and peace give rise to joy? Why has God reserved such unfading and unfailing joy for us?
If peace is that comforting and reassuring sense that all is well, secure, and safe, then joy is the exuberant gladness that emanates from such a condition, making us want to sing, leap about, and cry with laughter. Think George Bailey, in It’s a Wonderful Life, weeping with joy and shouting “Zuzu’s petals!” as he realized how greatly he had been blessed of God. When we are in touch with joy, no amount of suffering, trial, or want can rob us of our happiness, for the circumstances to which our joy is anchored are greater than any evil we could endure.
Habakkuk gives us a glimpse at how joy overcomes even the worst case scenarios of life (Hab. 3.17-19):
Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The LORD God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.
This is how joy works. It holds fast to the Anchor of righteousness and peace, rejoicing in the LORD and taking joy in belonging to Him, acknowledging His unfailing strength and His certain Presence with us. As long as we are fixed on these unalterable circumstances, we can know joy, whatever life may throw at us.
Just as Jesus did, hanging on the cross. As He bore the sins of the world, Jesus saw the joy that was set before Him in the coming of the Kingdom of God, the worldwide expansion of God’s rule, the showers of blessing that would come to the faithful and needy, and the multitudes who would worship the Father and receive Jesus because of His redemptive work. Even in the darkness of brutal, undeserved, and horrible death, Jesus rejoiced (cf. Ps. 22.21-31).
And the joy Jesus knew followed closely on—was the consequence of—His righteous life and peace-bringing mission for the sake of the Kingdom and glory of God.
Like the angels who rejoiced at the birth of Jesus, all who know the Kingdom presence of God know the joy that nothing in this world can stifle or suppress. That we tend to access it inconsistently and infrequently does not make the availability of that joy any less true. God has called us to His Kingdom and glory so that we might know joy, so that, in every temporal circumstance, we might hold fast to the righteousness of King Jesus, bask in the peace He bestows, know the joy of His salvation to the very depths of our soul, and rejoice and give thanks and leap for joy.
We have been saved for joy, the joy of knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. And God has appointed us as joy-bringers to the world. They more of God’s joy we experience, the more that joy will overflow our lives to bring hope and joy to the people around us.
Life in the Kingdom of God is a joy-ride of eternal purpose and pleasure. Joy is what follows closely to entering the Kingdom of God. And joy increases to the extent that we devote ourselves to realizing more of the presence, promise, and power of God’s Kingdom in every area of our lives.
For reflection or discussion
1. When do you experience the joy of Jesus?
2. How would you explain joy to an unbelieving friend who was desperate for happiness?
3. How is joy related to righteousness and peace? How may we know the joy of Jesus more deeply and more consistently?
Next steps – Preparation: Spend time meditating on Jesus’ work of redemption—His incarnation, ministry, crucifixion, death and burial, resurrection, ascension, rule at the Father’s right hand, and soon return. Give thanks and praise for each aspect of His ministry, and wait on Him to fill you with His joy.
T. M. Moore
A companion study to this installment is entitled, “We Would See Jesus.” The four installments in that series are available free of charge by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study.