Many of us confuse joy and happiness. These are actually very different. Happiness is fleeting. It comes and goes based on things and people around us. When everything is going well we may feel happy, but how quickly it can turn to sadness when things are not how we want them.
Joy depends on our closeness with our Lord Jesus and being filled with the Holy Spirit. When we are in good times or bad we can be filled with the joy of the Lord. Being filled with joy can carry us through any circumstance.
Acts 5:12-41 shows an excellent example where the apostles rejoice in the Lord because they were having such an affect for Jesus in sharing the gospel that the local religious leaders came against them and persecuted them.
12 The apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers were meeting regularly at the Temple in the area known as Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 But no one else dared to join them, even though all the people had high regard for them. 14 Yet more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women. 15 As a result of the apostles’ work, sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall across some of them as he went by. 16 Crowds came from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were all healed.
17 The high priest and his officials, who were Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out. Then he told them, 20 “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!”
21 So at daybreak the apostles entered the Temple, as they were told, and immediately began teaching.
When the high priest and his officials arrived, they convened the high council—the full assembly of the elders of Israel. Then they sent for the apostles to be brought from the jail for trial. 22 But when the Temple guards went to the jail, the men were gone. So they returned to the council and reported, 23 “The jail was securely locked, with the guards standing outside, but when we opened the gates, no one was there!”
24 When the captain of the Temple guard and the leading priests heard this, they were perplexed, wondering where it would all end. 25 Then someone arrived with startling news: “The men you put in jail are standing in the Temple, teaching the people!”
26 The captain went with his Temple guards and arrested the apostles, but without violence, for they were afraid the people would stone them. 27 Then they brought the apostles before the high council, where the high priest confronted them. 28 “We gave you strict orders never again to teach in this man’s name!” he said. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!”
29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross. 31 Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. 32 We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.”
33 When they heard this, the high council was furious and decided to kill them. 34 But one member, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who was an expert in religious law and respected by all the people, stood up and ordered that the men be sent outside the council chamber for a while. 35 Then he said to his colleagues, “Men of Israel, take care what you are planning to do to these men! 36 Some time ago there was that fellow Theudas, who pretended to be someone great. About 400 others joined him, but he was killed, and all his followers went their various ways. The whole movement came to nothing. 37 After him, at the time of the census, there was Judas of Galilee. He got people to follow him, but he was killed, too, and all his followers were scattered.
38 “So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!”
40 The others accepted his advice. They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go.
41 The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus.
We can learn a lot from how the apostles handled the situation. They did not run in fear or hide. They did not stop preaching and teaching in Jesus’ name. Persecution came, they were thrown in jail… and when God let them out the apostles continued preaching publically in Jesus’ name. They were filled with joy as they continued to serve Jesus in persecution. They knew whom they were serving. God’s authority is higher than the authority of local and worldly leaders.
How many times are we discouraged from sharing His word just because one person out of many may not want to hear it? God calls us to proclaim His name and His word boldly. Challenge yourself to look for more and more bold opportunities to proclaim His word in your daily life. Start small if necessary and keep taking incremental steps to proclaim Jesus more boldly.
In my journey to proclaim Jesus boldly I find more joy in my life as I continue to follow what God calls me to do.
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