The Pleasure of Discipleship: Inexpressible and Glorious Joy
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
—The apostle Peter
Following Jesus is not a quest for happiness. Happiness is fleeting anyway. When we follow Jesus, we discover something better. We discover joy. Inexpressible and glorious joy. We experience this joy despite hardships. We even experience this joy because of hardships, knowing that these difficulties are designed to make us “mature and complete” (James 1:4).
Jesus never said the life of a disciple would be easy. But he did say that it would be marked by joy, that it would be a blessed life. Jesus made this clear in his first recorded sermon (see Matthew 5-7). We know it as “The Sermon on the Mount.” The very first word of that sermon is the word “blessed.” In fact, Jesus used that word nine times in the opening section of the sermon to refer to those who manifest the values of the kingdom of heaven. There Jesus paints a portrait of who we are becoming as his disciples. It’s a picture of the kind of person God approves, the kind of person on whom his favor rests. From the start, Jesus calls us to a life that’s blessed in ways this world knows nothing about. In fact, we’ve been blessed with “every spiritual blessing in Christ” (see Ephesians 1:3).
But ultimately, the anchor and source of our joy is not the blessings Christ gives us. It is Christ himself. He is our joy. A. W. Tozer is right:
The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One. Many ordinary treasures may be denied him, or if he is allowed to have them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never be necessary to his happiness. Or if he must see them go, one after one, he will scarcely feel a sense of loss, for having the Source of all things he has in One all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight. Whatever he may lose, he has actually lost nothing, for he now has it all in One, and he has it purely, legitimately and forever.”
The closer we draw to Christ, the closer we draw to the source of our joy. This, my fellow disciples, is our destiny.
Passages that speak of this joy include Matthew 13:44, Luke 2:10, Luke 10:17, Luke 24:52, John 15:11, John 17:13, Acts 16:34, 2 Corinthians 8:2, and Philippians 1:25-26.
See, for example, 1 Peter 1:6.
See especially Matthew 5:11-12, Romans 5:3-5, 2 Corinthians 12:10, James 1:2-4, and 1 Peter 4:13.
This section, Matthew 5:3-12, is often referred to as “The Beatitudes.”
A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1948), 20.