“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)
Scripture Reading – Hebrews 12:1-4
Self-denial. Humility. Surrender. These are themes that are repeated throughout John 13-17, and are not ones that typically bring images of joy to mind. Instead, they imply difficulties, suffering, and discomfort. However, it’s the world that sends us the message that suffering is bad. The world continually tells us to seek our own self-interests and a comfortable lifestyle, but that’s not God’s way of discipleship. The way of God is the way of the cross. Just look at Jesus. Qualities such as self-denial and humility bring us closer to the Lord. When we abide in Him, we will enjoy closer fellowship with God. Satan is always trying to destroy this fellowship, because he knows that when we abide in Christ, we will see him for what he truly is—evil.
It’s important to remember that even when we are abiding in Christ’s love, we will continue to experience trials of many kinds. But we can experience joy in spite of our circumstances as we proclaim the gospel. For instance, we might move from place to place sharing the gospel. When we enter a new community, we may face difficult challenges from the people there. Often challenges might arise when people put their faith in Christ. But after we go through this difficult process and God gives fruit in this unreached place, joy will fill our hearts. Lots of joy. Full joy. Subsequently, we will quickly forget about the trials that greeted us in that place. Tears may fall down our cheeks because of the trials we experienced in that place, but all will be forgotten—the suffering, the conflicts, the struggles—when the lost are found by Christ. Now, because we know that heaven is rejoicing with us, real joy fills our hearts. Full joy is experienced through our struggle to proclaim the gospel.
As He faced His upcoming death on the cross, Christ experienced great suffering in Gethsemane saying to Peter, James and John: “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death” (Mark 14:34). Jesus was arrested, mocked, beaten, and tried unjustly. Then his guards humiliated Him: a crown of thorns was placed on His head, He was given a reed to hold as a scepter, and a scarlet robe was draped over his shoulders. They set Him upon a “throne” and the Roman guards mockingly bowed before Him saying: “Hail, King of the Jews!” (Matt. 27:30)! After that, they nailed Him to a cross, where He suffered excruciating pain. When we pause to consider the suffering of Christ on that day, we should be taken aback to read that Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2). Jesus is our example of the overflowing joy that awaits those who are faithful, and endure as they bring salvation to others.
In Luke 15, we also read about three lost items: sheep, a coin, and a son. Actually, the parable of the lost son is really about two lost sons. Both have no love for their father in their hearts, but the father is still seeking them. When he sees the lost younger son return home, he runs out to welcome him. When the older son will not join the celebration held for his brother’s return, the father leaves the party to find him and begs him to come into the house to celebrate. After each of these lost items are found, there is great rejoicing in the hearts of those who found them. This is Jesus’ point. He, too, was filled with joy when He completed the Father’s plan of salvation. When we take part in God’s plan of salvation by proclaiming the gospel to others, that same joy is given to us. The full, overflowing joy of heaven fills our hearts when a sinner receives Christ. Proclaiming the gospel is the means of experiencing joy. Instead of focusing on the trials we are facing, let’s be filled with the joy of Jesus through spreading the gospel. Are you experiencing full joy?