I recently saw a lady trying to walk her energetic puppy, who was running, rolling, sniffing, and constantly straining against the leash -- everywhere except by her. She was pleading in frustration, and yanking hard on the leash. The puppy was either trying to pull her along as he sprinted out front, or refused to come to her when he wanted to sniff longer around a tree. Neither she nor the puppy looked the least bit happy.
A few minutes later I saw a man walking with a mature German Sheppard. What first caught my eye was the absence of a leash (we have a leash law in our town.) But then I noticed that no leash was needed. The dog heeled beautifully, perfectly keeping pace with the man, and joyfully kept his attention either on his master or looking straight ahead. The man spoke quietly to him. The deep affection between them was obvious. I watched them enjoying their walk together until they turned the corner out of sight.
A dog heeling next to his master is a curious picture of the joy of the Christian life.
I thought about how many times I’ve acted like that puppy: running ahead of God, sniffing after things that are of no account to Him, barking in frustration when pulling at the end of the tether, choking myself in resistance to God’s direction. Puppies are absolutely convinced they know better than people where we should be going, how fast, and when to take diversions. You and I have behaved like that with our loving Father in heaven, haven’t we?
Contrast that with the joy that we can experience when we walk with our Father, by His side, looking frequently to Him, submitting to His pace and direction. No straining. We respond to gentle words. The biggest satisfaction is simply being with our Lord and Master, Teacher, and Friend.
Our ability to joyfully live the life God has for us is utterly dependent on our close connection with God and obedience to His direction. Jesus told us we can do nothing without him: “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Our relationship with Christ is designed to be like the relationships in the Trinity: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” (John 5:19-20)
What can you do today to experience joy as you walk well with God, as you are enabled by the Holy Spirit?