Joy That Can't Be Taken Away
Think back to the last time you lost your cool. What were the circumstances? What did you say? What did you do? What was going through your mind?
Acts 16 records how Paul and were able to rejoice even in the midst of frustrating circumstances—circumstance that were, quite frankly, unjust. After being beaten and thrown into prison without legitimate reason, we read how Paul and Silas “were praying and singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25).
Not surprisingly, the text also notes that the other prisoners were listening to them. They were probably thinking, “What is up with these two dudes? Don’t they know they’re in jail?” I’m sure it seemed as though Paul and Silas were a bit out of touch with reality. Who sings hymns praising and thanking God when they get thrown into jail?
However, in reality, Paul and Silas weren’t singing hymns because they were out of touch with reality. They were singing hymns because they were very much in touch with reality—the changeless reality of the gospel. The gospel is all about the changeless truths of who Jesus is and what he’s done to save us by his death and resurrection. And if we really understand the gospel and embrace the gospel, we’re able to have a joy in our hearts that never leaves us, regardless of the circumstances.
Why is that? Well, assuming we’ve been saved, it’s because the gospel has brought certain blessings into our lives, and those blessings never change—not even when you’re sitting in a jail cell unjustly. Leaving Acts 16 for a moment, there’s a powerful passage in Ephesians 1 that lists of several of those blessings:
- Ephesians 1:5 says, “In love, [God] predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ.” So we’re loved by God more than we could ever comprehend, and we’ve been adopted into God’s family. He cares for us as one of his own. He embraces us as his sons and daughters. I’m convinced that everybody has a deep desire to be accepted. And we spend so much of our lives pursuing that desire. Whether it’s the 10-year-old boy acting out because dad has just left the family or the 40-year-old university professor who spends countless hours doing research in an effort to impress his professional colleagues, everyone desires to be accepted. But the good news of the gospel is that, as we turn to Jesus, God loves us and accepts us as his own.
- Moving forward, Ephesians 1:7 says, “In [Christ], we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses.” In other words, out sin has been taken care of. We’ve been redeemed in the sense that sin no longer rules over us, and we’ve been forgiven in the sense that we no longer bear any guilt for the crimes against God we’ve committed.
- Ephesians 1:11 then states, “In [Christ], we have obtained an inheritance.” This inheritance is much more valuable than anything the richest billionaire could leave to his children. It’s waiting for us in heaven, and it can never be taken away. And the central feature of this inheritance is that we get to enjoy the glory and beauty of God for all eternity. What greater gift could God possibly give us than the gift of himself? What greater pleasure could there possibly be than communion with the God of the Universe? A few verses after that in Ephesians 1, we even learn that God’s already given us a “deposit” or a down payment on this inheritance in the form of the Holy Spirit living within us.
All of these things we’ve listed here—being loved by God, adopted into God’s family, redeemed, forgiven, and having an inheritance in heaven—are true regardless of our circumstances. They never change because God never changes. And so, if you have a relationship with Jesus, you can have a certain joy in your heart regardless of what’s going on with your job or your health or your finances. It’s a unique joy that’s only found in Christ.