The Holy Spirit’s ministry John 16: 12- 24
Just a couple of weeks ago the date was Friday the thirteenth and as long as I can remember this has always been considered to be an unlucky day. When I lived in Cape Breton as a kid they’d always warn you, be very careful because today is Friday the thirteenth. And if anything went wrong that day they’d always say it was because of the date rather than the fact that you’ve always been unlucky.
There are many popular stories about the origin of Friday the thirteenth. For instance, it was assumed that Judas was the thirteenth guest at the Last Supper and he was the first to leave and somehow they supposed that this led to the Crucifixion. I don’t think so. We do know that the Crucifixion happened on a Friday but we don’t know what the day of the month it was, but since God had pre-ordained both the crucifixion and the timing I don’t think luck had anything to do with it.
Then there are those who claim that the day Eve offered the fruit to Adam was on a Friday although no one has any way of proving this. Then there are others who said that the killing of Abel happened on a Friday even though the Bible doesn’t identify the paticular day of the week when this occurred. And then throughout history there has been events like the claim that King Philip IV had many of the Knights Templar simultaneously arrested on Friday, October 13, 1307 and it was assumed that this action began the legend of the unlucky Friday the 13th. And yet, none of these have been verifiably identified as the origin of the Friday the 13th superstition. You see, the fact is, no one really knows where it started.
In spite of that it’s been estimated that in the U.S around $800 to $900 million is lost in business on Friday the thirteenth because people either will not fly or they refuse to do any business on that day. Some people are so paralyzed by fear that they’re simply unable to get out of bed when Friday the 13th rolls around. The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute estimates that more than 17 million people are actually affected by the fear of Friday the thirteenth. A British Medical Journal study has even shown that there is a significant increase in traffic related accidents on Friday the 13ths. There’s actually a name for fear of Friday the thirteenth, it’s called “Paraskevidekatriaphobia.” And basically, the fear of this day is just as irrational as a lot of other sayings that have come down through the ages. Let me give you a few that we’re already familiar with.
• An apple a day keeps the doctor away
• To find a four-leaf clover is to find good luck
• If you walk under a ladder, you will have bad luck
• If a black cat crosses your path you will have bad luck
• If you open an umbrella in the house you get bad luck
• If you find a horseshoe the very act will bring you good luck
• Step on a crack and you’ll break your mother’s back
• It is bad luck to sing at the table
• It is bad luck to chase someone with a broom
• If you throw rice on a bride at a wedding it’s good luck
• If you break a mirror it’s seven years bad luck
• If you whistle indoors you’ll whistle all your money away
• Spilling salt is bad luck but if you throw some over your left shoulder and that will restore your luck and protect you from the evil forces
I And here’s my favorite, now listen carefully, a left rear rabbits foot that’s carried in the left pocket that was removed from a rabbit during the full moon by a cross-eyed person is truly lucky. By the way I should point out that the luck is only extended to the one with the paw in his pocket and does nothing for the rabbit that’s limping around town.
There are all kinds of sayings by which a person determines the quality of their luck and I think that many of these are just as valid as some of the philosophies that people hold to explain away the truth.
There are three deceptive philosophies that are going around and they can be summed up in two words and they are truth decay. They’re all philosophies that have caused us to question whether or not there is such a thing as truth.
The first deceptive philosophy is individualism. And individualism means that I live for myself and that only I can be the standard for my life; that only I can judge what is really true and that neither you and nor anybody else has the right to tell me what’s right or what’s wrong. Individualism means that ultimately, I am my own god and I get to set the standards for my life. The rugged individualist lives by the saying, who are you to tell me what to do? And he or she has the same motto as the song by Frank Sinatra who sang, “I did it my way.”
And individualism is not new. It’s been going on it seems since time began. It began in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve had a better idea than God and then later on we find the result of their actions when the nation of Israel was in total chaos. Judges 21:25 describes it when it says, “In those days Israel had no king, so the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” And that sounds very much like the way people live today. Everyone had their own definition of what was right and what was wrong. Everyone is his or her own final authority on issues of morality. And as far as the people are concerned who hold such a philosophy, there’s no God and there’s no one that they or anyone else has to give an account for how they live their lives. And as far as they’re concerned, there’s no standard and there are no absolutes. They can do their own thing and its no one else’s business. No one can preach to them and they wouldn’t have to listen anyway because no one knows any better than they do.
