Living For Jesus = Living For Joy
The men’s Bible Study I lead on Thursday mornings has been going through the book of John ever since we started about 9 months ago. It has been a very fruitful time together, with everything you can expect from a good men’s Bible Study in the morning… coffee, scones or cinnamon rolls, open Bibles, some banter and meandering, and a sincere desire to understand the Word of God better than when we started.
In recent weeks we have been studying the final discourse Jesus gave his disciples, in John 13 – 17. Jesus knows he’s about to die and is downloading massive amounts of information to his disciples. He’s telling them about the Holy Spirit, and about the vital importance of abiding in him. He warns them about the hostility they will encounter because they follow him, but also about how he has overcome the world. But you know what sticks out to me about Jesus’ words in these final hours with his disciples? The fact that he is dead set on increasing their eternal joy.
Numerous times in this long discourse, Jesus emphasizes the disciple’s joy as connected to himself.
John 15:11 – “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
John 16:20 – “Truly truly I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.”
John 16:24 – “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
John 17:13 – (praying to the Father) “But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”
One of the most overlooked yet beautiful realities of the gospel is that Jesus Christ is for your joy. And therefore, to live apart form Christ is to live directly against your own eternal joy. The choice is never between Jesus and joy… joy is a definitive, eternal byproduct of knowing Jesus Christ. So when Jesus calls us to forsake our life and follow him, and when he leads us into seriously difficult situations where we sacrifice a great deal to remain faithful to him… know that all of this is for the express purpose of increasing your joy in him. His desire for you as a disciple is that you would walk in a kind of joy that cannot be stolen by circumstances, including unexpected tragedy, loss, or painful relationships. This does not mean that we won’t be sad, even deeply grieved, by various trials and suffering in this life. But through it all, Jesus gives an eternal joy in knowing him that the world and all that we go through will not remove from us.
Regularly remind yourself that following Jesus Christ is the exact same thing as pursuing your ultimate, eternal joy. When temptation to sin comes knocking at your door and promises you joy, realize it’s a trap and walk away. When despair comes knocking at your door and tries to steal your joy, remember that because you have Jesus, you have eternal joy that cannot be robbed. When doubts cloud your thinking and try to confuse your joy, come to the Word of God and ask your Father in Heaven to restore clarity about the joy he has put in your heart as you trust in Him. In everything you do, pursue joy by pursuing Jesus Christ.