And the believers were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. Acts 13:52
When you meet a person who is filled with the Holy Spirit, there is something different about them. You can almost always notice it even from far away because they are filled with joy. This word joy is intentional because it is something that is much deeper than happiness. Happiness in our culture is a feeling that comes and goes. But joy is a condition of the heart. Joy usually comes when a person finds a real meaning and purpose to live for, usually outside of themselves. These types of people always stand out from others.
When Luke was writing Acts, he noted that those in the early church were both filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. This wasn’t by coincidence that Luke sandwiched these two concepts of joy and the Holy Spirit together. Luke was giving us a window that a deep sense of joy came out of people that were inhabited by the Holy Spirit. When God filled them up, they had an inexpressible joy that overwhelmed them. They knew that heaven awaited them and even on the worst day of their lives, they knew that God was on their side. Joy was something that even those who persecuted these early Christians could not take away, because it was a gift from God through the Holy Spirit.
If we were to look at your life, how joyful are you personally? Would people notice that God is at work within you and that He has given you purpose? You might be reading this and evaluating just how much joy you currently have in your life. If you are struggling with being joyful, it may be for a few different reasons:
1. You might have unresolved issues in your life. It could be that your life is filled with baggage and you have carried it around for some time. Maybe it is time to work through it or to get some help with these hurts.
2. You might be locked up in sin. If you are living a life outside of God’s plan, you can expect to experience the pain of correction. God might be allowing your circumstances to lovingly point you back to Him. Choosing a life that lives in direct opposition to what the Bible says always brings heartache.
3. You might have a misguided perspective. If your attitude is consumed with everything that is negative about your life, you can expect that your outlook might be shaded in gray. Sometimes, changing your perspective can be important for increasing your joy. For instance, you may have kids that are wild and crazy. Instead of seeing them as a nuisance, you can see them as a blessing.
4. You might have never asked God for joy. Joy isn't always something that comes naturally to each one of us. It is something that God gives us through the power of the Holy Spirit. When we stop leaning on our own power to be joyful and instead ask Him for joy, He often gives it. Even in the midst of suffering and tragedy, we can ask God for joy, and God often gives us supernatural joy. We have to be faithful to ask God.
Take some time to process and to think through where you are at right now with joy. It might be helpful to look back through this list of reasons why people struggle with being joyful and see if there might be a place that is holding you back from experiencing joy. When you are done working through this exercise, take some time today to ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with a sense of joy.
Read Acts 13:42-52 (NLT)
As Paul and Barnabas left the synagogue that day, the people begged them to speak about these things again the next week. Many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, and the two men urged them to continue to rely on the grace of God.
The following week almost the entire city turned out to hear them preach the word of the Lord. But when some of the Jews saw the crowds, they were jealous; so they slandered Paul and argued against whatever he said.
Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and declared, “It was necessary that we first preach the word of God to you Jews. But since you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we will offer it to the Gentiles. For the Lord gave us this command when he said,
‘I have made you a light to the Gentiles,
to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.’”
When the Gentiles heard this, they were very glad and thanked the Lord for his message; and all who were chosen for eternal life became believers. So the Lord’s message spread throughout that region.
Then the Jews stirred up the influential religious women and the leaders of the city, and they incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town. So they shook the dust from their feet as a sign of rejection and went to the town of Iconium. And the believers were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.