Listen, this is a great philosophy because it means these people never have to feel guilty for anything. They can set their own standards and then anything they feel like doing is alright because the only thing that really matters is them. And I’m sure we’ve all met people like that. They always say, no one is going to tell me what to do.
I remember we had an old lady at Main Street who died many years ago and she wanted the minister to do her service. The problem was, she had two or three children who would have called themselves individualists but I just thought of them as wicked. They met me at the visitation and told me in no uncertain terms that my message was not to be any more than three minutes long. And to tell you the truth, even I was surprised how much you can get out of John 3:16 in three minutes. So, the individualist says; there is no God and I have no one to answer to and nothing to worry about.
The second deceptive philosophy people have bought into is what’s known as secularism. Secularism can be summarized in three words and they are, God is unnecessary. And when people say this they don’t mean that there is no God because people can believe in God and still be a secularist. All it means is that I don’t need God in my life. If you asked someone who is a secularist what they thought about church they’d probably say, churches are great. Churches add beauty to the architecture of the town and they’re great places to have when you need to get dedicated, baptized, married or buried. They’re not really necessary but they’re certainly good to have.
I believe we’re seen this philosophy creeping in during the last forty years because God is being systematically removed from every area of public life. Today God is absent from schools, government and the media. The concept of the separation of church and state was originally designed to protect churches from the influence of the state but today it’s being used to protect the state from the influence of the church. And because of secularism we’ve removed God from every area of life except for one hour on Sunday morning when those who are truly secularists are sound asleep.
I believe we’re at the point today that if you hold Christian beliefs, you’re suspect of either hiding an evil character or using religion to take advantage of the weak and vulnerable. I mean, think about it, any time someone is portrayed as a Christian in the movies or on television they’re either extremely obnoxious or they’re guilty of the worst sins imaginable. And if you’re a Christian politician, you’re feared because there are some who are afraid of the affect you may have. Look at what happened to Prime Minister Harper when he was identified as a Christian. (And I’m not even sure he is.) I remember Paul Martin made all kinds of scary accusations about how the rights and freedoms of non-Christian minorities would be taken away if he was elected. Can you imagine if he had said that about any other religion other than Christian? You see, secularism tells us that God can be here for when He’s needed but He has to be quiet the rest of the time.
The third philosophy is relativism. Relativism sounds like a medical condition caused by having bad relatives but it isn’t. (That’s another condition for which there’s no known cure.) Relativism can be summed up simply by saying there are no absolutes. And relativism works like this, what’s true for me may not be true for you, and what’s true for you may not be true for me. Therefore, if something is right for me it may not be right for you, and what’s wrong for you may not be wrong for me. So, no one can say what’s right or wrong, because all truth is relative.
People who hold this view say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe or what you do, as long as you’re sincere.” But think about that. If you believe a cup is full of clear, clean water and it turns out to be sulfuric acid, you might be sincere but you’ll also be sincerely dead. It does matter what you believe. If you leave church and take the off-ramp onto the highway instead of the on-ramp and have a major collision, what will your sincerity matter? You’ll be sincerely dead. If you’re offended by the “wrong Way” sign and say, “Who is anybody to tell me which way is wrong?” Will your philosophy help you avoid collisions? Or what if there were no traffic laws? What if stop signs meant “Stop if you feel like it”? Or what if the line down the middle of the road meant, “Pick a side, any side, it’s your choice”? Listen, we’d all be dead. You see, we need more than sincerity in life. We need absolutes.
The next time somebody tells you there are no absolutes in life, you just ask them, “Are you absolutely sure?” I mean, if you make an absolute statement that there are no absolutes in life then you’ve just contradicted yourself. Not only that, but the entire world is built on the fact that there are certain absolutes. I’ve found that gravity is true for me and I’m pretty sure it’s also true for everybody else as well. And there are other areas of life as well or what would happen if you went to your bank and said, “Well, it may appear there’s only $5 in my account but I’m going to live like there’s a million?” You would end up overdrawn. Or what if I went to the drug store for my anti-rejection medicine and the pharmacist said, “There’s no such thing as absolutes, so try these pills, they’re cheaper and I’m sure they’re just as good as anything else you’ve been taking.” Listen, I’d be in trouble.
