“I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” -John 15:11
I live in an imperfect world. Things do not always go as planned or hoped for. There is sorrow, pain and heartache; some expected, some a complete surprise. It is therefore logical to think that complete or full joy can only be known when Jesus returns and removes every vestige of sin and evil. But Jesus promises complete, or fullness, of joy in this life! How is this possible?
We have to go back through the first ten verses of the chapter. The things he has already said here is “so that” His joy may be in us and be full. So, what did Jesus point to as necessary for complete joy in an incomplete world? First, he mentions “remaining” or “abiding” in Him and His love. As I stay close and dependent on Jesus complete joy is possible. And, it is impossible to have His joy without being close to Him! Furthermore, this abiding is the foundation to the other two things he speaks about. Second, he mentions living a life that bears fruit. He doesn’t really give a full explanation of what this fruit is (for our own good), but it is clear that remaining close to Jesus produces things in us that would not be there without him. Third, he speaks of obedience. Love for Jesus means we obey him. It makes sense to me that joy, fullness of joy, is a by-product of relationship (abiding), transformation (fruit), and obedience (love).
These are the things I need to cultivate to grow my joy – relationship, transformation, love for God in action.
Papa, Guide me to press on in abiding closer and closer to you, that my joy might be full and overflow to others.
Day 84 – CATCH UP DAY
Day 85 – Psalm 62, 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Philippians 4:10-20, Matthew 28:1-20, 2 Samuel 22-24
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him SO THAT YOU MAY OVERFLOW with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” -Romans 15:13
Some days I do not like narrowing down my focus to only one thing God speaks to me about in my daily readings (though it is necessary). This is one of those days…
It should be no surprise that the God of hope seeks to instill hope in those who believe in Him. It should come at no surprise that God infuses hope into my spirit through the work of the Holy Spirit. He, after all, lives in me and all who choose to believe in Christ for salvation. Furthermore, it is logical to me that God’s method of giving me hope is to fill me with joy and peace. How else can one have hope that transcends any and all circumstances without joy or peace?
The astounding concept to me is “overflow(ing).” As God fills me with joy and peace overflow happens. We lived on a river for a number of years. It would flood, i.e. overflow, a couple of times a year. It would overflow its banks. I get overflow. It is something beyond containment. It affects so many other things. As a follower of Jesus my life is to overflow. And overflow will affect others. It will be visible to others. A life filled with joy and peace, and overflowing with hope changes everything around him/her. A life overflowing with hope handles adversity differently. A life overflowing worships differently.
So, what is the problem? Why is it my/our life isn’t recognized as overflowing? Why is all my worship staying within the banks of the river? God’s plan is to fill us with joy. We need not beg for it. God’s plan is to fill us with His peace. We have peace with God (Romans 5:1). His purpose is to make our lives overflowing. What gives? Me! Scripture tells us we have “been given everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him” (1 Peter 1:3). I give. I give in to my own thoughts and recriminations. I give in to thinking that living a life of overflow is rare, or for someone else, or I don’t deserve it, or… A life of overflowing hope rests on our hope of who God is and the keeping of His Word. A life of overflowing hope demands I/we take a step of faith in claiming the joy and peace already given us in Christ. A life overflowing calls me to control my thoughts and not yield to settling for less. It means I live a life overflowing by choice (whether I feel it or not), by faith, by joy, by peace, by hope. The world around me/you is desperate for our overflow because in it is Jesus.
Papa, forgive me for building a dam that has kept Your presence in me contained. Let Your rivers of joy and peace combine afresh to make my life overflow afresh with Your hope.
Readings for Day 73 – Psalm 121, Matthew 18:21-35, Acts 2:1-37, John 17:9-18, 1 Samuel 22-24
“I have spoken THESE THINGS to you so that My joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.” -John 15:11
If I were to believe the culture around me, a life of joy would be mine if: I wear the right clothes or drive the right car; if I have the right cell phone provided (with unlimited data at no extra charge); if I won the lottery…. and the list could go on.
Jesus gives us “these things” in this passage as the keys to complete joy, His joy in our lives. So what does Jesus speak about in John 15. If we were to narrow it down, I would identify three things. Joy comes from “remaining” (“abiding” in some translations) in Christ. When I make my home, the place where I am most comfortable and most want to be, with Jesus then my life will know His joy. For it will be His active presence in me bringing joy. I will know complete joy as I love the Lord and express that love in active, intentional obedience to His Word and desires. This obedience does not mean perfection. However it does include seeking forgiveness and turning back to Jesus when I stray. Repentance is obedience too. Such following of Jesus leads to His joy in my life. And, finally, joy is found through His fruit growing in my life in greater abundance. His joy comes from cooperating with His Spirit to produce and grow fruits in my life that change me and others in becoming more like Jesus.
