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Looking for Joy in All the Wrong Places

05 Mar
Joyfull

(Photo credit: Etolane)

“When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow” (John 15:10–11 NLT)

When we read Jesus’ words about Joy, we’re not expecting a set-up.  But I’ll bet you’ve seen a scenario where someone new to Christian faith assumes that once Christ is in their life, they will have nothing but bliss and happiness… no more problems… no more worries… just overflowing joy.

And then reality hits.  Bills… sickness… job loss… hair loss!  Where’s this joy Jesus promised?

Joy is not…

When defining concepts, it sometimes helps to narrow them down by defining what they are “not.”  The joy Jesus talks about is not:

  • based on external circumstances
  • an emotion or feeling
  • grounded in this world

For a great example, consider the Parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:16-21.  Here’s a man who has had tremendous success in material things.  He considers getting a bigger storage unit to store his “success” and is determined to eat, drink, and be merry.  By all accounts, he has joy.

All accounts except one, that is.

That very night, the rich fool will lose his life… his “success” will be distributed to others, and he will find he is very poor in what matters most: his relationship with God.

Joy grounded in material things of this world is fleeting… it provides many cravings, but little satisfaction.

It’s not the joy Jesus describes.  So…what is this joy?

Joy is…

Simply put, joy is a gift grounded in Jesus.  From human terms, it is also a paradox.  Consider the context in which Jesus makes the remarks above.

These words are spoken at the last supper, as Jesus is giving his final pep talk to the disciples.  He talks about wanting them to have “my joy.”  And just what is Jesus’ joy?  Look at the line just prior:

When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow” (John 15:10–11 NLT)

Jesus tells them “these things” so that they may be filled with joy.  Jesus tells them to obey commandments… to remain in love with Jesus, just like Jesus does with The Father.

And everything will work out OK, right?

Well, let’s continue with the context.  Jesus’ obedience to The Father results in what?  Happiness?  Material gain and recognition?

No!  Jesus’ obedience finds him being beaten… mocked… hanging on a cross.  And the ultimate irony is He was the only one in the world who was not guilty, and thus not deserving of that kind of brutality and injustice.

And here’s the kicker: even as Jesus is describing this overflowing joy, he knows what’s coming next.  He knows who will betray him… who will abandon him… who will deny him.

Joy?  I don’t think so!  What’s wrong with this Jesus guy?

Maybe he knows what’s coming next.

Not the beatings and the cross… the part after that.  The part where those who strayed from God’s love would be brought back into the fold.  The part where those who have no hope receive a hope that cannot be taken away by anything in this world… not even death itself.

Jesus looked to a time when He would get to spend eternity with you… and it gave him joy… overflowing joy!

The little girl in the picture above has it right.  If you want to find true joy, don’t look around… look up!

What keeps you from experiencing joy?  What can you do about it? 

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Posted by on March 5, 2013 in Group Discussion

 

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