As G.K. Chesterton put it, “Tolerance is a virtue for those who do not believe much.” The weak minded and unbelieving might think like this but we belong to God. And because we do we have to be careful not to be taken in by the individualist who is living for themselves, or the secularist who says that God is unnecessary or the relativist who thinks there are no absolutes. Our whole world is built on the fact that God is the absolute truth. And I’m sure glad that He is.
Listen, there’s nothing new under the sun and especially when it comes to all the new ideas that man has for getting away from God. Ashleigh Brilliant was an old hippie back in the seventies and he wrote, "All I ask of life is a constant and exaggerated sense of my own importance." And I’m afraid there’s a little of that in all of us.
You see, the problem that most of us have is that we’re more influenced by the world than we are by the word of God. We’re more informed by Oprah than we are by Obadiah. And a lot of us are going to get to heaven one day and we’ll know more about the sports stats and the television shows than we do about God’s Word. We need to be careful not to buy into individualism, secularism or relativism. All these new philosophies are as old as the Garden of Eden where Satan said, “Try this, it’s good for you. You’ll live forever and you’ll know nothing but happiness.” He’s always selling the same old lies but he wraps them up real pretty so they are so appealing.
Rudyard Kipling wrote a funny little rhyme when he said,
The craft that we call modern;
The crimes that we call new;
John Bunyan had them typed and filed
Today, we’re looking at the ministry of the Holy Spirit and there seems to be a lot of confusion about who He is and what He does. Most Christians understand Jesus the Son of God and God the Father as two very distinct Persons within the Godhead and yet there has always been a lot of confusion over the identity of the Holy Spirit. And as I said a couple of weeks ago some of this probably relates to the King James translation of the Bible where the word "Ghost" was used and because of this many people have always thought of the Holy Spirit as more of a thing or some kind of phantom than a Person.
Although the word trinity is not mentioned in the Bible, we know God is three in one and this means there are three very distinct Person’s that make up the Godhead and they are all equal in every way.
They (the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are all omnipotent which means they are all powerful. We have no problem with the Father and Son but we misunderstand the person of the Holy Spirit when it comes to these powers.
We see the omnipotentence of the Holy Spirit in Luke 1:35 where it says, “And the angel answered and said unto her, (referring to Mary) the Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God.” Now, the power of the Highest is referring to the power of the Holy Spirit.
And then second, the Holy Spirit is also omnipresent. And that means He is everywhere all at once. Psalms 139:7 says, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” The fact is, nobody can escape from the presence of God the Holy Spirit. I remember when the Russian cosmonaut came back from space and said, “I went right to the outskirts of the universe and I didn’t see God.” And W.A. Criswell said, “All he had to do was take his helmet off.” He is everywhere.
And then third, the Holy Spirit is also omniscient which means He is all knowing. In other words, He knows everything. 1 Corinthians 2:10 tells us, “But God has revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God.” And listen, if He knows all the secrets of the Father and the Son then He obviously knows everything that’s in your heart and mine.
And then fourth the Holy Spirit is eternal. He is from everlasting to everlasting. He has no beginning and He has no end. Hebrews 9:14 says, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” He’s called the eternal Spirit because He is eternal.
It’s hard for any of us to imagine why the eternal God of the universe would be pre-occupied with the life of anyone on this planet whose lifespan is less than a hundred years. When I’m doing funerals I often use the analogy of life by comparing a man’s life to one of the large trees that we find in almost every graveyard. Some of those trees have been there for more than two hundred years and the people who are buried under them have only been on this earth for maybe seventy or even eighty years. This tells us that the gravesite is not the end for us but that God has an eternal purpose for ours lives that goes way beyond that of a tree.
And fifth the Holy Spirit is equal to the other two members of the Godhead. Acts 5:3-4 says, “But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own power? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied unto men, but unto God.” In the first part of the verse he says, you lied to the Holy Spirit and the last part he says, you lied to God. And in essence Peter is referring to the Holy Spirit as God and putting Him on the same level as the other two members of the Godhead.
And there are several other scripture references that show the co-existence of the three persons within the trinity. For instance, in Luke 3:22 it says, “And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.” And here we see the evidence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and they’re all mentioned in the one verse and we can also see the same reference elsewhere in the New Testament.