When joy eludes me, or when I let circumstances dictate my joy, it is then I need to look to Jesus. He says my joy comes from staying close to Him. Past experience confirms this truth! He says my joy comes from loving Him not just in word but in action. He says my joy comes from the relationship I have with Him that naturally produces fruit in my life like an apple tree grows apples.
Lord, let me choose joy by choosing you, choosing to remain close, choosing to actively love you, choosing to allow you to produce fruit in me.
Day 14 – Catch up day!!
“Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy… Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.” – Isaiah 35: 2a, 10
Singing, joy, and gladness will one day be mine in abundance. Joy will be even more than abundant. It will be everlasting. While I can surround myself with music now, abundant singing from a joyful heart that never dissipates is a whole other level of singing. Joy that lasts forever will be a new experience. Joy is temporary now. It can change in a flash due to circumstances. But when Jesus comes, sorrow and mourning will disappear. Sorrow, mourning, sadness are unwanted regular companions that come and go at will in my life now. Some events leave a sadness that never quite goes away. But a day is coming when it will be gone forever. The presence of God, his glory, singing and joy will be so overwhelming I will one day forget what sorrow and mourning are like! Bring it.
Father, I look forward to Jesus coming again and filling my life with singing and joy on a whole new level. In the mean time, guide me to sing and rejoice now, in spite of my situation, as part of the preparation for what I will enjoy for eternity.
Readings: Isaiah 4, Isaiah 35, Isaiah 65, Zechariah 9
“Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy! Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.” -Psalm 126:3-5
Hey, wait a minute! Are not these opposing concepts? How can God do amazing things and yet we need God to restore some things? How can God do amazing things and I have to work at things in tears? Doesn’t the idea of restoring run contrary to amazing? How can working at something with great struggle, pain and tears also be God doing amazing things?
Yet this is right where I am. I live in a world that is held together by tension. God is, has done, is doing and will do amazing things in and around my life. At the same time, I can need God to restore fortunes in an area of my life. My life has the tension of amazing and need. I live the tension of a great, amazing, good God and the tension of restoration in another area. I live with the tension of God doing amazing things, while at the same time life being hard and bringing tears to my eyes and soul. The good news is this amazing God promises such tension will lead to a harvest with joy – i.e. God does something amazing again.
Father, You are amazing, and I trust you will come through in amazing ways where I need You to restore my fortunes. I choose to look forward to the harvest.
Readings: Psalm 126, Psalm 92, Psalm 135, 2 Corinthians 12
“I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.” -Psalm 9:1-2
Joy – we all want a life filled with joy. At times I tie my joy to circumstances. In more sane moments, I choose to place my joy in my relationship with Christ. Nehemiah 8:10 tells us “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” So, joy is an act of faith, a choice to believe in the goodness of God. This Psalm makes a connection with joy and specific actions we can take. If I want a life of joy I need to praise God. If all I do is bring my needs and problems to God; if my prayers are all about my current crisis; if my time in the Word is only about what I need, my self-centered approach will rob me of the full joy I desire. Joy is connected to praising God. Therefore, if I seek to praise God in prayer; if I look for reasons to praise God as I read the Word; if I seek to praise God in quiet personal moments and in public worship – that praise fuels joy.
The second thing I/we can do to find joy is to tell others what God has done for us. The recounting of how God has worked, provided, blessed, intervened for us results in joy. Telling God’s story in our story reminds us of the goodness of God. Telling how God has worked in us leads others to trust in or respond to God, and that blesses us with joy too.
Father, let your joy wash over me today like the tide coming in as I give praise to you and tell of the wonderful things you have done in and for me.
Readings: Psalm 62, Psalm 32, Psalm 125, Psalm 9
“Praise the Lord! How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands. Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed.” – Psalm 112:1-2
What does it mean to “fear the Lord”? It has the meaning of respect, reverence. But these words also imply the person believes in God, and therefore, follows and loves Him. There are two promises for those who both fear and obey the Lord. First, their life is joyful. There is a joy that comes from following and loving the Lord. The more I love Him; the closer I am to him, the greater will be my joy. As I obey Him, I find joy. Obedience isn’t a task master seeking to restrict my life. It is a conduit to joy. It is joy because God’s commands are for our good – what is best for us. The second promise is the blessing and success of the next generation. The next generation is affected by my/our love for the Lord, our following the Lord, our obeying the Lord.
Watching the news this morning, I could not help thinking we are experiencing the truth of these words. The lack of civility, respect, basic kindness is a direct consequence of people who have not believed in or obeyed the Lord. The result is a generation (not all) now that is not blessed or successful (in their own eyes, and certainly in the eyes of God). I can also say that there are those in this generation that are experiencing success and blessing because of people in their lives who love and seek to obey the Lord. Their influence has blessed them. My/our spiritual lives can bless the next generation. God’s call on my life is to be that path of blessing to others.
Father, may my life this day lead to the blessing and success of others as I follow You.
Readings: Proverbs 15, 1 Kings 10, Micah 7, Psalm 112