Summary: We need to know the what and why of this joy—what true joy is all about and why joy is a mark of believers. The source of joy is not found in this world; it is external, from Above.
“The Full Measure of Joy” Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
“I am coming to You now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have My full measure of joy fulfilled within them” (John 17:13).
It may seem surprising, but Jesus is a Man of Joy. He experienced the deepest pain, yet He was filled with joy. He gladly bore our grief. The writer of the Book of Hebrews encourages us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfector of our faith, who was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy He knew would be His afterward” (12:2). Our Lord was characterized by joy in spite of the task set before Him.
In the shadow of the cross, Jesus asks that His joy be experienced by us. The fact that Jesus could have joy in the midst of suffering shows that we can have it also. “When Jesus bought His own joy at the price of His obedient death, He also bought ours” (J Piper). We need to know the what and why of this joy—what true joy is all about and why joy is a mark of believers.
>Joy defined (the “what”)…
“I am coming to You”, Jesus prays to the Father. Jesus could have prayed silently. He prays aloud for our benefit, to assure us that He’s committed to our joy. He knows He will soon be home. He will enter the Heavenly Temple, and the blood He will sprinkle upon the mercy seat will be His own. He is returning to the Father with a sense of joy and satisfaction. Yet as He prays, He’s still upon the battleground of human conflict. He prays for those who will continue to suffer hardship after His Passion is over. He prays for and died for our joy.
Joy is a misunderstood concept. People think it means being bubbly and carefree all the time. They equate joy with pleasure. Or they see it as the absence of problems. Life is a mixture of happiness and tears. Joy enables us to handle the tough times with a serene confidence in God’s purpose. Joy doesn’t come by avoiding pain. The joyful Christian is like a mother giving birth. The pain of labor results in joy.
This word “joy” could be translated “delight”. It means “to shine” or to “be bright”. When we have joy, we are aglow in the Lord; there is a radiance about us, because we have come into the Light of God’s love.
I’m not referring to the façade people put on, masking their true feelings, but an inner reality that transforms how we respond to life. A child was going through a Natural History museum, and was disappointed in the displays. He turned to his parents and said, “Let’s go to the zoo where the animals are real.” Joy is real; it’s more than a smiley face, more than emotion--joy is a lifestyle. Joy is the by-product of a Christian outlook on life. True joy is unconditional; it doesn’t depend on our situation. Nothing can shatter true joy. The full measure of joy doesn’t rely on how life is, but on how we are. Faith can transform our perceptions, enabling us to be joyful throughout the good and bad seasons of our lives. We live in troubled times, but as people of faith we’re able to rise above our circumstances.
We’ve all heard people complain, “I could be happy if only…” The joy Jesus offers emerges in spite of life’s difficulties and deprivations. If life has seemingly robbed us of joy, perhaps the joy we thought we had isn’t the genuine article. What do we think we need in order to have joy? How we fill in that blank shows whether we know what joy’s about.
I’ve met many disappointed people along various stages of life’s journey. People who didn’t get the job they wanted, or were passed over for promotion; people with disabilities, family unrest, failed goals, and lots of regret. Joy doesn’t hinge on getting what we want, but in accepting God’s will, realizing that His answers are wiser than our prayers. Benjamin Franklin observed, “The things that hurt, instruct.” We can even face conflict with joy, knowing we do so with God at our side.
Someone joked, “Why pray when you can worry?” When we place our cares in God’s capable hands, we’re able to conquer anxiety. Worry robs us of joy, and can lead to self-pity and bitterness. In Philippians 4, Paul tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” How on earth do we do that? Paul goes on to say, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done…and you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.” When we’re joyful, we have little room left for worry. We don’t have to act like victims; we can grow through our hardships. We’re like diamonds in the rough, and God is using life experiences to chip away our rough edges; He’s developing character in us. Problems provide the cutting edge of life, through which we grow mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.