And there are four important principles to remember about the Holy Spirit. One, the Holy Spirit is God, and He is a Person or a personable God. In other words, He is not a force or simply an influence but He is a personality. Second, we aren’t to ignore the ministry of the Holy Spirit. After all, His mission is to reveal Jesus and Jesus’ mission was to reveal the Father. And the Father’s goal was to send Jesus and the Holy Spirit so we can come to Him. All three of them have perfect harmony in their efforts to redeem us and all three of them are working together to bring us to heaven. And then third, the Holy Spirit gives us gifts to use in ministry in order to enable us to be effective for God. So, anything we do in terms of leading others to Jesus or even teaching the word, all the credit goes to the Holy Spirit who is working in us and through us. And let’s face it, if we were simply working in our own power or in our own strength we might accomplish an awful lot but there wouldn’t be any eternal benefits.
Now, there are those rare times when the Holy Spirit will honor the word of God and even work through those who don’t know Him. I heard the testimony of a Bible College teacher who came to Jesus as a young boy while listening to a couple of young men who were holding a tent meeting in his neighborhood. He said he heard the gospel and then went forward and accepted the Lord. And when the tent meeting was over these men left the area and he joined a local church. Later on, he went to Bible College and then spent the rest of his life in the ministry.
One day he said he found out that one of the two preachers at the tent meetings where he got saved had come from a Christian home but neither of them had been saved and they had rented the tent and held the meetings until they could get enough cash to get home and when they did they left. The Holy Spirit obviously honored the word they preached but that doesn’t mean they’re going to get any rewards for preaching it. I think they got their reward when they got the money to get back home.
There are also qualities that the Holy Spirit has, that a force or thing wouldn’t have. For instance, the Holy Spirit has intellect. 1 Corinthians 2:10 says, “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” This tells us that He not only reveals spiritual knowledge to us but He also searches out and understands the deeper truths of God which obviously is referring to the other two members of the trinity.
The Holy Spirit has knowledge. 1 Corinthians 2:11 tells us, “Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” And so, if the Holy Spirit can give us knowledge then obviously He has the whole host of knowledge or all-knowledge that the other two members of the trinity have as well.
And then the Holy Spirit has emotions. Ephesians 4:30 says, “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” The problem we have is being short-sighted when we look at something like this because if the Holy Spirit can be grieved then it also stands to reason that He can experience the entire spectrum of emotion and so can the Father and Son as well.
The Holy Spirit also has His own will and He makes decisions. Acts 16:6 says, “Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia.” This tells us that it was the Holy Spirit who decided where they were to go and He also determined where they shouldn’t go as well.
And then we are told that the Holy Spirit loves us. In Romans 15:30 Paul says, “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.” Do you remember back in chapter 14 where Jesus said, “I’ll send you another comforter” and the word for another is allŏs which meant another of the exact, identical, specific kind without one single variation. So Jesus was saying to them, when I go away I’m not going to just send you any old helper but I’m going to send you allŏs helper, one who is exactly like Me. So, the Holy Spirit has in essence exactly the same fundamental nature as Jesus.
And then there are things that only a person would do that a force or a thing couldn’t do. For instance, He teaches us things about God and also things about ourselves. John 14:26 says, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” This tells us the Father will send the Holy Spirit in My name which means in My place and so the Holy Spirit will want what Jesus wants, He will look for what Jesus would look for, He will love what Jesus loves, and His goal will be to live and act for Jesus’ glory.
The Holy Spirit came in Jesus place and this means that He came here like an ambassador from a king who not only represents the king but who has all the rights and authority of that king because He’s been sent to represent Him.
And then it also says that the Holy Spirit tells the truth. John 15:26 says, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me.” And we notice that He’s called the Spirit of truth. This tells us He never tells anything but the truth. In other words, He is the perfect witness.
And we are also told that He will guide us into all truth. In John 16:13 it says, “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come.” And the promise here is that the Holy Spirit will lead the believers into all truth or another way of saying this is accurate truth. And many believe that this passage is the promise of God to provide the New Testament scriptures. C.I. Scoffield calls this verse, "Christ’s pre-authentication of the New Testament scriptures."
And then we are told that He also convinces people of their sinful nature. As John 16:8 says, “And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” The Holy Spirit’s convicting work deals with our sin nature. The Bible says that everyone without exception is a sinner. In Romans chapter 3:10, Paul says, "There is none righteous, no not one." In other words, there’s not one righteous person in the whole world. There’s no one who hasn’t rebelled against God by sinning because every one of us is unrighteous. We were all born sinners and then we live up to our calling.
