- Reclaiming Your Joy
- John 16:16-19; 21-23
- Lyndol Loyd April 29, 2018
This morning we are moving forward in our Reclaimed series. The inspiration for this series came from all of the cool things that people make today out of reclaimed wood; such as chandeliers, furniture and accent walls.
The wood used for such projects is generally considered to be junk wood. If you don’t believe me you can look for yourself at some of the pallets we have propped up at each of our welcome centers this morning.
If you get something delivered to you on a pallet it can be almost impossible to get rid of the pallet because they aren’t considered to be worth much. That is unless you have a little vision. By taking the pallets apart and sanding the wood, even the least desirable boards, when worked together, can become something amazing to behold.
That is a great imagery for what God can do in our lives. It is a demonstration of how God can take our lives and make something beautiful out of them when His resurrection power is brought to bear. For the same resurrection power that was able raise Christ from the grave is made available to us for our daily living.
To this end we’ve been looking at topics like reclaiming our lives, reclaiming our relationships, and reclaiming our faith. This morning we want to take a look at what it means to reclaim the joy in our lives.
On the night before Jesus was going to die, He was trying to explain to His disciples they were going to experience great pain, but “Don’t despair. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up,” because eventually they would know greater joy.
It’s a very tender scene. It’s a really poignant scene, but the way John paints it, their confusion is almost comical, as they have such a hard time getting what Jesus is saying. Here we go. This is from John 16. Jesus says, “16 In a little while you won’t see me anymore. But a little while after that, you will see me again.”
17 Some of the disciples asked each other, “What does he mean when he says, ‘In a little while you won’t see me, but then you will see me,’ and ‘I am going to the Father’? 18 And what does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand.”
19 Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant? I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again.”
His disciples said, “Yes! That’s what we were wondering.” There was a long windup for this, and then Jesus paints them a picture to try to explain what’s going on. He says, “21 It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. 22 So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. 23 At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name.”
Some translations say, “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the [pain]…” Really? Does it actually work that way?
When our first baby was born, Joni and I went through this class called Lamaze. Some of you probably did this as well. It has been a while ago now, but back in that day, if you were going through Lamaze they never would use the word pain because pain is a downer. It’s a negative word, so they said the mom-to-be might experience some discomfort when she’s going through childbirth.
The husbands were there. We were there to be coaches. I was to coach Joni so she wouldn’t have pain. Mostly, coaching consisted of just telling Joni to breathe. The goal was that there would be no drugs, no pain medication involved at all. Just something called deep, cleansing breaths.
It was not clear to me how my telling Joni to breathe – which she had been doing pretty much her whole life long – would prevent pain when an object the size of a bowling ball was about to come out of her body.
The day came. She was in labor for twelve hours. They had to give her Pitocin, which was designed to make the contractions much more severe and speed up the delivery.
I was the coach. For several hours I stood by Joni’s side encouraging her to breathe. I massaged her back. I helped her find a focal point on the wall to look at while reminding her to breath. I want you to know that I never complained. Not once.
Eventually the Pitocin kicked in and the idea of breathing through the “discomfort” went out the window. It was time for an epidural. I faintly remember something about Joni referring to the doctor who gave her the epidural as “An Angel of Mercy” to which the OBGYN said, “I can assure you that Fred has been called a lot of things in his life, but that isn’t one of them he’s heard before.”
May 17 will mark twenty-two years since Abigail was born and I can assure you of this, Joni still remembers the “discomfort” of childbirth. What is Jesus’ point that a woman can no longer remember the pain? It’s not that she develops amnesia.
The point is the joy of giving life is going to outweigh the pain of giving birth. If that hadn’t happened there wouldn’t be a Madeline. The point is that what starts in pain is going to end in joy.
The disciples say to each other, “What does he mean? What is all this ‘in a little while you’re not going to see me and then in a little while you’re going to see me’ stuff?”
Jesus says, “I’ll tell you. Here’s how it is in the world for you now that I have come. In this world there will be great pain, but there will be great joy. In the end, joy will win, so if joy has not yet won, it is not yet the end.”
He’s crucified, and the pain is overwhelming. They can’t see Him, but it’s not yet the end. Then He’s risen, and the joy is overwhelming. Guys, I have to tell you, this marked the early church. Life was really hard for them. They would be physically beaten, and we are told they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for the Name.
What kind of people are they? They’d get clapped in chains. They’d get thrown in a dungeon in prison, and they would have hymn fests. They would just sit there singing songs until late in the night because there was no other way to express the joy that was in their hearts, having been unjustly imprisoned.
They had nothing. They lived in utter poverty, and Paul says about them, “Out of their extreme poverty and their joyful generosity came abundant giving.” Jesus was exactly right. He said it, and it was true. Nothing could take their joy away. We are resurrection people.
Our lives are way less painful, for most of us most of the time, than they were for folks who were getting beaten and put in prison and had nothing.
