“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24)
I saw this verse the other day and it really struck me.
And even though I’ve read this verse countless times before, it was different this time.
Because, this has not been a good year for me from a health standpoint. I’ve gone through a great deal of pain and discomfort that has not diminished as in previous years.
In the past, I’ve had pain that came for a short time and then went away. Allowing me to go back to the old routines and plans. Back to business as usual.
But this time, the dark days stopped by and stuck around. Like a guest that doesn’t know when to go home; who plops down in your favorite Lazy Boy recliner and eats all the chocolate in the cupboard!
The Insufficiency of Positive Thinking
So what was Paul saying in that opening verse?
He had been through all kinds of bad stuff. He went through lots of pain. Fearful circumstances. Even torture. And a couple times he was given up for dead. The list is impressively bad of all that he endured.
He certainly had, if anyone ever did, a solid justification to be irritated and depressed.
But instead, he had joy. And he wanted to continue in joy. And then finish his work and life with joy.
Man, that is just too irritatingly positive for a melancholy dude like me.
There are times when I just want to immerse myself in the moody darkness. Like Eeyore, from Winnie the Pooh, who is always looking at the dark side.
But where did this joy that Paul experienced come from?
Most of the time, we are taught in our churches that joy is something we need to work up. Or develop or create. As if we are creating it out of our own Christian determination. Out of our own, deep, Christian reserves of character and faith.
The positive-thinking preachers certainly make it seem so. As if it is just created through a choice of will. Like a substance that can be manipulated by our minds and will power.
But, that is not true at all.
Whose Fruit Is It?
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. Not a fruit of Doug. Not a fruit that a Christian creates. It is something that the Lord creates.
It is supernatural; not natural. It is spiritual; not carnal. It is eternal; not temporal.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
So how does that really benefit anyone by knowing that?
It reveals to us that our comfort, our peace, our joy are all the result of the Lord’s working and not based upon our own will power.
This frees us to look to the Lord to be our “God of all comfort“. We can look to Him to be “our Peace“. We can look to Him to be our “Joy”.
I know this sounds strange to us. Because we are not taught this in our churches. We are taught, for all practical purposes, to create these fruits of the Spirit ourselves. Even though we are told whose fruits these are, we still act like they are our fruits.
This reminds me of how people commonly refer to the Book of Acts as the Acts of the Apostles.
But, actually, the Book of Acts should be called, The Acts of The Spirit.
Because those guys didn’t do anything out of their own goodness. They didn’t possess anything that we don’t possess.
OK. Yes, they did have more authority at that time and a special dispensation which I believe God gave them to establish the church and to establish the word of God as the final authority.
But, they did not do anything out of their own strength. They were dependent upon the Holy Spirit to do the work through them. And He did. In amazing ways!
The Spirit of Resurrection
And one more thing. Just a small thing.
Consider the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
How did that occur? Did the Lord Jesus Christ resurrect Himself?
Take a look at the following verse:
“But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” (Romans 8:11)
I don’t know if you are able to see this amazing truth here, but this is a fountain of water for our starving souls. Because this is not just speaking of the resurrection of our bodies at the end of our lives.
This is speaking of the power of Christ’s indwelling Holy Spirit that makes us “more than conquerors”. And of the Lord who wants us to “reign in life“. Right here and now.
Consider this also. How did Jesus actually live His perfect life?
We are all prone to believe He did this purely out of His own goodness and nature.
But, look at another verse from Hebrews that offers insight to that mystery:
“How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14)
What in the world does that mean?
Is it just a poetic expression of His relationship to the Father and the Holy Spirit? OR, is there an amazing clue here as to HOW the Lord actually fulfilled His work.
The answer is that He depended upon the Holy Spirit — absolutely and without measure — to do the work of God through Him. And thereby, He was able to live a perfect life here on earth. A life that qualified Him to then offer Himself upon the cross for the sins of all men.
By this same power and in this same way, you and I may have joy.
Watch What Jesus Does
This amazing, supernatural fruit of the Spirit of God is created in us as we look beyond our own ability to cope, or to gut-it-out for God, or to persevere, or to be a hero of some kind in our suffering.
This life in Christ is all about His living in us and through us. It is all about His revealing Himself in us. His ministering to this world through us.
And that is only carried out, when we stop trying to do it. When we allow Him to show us what He can do. And stop trying to show Him what we can do.
When we learn to rest in Him. And to look and wait upon Him for what He wants to do in us.
This is Not about determining, “What would Jesus do?”; and then trying to emulate whatever He did in the gospel records.
Our way to joy is to “Watch what Jesus does!”
To wait on Him and watch as His indwelling Spirit performs His work in and through us. Making us a channel of blessing to everyone we encounter.
May this coming year be filled with Joy for you!
Happy New Year!!