As they say, like produces like and since we all came from Adam and Eve then just like them we’re all sinners, every one of us. "There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.”
And then we are told something about the Holy Spirit that not many of us ever think of. The Bible tells us He prays for us. Romans 8:26-27, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” Now, I don’t understand this verse and I’m not really sure that I’m supposed to understand it other than to know that the Holy Spirit is actually praying to the Father on my behalf. And that’s certainly a comforting fact because He’s praying for me when I don’t have enough sense or when I’m too overwhelmed to pray for myself.
And then finally we also see that the Holy Spirit gives commands or directions to the believers. In Acts 13 we really notice something that stands out. In verse 2 it says, “They ministered to the Lord. They fasted, and the Holy Spirit said.” And then in verse 4, “So they, being sent forth by the Holy Spirit, departed unto Seleucia.” In verse 9 it says, “Then Saul (who also is called Paul), filled with the Holy Spirit.” And if you go back to chapter 11 verse 24, it says of Barnabas, “He was a righteous man and full of the Holy Spirit. So, Saul and Barnabas were full of the Holy Spirit. And then it says that the leaders at Antioch were ministering to the Lord and fasting in the Holy Spirit and that they were sent out by the Holy Spirit. So, we can easily come to the conclusion that this was a church that was under the control of the Holy Spirit. They were a Spirit-filled, a Spirit-energized and a Spirit-empowered church.
They were a church that knew the meaning of Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto Me.” The key in any church that is going to have an impact on the world and move out to fulfill the great commission is that it’s going to be a Spirit-filled church. A Spirit-filled church is simply a church in which the people walk in consistent obedience to the will of God which is expressed in the Word of God. So we see that a Spirit-filled church is where people walk, talk, think and act in the energy of the Spirit of God because their hearts are given over to the saturation of the Word of God and this is the kind of church that God uses to change the world.
Now getting back to John 16 again you’ll notice that in verse 13 that He is called not the Holy Spirit but the Spirit of truth. And why do you think Jesus calls Him the Spirit of truth? Well, it’s because Jesus wants to emphasize that everything the Holy Spirit says is true. He never makes a mistake and He never misleads anyone because not only does He have perfect knowledge but He is also incapable of ever telling a lie.
Now listen, this is important. This tells us that if the Holy Spirit inspired and oversaw the recording of the word of God then there can’t be any mistakes in it. If there are any mistakes in the Bible then men did not speak as they were moved by the Holy Spirit according to the scripture and if the Bible’s isn’t true then either God is a liar or He didn’t write it. You see, you can’t tamper with what we believe about the inspiration of the Bible without interfering with what we believe about the nature of God.
We are also told that the Spirit then will reveal all things. And first of all He reveals the past. John 14:26 says, “The Holy Spirit whom the Father will send when He comes, He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance.” So, the first thing He does is teach us from our personal history.
Did you ever stop to think that everything you’ve ever experienced and every person you ever met had a purpose? You see, God has used all these things to make you be the person you are today. I heard someone say, “I’m a self-made man.” That sounds like a great idea but listen, did he feed himself when he was a baby? Did he teach himself when he was in grade school? Did he pave the roads he drove on? There’s no such thing as a self-made man.
The second thing the Holy Spirit does is to teach us in the present. In chapter 15 verse 26 it says, "But when the Comforter is come whom I will send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He shall testify of Me." This tells us the Holy Spirit is constantly teaching us spiritual truth and I guess the question we have to ask ourselves is, how much am I listening?
And then here in verse 13 it says the third thing He does is to show us the future and that’s the prophetic nature of His ministry. So, the Holy Spirit reveals the past, He explains the present and He shows us the future. Now, how does He do all this? He is the eternal Spirit and that means that He’s in all three portions of time at once.
This passage also deals with the promise that Jesus Christ gave to the disciples that the Holy Spirit would come and lead them into all truth. The all truth that He is talking about is now recorded for us in the pages of the New Testament. In fact, the Bible repeatedly makes the claim that this is no ordinary book but this is in fact the very Word of God. The Bible claims repeatedly to have the authority and power of the Spirit of God Himself, in fact it actually claims that it was written by the Holy Spirit. Even though there were human authors, the words from their own vocabularies were divinely selected by the Holy Spirit, organized in the manner that He wanted them organized and placed back through the mind of the writer to record exactly what He wanted said to the very word.
