Duty. Oftentimes in this era in which we live the concept of duty is decried. I know that I have had a poor understanding of duty, and in this present culture the concept is often linked to reluctance: something we are forced to do yet not really want to do.
Joy. In this culture in which we live the idea of joy is one in which we let our selfish passions run wild, ignoring the needs and wants of others and seeking our own happiness through whatever means we so choose.
So how can we perform our duty and our joy?
If we allow ourselves to be defined by the culture in which we live this is impossible. The concepts of duty and joy are mutually exclusive: either we are dutifully miserable or we are recklessly joyful. Yet in God’s order of things we can discover that we can find our greatest joy by performing our highest duty.
If we are a believer in the Crucified and Risen Christ and seek to live according to His Spirit we can come to the realisation that there is a great truth: real joy is found through being obedient to His commandments. God purchased us through the blood of Christ. Whereas we were totally dead in sins, unable and unwilling to ever submit to a God even if we acknowledged He existed – unless we had first manipulated our understanding of the nature of God so that he became a “god in our own image” – Jesus, even whilst we were dead in trespasses and sins, died for us and thus we were redeemed, made new, and brought into a relationship with the living God, and this by the payment of the full price: the pouring out of the blood of Christ.
Because this is true – that if we are a Christian believer we have been purchased with the greatest payment ever known – then the situation is such that it is our duty to live in accordance with the word and Spirit of God. We would never have chosen to be in a position where we must submit totally to the will of the true God, yet because He loved us He chose us and bought us, so that we belong to God and should, therefore, as our first duty, submit and surrender to Him in every aspect of our lives – even, if necessary, to the lengths of persecution and death – and so we must die to ourselves and live to God.
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
– 1 Cor 6:19-20
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
– Matthew 16:24-25
Yet we also know something that is extra to this duty. This duty, if fulfilled – even if falteringly and imperfectly fulfilled – brings with it an immense and everlasting joy. Our highest duty becomes our greatest joy. Joy is the second fruit of the Spirit, and if we walk in our duty towards God, walking according to the Spirit of Life, then we find that eternal joy which only comes from Jesus, welling up in our hearts and becoming like a fountain of life within us.
“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” – John 7:38
Whilst the world may not understand the marriage of duty and joy, we as Christians have that great gift of being able to perform our duty to God and as a result being filled with joy. We must walk in the Spirit, allowing the Spirit of Christ to indwell and motivate us, allowing His leading in every area of our lives. As we abide in Christ and allow His Spirit to work in us, we will find that the more we live out our duty the more we will experience the joy of Jesus.