The question is, Is anything taking your joy away? Jesus, on that same night, the night before He was going to die, was teaching for a long time, and then He said the reason why he was teaching was this, “I say these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
What does it mean for your joy to be full? It means there won’t be any room for any more. That’s what it means to have your joy be full. He said that
quite a lot. Is that true of you? Do you have no more room for any joy?
Years ago, there was a Christian psychiatrist named Frank Lake. He got really concerned because he was working with Christians, and most of them loved God. They were all fired up to serve Jesus, but then they would go to serve Him, often in difficult places, sometimes in India, and within a couple of years they would get discouraged and resentful and have bitter attitudes and just be burnt out. They’d have nothing left.
He thought about this a lot. He got together with a great theologian by the name of Emil Brunner, and they began to reflect on the life of Jesus in the Gospels. They noticed with Jesus, even though His life was really hard and He faced a lot of hostility and opposition, He never got burnt out. He never got sarcastic. He never got cynical. He never lost his motivation. He never lost his joy.
They asked, “Why is that?” because he was fully human like us. When they looked at Jesus’ life they saw a pattern to it, and it was different than the pattern of the lives of these other folks who Frank Lake was working with who he saw were burnt out.
They saw all human beings face challenges and we all face demands, but Jesus lived in a rhythm where divine grace was always flowing into Him and then flowing out through Him.
Frank Lake called this pattern or this way of life in Jesus the “cycle of grace”. Key to this cycle of grace idea is the concept of acceptance.
Grace starts with acceptance. Before Jesus begins His ministry (some of you know this story), He goes to be baptized. When He comes up out of the water, He hears a voice, and the voice is His Father.
Notice this, the voice addresses just Jesus. The voice says, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” “You’re my Son. That’s your identity. I love you. That’s your value. That’s your worth. I am well pleased. That’s joy.”
How do you think Jesus felt when he heard those words? For Jesus, this is the beginning of the cycle of grace. Identity and acceptance come before achievement and work.
In other words, achievement is not done to demonstrate identity. This is joy no
one can take away. Every human being has this need. The day on which your sheer existence is celebrated is your birthday, but you get no credit at all for your role in the event of that day.
In fact, you were never less competent on any day of your life than on the day you were born. On that day, you were weaker, slower, dumber, slimier, uglier, less coordinated, had a lower IQ, and were a bigger nuisance than any other day of your existence; because a birthday is just grace. We all know this.
What did you do? You just didn’t die. That’s all you did. You just kept going, but somehow we know every human being has this worth. They ought to be celebrated. That’s grace.
Jesus hears this voice from heaven. “You’re my Son. I love you.” We don’t know how many times He heard it. We know for sure he heard it again before He had to go and die on what is called the “Mount of Transfiguration”. “This is my Son, whom I love; with whom I am well pleased.”
How many times did Jesus hear that voice? He lived in that. Jesus depended on God’s acceptance because He would face massive human rejection. He didn’t say, “God, make my life easier. Help me not to be rejected.”
He just lived in, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” That’s not just for Him. Jesus realized His acceptance was not just for His own sake. We all win because Jesus received grace.
John wrote, “Out of his fullness we have all received [the blessings of] grace….” Jesus said on the night before he was going to die, “I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you….” He expects His joy to be in you and your joy might be complete. Full. No room for any more. It’s really important at this point we understand what joy is, because so often people do not.
Joy is not pleasure. Not a mere sensation. Not just feeling happy in the moment because of something that’s going on. It is a pervasive and constant knowledge of well-being that all ultimately is well with me and not just with me but with all things. That’s joy.
Can you get joy from alcohol? I’ll put it another way. Could massive, daily amounts of alcohol reliably provide pervasive and constant well-being for the human race? No.
Neither can applause. Neither can achievement. Neither can human approval. Neither can the right title. Neither can technology. Neither can education. Neither can money.
What in the world could provide pervasive and constant well-being for the entire human race and all of creation? Only God. Only God can do that.
In Hebrews 12:2-3 the Bible says, “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”
Why did he endure the cross? Why did he scorn it? Joy. What’s all this world about? Joy is going to win. No hurt or pain, no guilt, no sin can take that away when it’s offered as a gift of grace purchased on the cross from God.
I hope you know that. That’s where the cycle of grace begins. “I am accepted.” We sometimes talk about accepting Jesus, but what’s really important is to know Jesus has accepted us, and to thank Him for that, and own that.
Jesus said on the night before He died, “I have told you these things so
that my joy…” Jesus was a joyful person. “…may be in you….”
Here’s Jesus, living this remarkable life, but then all these followers of His were getting burnt out and depleted and somebody has taken away their joy because they’re living in another pattern.
This morning we are gathered here for this time of worship, maybe this describes where you find yourself. Maybe you are burnt out. Maybe you feel depleted. Maybe someone has taken away your joy.
If so, you are not alone and you are certainly not the first person to find yourself in this position. My prayer for you and for me, is that we would embody these words from Hebrews 12:2, “keeping our eyes on Jesus.” For when our eyes are on Him, the things of this world grow strangely dim in the light of His grace.
We are reminded that we are a resurrection people – people of joy.