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2. JOY: What Does it Mean to be a Mature Christian Disciple? - John 16:17-24

2. JOY: What Does it Mean to be a Mature Christian Disciple? - John 16:17-24

By Ted Schroder,
July 2, 2017

Jesus has told us that he is the true vine and that we need to abide in him, remain connected to him in a personal relationship if we wish to bear fruit in our lives -- the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace etc. Jesus has come to enable us to become mature, complete, whole as human beings. Without him we are deficient, immature, incomplete. He wants to share with us the life of God so that we may live like him in the power of his Spirit. When we think we can live independently of him, and try to be self-sufficient, we fail to fulfill God's purpose for our lives. Life without Christ is a life that seeks happiness in all sorts of directions and fails to find it. It results in frustration, in boredom, in regret. True happiness, true joy is to be found in God who is true goodness, beauty and truth. The search for happiness in God leads to true joy.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field" (Matthew 13:44). When you find the treasure of the Gospel of the kingdom of God you want to possess it, and enjoy it forever. Once we discover it we find that nothing else compares with it. It transforms life so that you never want to be without it.

This is the authentic happy life, to set one's joy on you, grounded in you and caused by you. That is the real thing and there is no other. Those who think that the happy life is found elsewhere, pursue another joy and not the true one...there are those who do not want to find in you their source of joy. That is the sole happy life, but they do not really want it.....The happy life is joy based on the truth. This is joy grounded in you, O God who are the truth....This happy life everyone desires; joy in the truth everyone wants. (St. Augustine, Confessions, Book X.xxii (32), xxiii (33))

C.S. Lewis entitled the story of his early life, Surprised by Joy because he experienced in his search for God what he called Joy. He had an imaginative intimation of a sense of momentary desire which made everything that had happened to him insignificant in comparison. There was a sense of surprise and of incalculable importance, something quite different from ordinary life and even from ordinary pleasure; something in another dimension. He writes that in a sense the central story of his life was about nothing else. "It is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy. Joy has one characteristic, and one only, the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again." (C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, p.20)

God gives us these experiences of transcendent joy at various times in our lives to pierce our consciousness and get our attention. It may come in a moment of reflection, of something we may be reading or hearing or seeing: a piece of music, a song, a sunset, a poem, a scene or event in our lives. The Spirit speaks to us through Scripture or through someone's words or work of art or through nature. We experience joy. But there may also be joy in sorrow, in loss, in the awareness of the fragile gift of this life. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything" (James 1:2-4) The opposite of joy is sorrow. There are times in our lives when we go through the valley of the shadow of death and are tempted to despair. Sorrow enters our lives and we grieve the loss of loved ones and the disappointments of failed expectations.

Joy comes when we recognize that when we face difficult times in our lives, we are given the opportunity to develop into maturity. Rather than running away from difficulties we find the strength in Christ to learn from them and to triumph over them. We become complete persons. Immaturity results from people who are protected from the testing of their faith and who quit rather than persevering. Joy is the experience of having faced and endured trials rather than dropping out for something easier. Joy is being able to look back on our life's journey and seeing where we persevered and fulfilled our responsibilities. We do so, not in our own strength, but in the strength which Christ supplies. As he endured for the joy set before him so can we. "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:2,3)

The goal is to become mature and complete, lacking in nothing so that we are ready for heaven where true happiness is to be found. "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand" (Psalm 16:11) Christ wishes his people to be happy. But on this earth we cannot know such joy all the time. Heaven is the place of pure joy. As we get ready for Heaven here on earth we shall have some of the joy which belongs to Heaven.

Jesus gives us this promise if we abide in him, remain connected to him in the power of his Spirit. "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete" (John 15:11) This joy is a state of the soul. The joy of Jesus is the joy of abiding in His Father's love. It ought to fill us with joy to know that we are loved of the Lord, even as Jesus Christ is loved.

What was the joy that Jesus had?... The joy of Jesus was the absolute self-surrender and self-sacrifice of Himself to His Father, the joy of doing that which the Father sent Him to do. 'I delight to do Thy will.' Jesus prayed that our joy might go on fulfilling itself until it was the same joy as His. Have I allowed Jesus Christ to introduce His joy to me? (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, August 31)

Bessie McCrary Bowie was my mother-in-law. Born and raised in Marianna, Florida she graduated from Converse College and was destined for a career on the stage when she met and married my father-in-law Dr. Clyde Bowie, a urologist in Anderson, S.C. After giving him seven children she faced the testing of her faith in Christ when her husband contracted multiple sclerosis in his early fifties. She raised and educated all her children while caring for him for over twenty years. She exhausted her wealth during this time without losing her joy. Her children never lost their faith. To the contrary their facing of various trials matured them in their discipleship. Two daughters married pastors and her son became a pastor. She lived on a limited income until she was 97. She was always a joy to be with. In all her troubles I never saw her in despair. She was an inspiration to us all. God made her mature and complete in him.

After the return from the exile in Babylon, Nehemiah led the Israelites in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. When it was completed they assembled before the Water Gate and Ezra read from the book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. Then Nehemiah said to them all, "Do not mourn or weep." For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Neh. 8:8-10).

Is the joy of the Lord your strength? Make his joy your joy. Have you allowed Jesus Christ to introduce his joy to you? Find your strength in the joy of the Lord.


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