Now there’s one more thing I want to focus on in this section and that’s the joy of the Lord that comes as a result of our walking in the fullness of the Spirit. And we see this in verses 19-24. “Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, a little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? Verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”
And in the Christian life the Bible tells us there are three different conditions for the believer. There is no joy, then there’s joy and then there’s full joy. And I believe there are many Christians who have no joy and that’s really a poor advertisement for the faith. And you know the type, they’re just dragging themselves along spiritually and their enduring rather than enjoying their faith. They’re not into the word, they’re not witnessing and they usually show up when the weather’s good or if we have a quartet.
And then there are others who have joy and they’re happy they’re saved but that’s about it. And if anyone ever asks them if they’re saved they’ll share their testimony like it was a state secret. And maybe mumble it in a corner like it was something they ought to be ashamed of.
And then there are those who have full joy. And being filled with the Spirit of joy is connected with a couple of things but I want you to see one primary key. In verse 24 it says, “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name, ask, and ye shall receive that your joy may be full.” So, full joy is the result of asking God for things and then receiving them. And all this has to do with prayer. Listen, answered prayer brings full joy. And as I told you a couple of weeks ago this isn’t asking for ourselves but it’s asking that God may be glorified.
Have you ever been excited when God answers a prayer? In I Thessalonians 5:16 it says, “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing.” We see the same thing in Philippians 4:4 where it says, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, rejoice. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known unto God.” These verses tell us we’ll know full joy when we pray and God answers. And yet, there’s a problem. You see, in order for God to answer our prayers we have to what? We have to pray.
When you see a Christian going around with a kind of mealy mouth, griping, bitter or cynical, they’re not like that because life had dealt them a heavy hand but they’re that way because they don’t pray and because they have no joy. If we really want joy we’ll find it in the place of prayer.
It must break the heart of God to see Christians who are bitter or cynical and have no joy when He’s provided the way for us to have it all. And then notice the point He makes when He says, "Your sorrow will turn into joy." Notice the way he puts that. He does not say, "After you have had a lot of sorrow, then I am going to give you some joy." No, what He is talking about is the consequence of sorrow when He says your sorrow will be the very thing that causes your joy.
And He uses a beautifully illustration here when
He talks about childbirth. Anybody who has watched childbirth on television, (And believe me that’s the best way to watch it because you can turn down the sound) but when a woman goes into labor we know that the pain is very real but when the baby is born the mother’s face is filled with joy and peace. And this is what Jesus was talking about. What causes the mother’s pain? It’s the baby. But what causes her joy? It’s the same baby. And this describes the process that we believers are going to go through again and again. We go through pain in life and the result is joy if we have the right attitude.
Now here comes a parable and it begins in verse 20 where it says, “Truly, truly,” or amen, amen, and He uses the double Aramaic because this is a very critical and solemn statement. He says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice, and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” Now that’s a great promise to anyone who’s going through sorrow. He says your sorrow is going to be turned into joy. And yet we also notice that He kind of elaborates their sorrow a little bit when He says, you’ll weep and lament. It’s almost like He paints the picture of their sorrow in order that their joy might look all the more beautiful. He doesn’t say your sorrow will be replaced by joy. No, but it will become joy.
I’ve seen many times when somebody has died and the family has been very grieved and everybody is weeping and crying but sometimes you talk to the same people three or four months later and they’ll tell you that God’s grace was very obvious at the time. They aren’t happy that the person died but their sorrow did result in joy because they experienced the presence of God in a new way.
The early church was so happy and so blessed that the world thought they were crazy. I mean, they were happy because of the cross and the ultimate event that was related to sorrow had become the ultimate cause of joy. The death of Jesus resulted in eternal life for all who would receive it.
There are two things main reasons we have sorrow. And the first reason is testing. And when God tests us and we respond properly we always come out stronger. And that’s a cause for joy. And then second, there’s the issue of chastisement. And if we’re being punished by God then we’re being punished so we’ll know not to do something again and in the end that’s a cause for joy as well.
Paul said in II Corinthians 6:10, “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” Did you get that? He says I seem to have more than my share of problems but I’ve also got plenty of reasons to rejoice. You see, not only does God have a purpose for everything we go through but we also realize that we don’t have to go through them forever because God is ultimately using these things to prepare us for where we are going.