“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you”
John 15:11 (NIV)
As a preacher I like to look at the expressions on people’s faces as they enter church. Some obviously are happy and excited to be there. Some have a rather blank expression, perhaps wondering why they are there and occasionally one will look like they are entering the dentist’s office for an extraction. There seems to be a look of pure pain on their faces as they trudge as lambs to the slaughter.
It was the expectation of Jesus that His followers would be the most joyful people in the world. There is something about Christianity that ought to make the people of God exuberant. In our passage we learn from Jesus how to share in His joy and be believers who celebrate their faith in a hilarious manner (hilarious is one of the words for joy in the New Testament see 2 Corinthians 9:7 & Romans 12:8).
The problem many of us have in times of difficulty is how to be happy when sad. It sounds contradictory and indeed at some levels it is. When we are heartbroken about something we cannot pull ourselves up by reaching down to our bootstraps and lifting up. It does not work. How then can a sad Christian restore a joyful spirit in times of trouble?
The main thing Jesus says here is that what He has spoken to them is what will cause them to be joyful even in the context of sorrow. What He has said is that we must be obedient if we wish to remain in His love and be joyful.
When I was leading a cabin full of young campers in the shadow of the Canadian Rockies for a week one summer I learned a new song called, “There is joy in serving Jesus”. During the decades following the learning of that song, I have learned it is true because I have sought to serve Jesus and obey His will for my life.
The teaching of Scripture concerning how to live for our Creator is that we will be fulfilled as we do God’s will. We will find satisfaction in life if we surrender ourselves to Him. In Psalm 119, the longest Psalm in the Bible there are many delightful expressions about how much the Psalmist loves to do the will of God as expressed in the Bible. There is something absolutely exhilarating about fulfilling your created purpose.
What is our reason for living? The Westminster Shorter Catechism says in response, “A man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was He responded (Luke 10:27),
“Love the Lord your God
with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your strength
and with all your mind.”
So we are to be enthusiastic about our relationship to the Lord Jesus and happy that we are His people. Do I assume too much in thinking that my reader is one of God’s people? We can only be certain that we are one of God’s people if we have come to Jesus and confessed our sin asking for forgiveness. Then when you read the teaching of Jesus and obey Him you will be full of joy as Jesus intended.