Overflowing Joy (John 16.19-27)

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As in the glorious first three elements of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.22, Jesus here assures his followers concerning three wonderful gifts from the Lord – joy, love and peace. This week we are just looking at joy. Next week we shall follow this with love and peace.

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Joy (16.19-24)

For a short while during Jesus’ trial and crucifixion the disciples will suffer a time of separation when they will not see Jesus, but then in the glory of the resurrection they will see him again. So suffering gives way to joy. Jesus further cites the example of a woman giving birth. The fearful pain and suffering of childbirth finally leads on to the tremendous joy of welcoming the newborn baby into the world and into the loving embrace of the mother.

So Jesus strongly underlines the suffering which his followers will face in this world with its fundamental opposition to him and the good news he brings to us. But we can be encouraged that, whatever our suffering, it will certainly yield finally to the overflowing joy of his resurrection life.
Then we are encouraged to ask the Father for whatever we want and he will give it to us. What a promise! Such requests are to be ‘in Jesus’ name’ (16.23). The Father hears these prayers because we are linked with his beloved Son, Jesus, and we come to the Father with the glory of Jesus as our aim and longing. So Jesus urges his disciples to “ask” with the sure promise that “you will receive” (16.24) – and still today we should remember these words as we come to the Father with our prayer requests.

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   ‘Ask and you will receive in order that (not “and” as in NIV) your joy will be filled full’ (16.24) – the goal of our prayer is that God’s gift of joy may fill our lives. We cannot conjure up true joy for ourselves, but the Greek use of a passive for ‘filled full’ underlines the fact that this fullness of joy is given to us by God himself. Surprisingly, the goal and purpose of our prayer is his gift of joy! These words are identical with 1 John 1.4 where the purpose of our proclamation is also that ‘your joy may be filled full’. In 1 John 1.1-4 it is assumed that followers of Jesus will witness and share what we have experienced of the Lord. We have as our aim (“in order that”) that others might also share in the wonderful love and fellowship that we enjoy together – and of course our fellowship is not just the sort of friendship and companionship enjoyed in a secular club, but it is based on the deep and lasting fellowship we have with Jesus Christ and the Father. So our witness is ‘in order that’ your joy may be filled full. In the Greek, alternative texts allow “your joy” or “our joy” – if ‘you’ join ‘us’, then you are part of us and we are part of you! So it makes no difference whether we translate 1 John 1.4 with “your joy” or “our joy”!

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These words come as a challenge that our lives individually and together as fellowships should demonstrate this deeply fulfilling joy of the Lord. As Christians we should be so evidently happy and joyful, that people will really want to belong to our fellowship. Christians should be known as people of God’s joy, people with the smile of deep inner rejoicing – not a sick superficial smile, but the heartfelt reality of God’s joy filling our hearts in all circumstances.

When asked how I am, I like to answer “flourishing, thanks” rather than the rather insipid and negative British “o.k.”! The more modern British “I’m good, thanks” sounds better, for ‘good’ should be a strong adjective. Sadly, most people don’t think of the true meaning of ‘good’. In the Bible it is used to describe the fundamental nature of God himself – “God is good”. And in Genesis 1 God looked at his creation and called it “good”. When he completed his work of creation and had made Adam and Eve in his own likeness, God “saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1.31).

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We have so much to be joyful about. As the old hymn says, “Rejoice, the Lord is king . . . rejoice, again I say ‘rejoice'”.

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