2004-12-26 John 16:17-24 Expect Complete Joy
Something truly amazing happens right after birth. The doctor or nurses take this wiggly, human being, covered with mucus, with bright pink, wrinkly skin, purple hands and feet, and tenderly place it on the mother’s stomach. Instead of being grossed out, you feel warmth rising from within. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry with joy! Emotions overwhelm you! It has finally happened, the months of waiting is over! You experience total joy!
There is a joy, a celebration of birth that supersedes the birth of a child, it is the birth of a new Christian.
When you come to terms with you reality of your own sinfulness, when you confess your sins, repent, that is turn completely away from them and accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour and acknowledge Him as your only comfort and strength. When you finally understand all the work that the Holy Spirit has already been doing in your life, when you give yourself over to God, then you are born again, not by flesh and blood, but born of the Spirit!
The experience of coming to Christ is at first apprehensive, scary, frightening. But then, it produces joy. Not a manufactured joy, mere emotionalism of a ‘spiritual’ moment, but true, supernatural joy flows into you from outside of you! The heavens rejoice! God the Father rejoices. The light grows stronger, and the darkness fades. There are celebrations on earth as well as in heaven.
But maybe we’ve been Christians all our lives, we’ve grown up in Christian homes, we’re so familiar with the Christian life that it hardly seems interesting anymore. There’s some uncertainty there’s some doubt. There’s the reality of being in a seemingly permanent Advent season, when is Christ going to return?
The disciples looked to Jesus for some assurance, some sense of knowing what is going on. They’d witnessed all manner of miracles, teaching and power, but there was still a sense of not knowing what was going on. They knew something was up. They heard what Jesus said to Judas. They learned of the new covenant in Christ’s blood. Their feet were washed by Jesus. There was something in the air, something big was about to take place.
And yet again, Jesus talks to them with what appeared to be a riddle.
In verse sixteen, Jesus told them “in a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while, you will see me.” This is what Jesus meant by those words. He was referring to his crucifixion. After a little while, you will not see me. But when Christ arose, they did see him again. Then, Jesus says again, after a little while you will see me. This refers to the time we are in now. We are in the little while, after which Christ will return.
In our text, Jesus explains just what he meant by those words. He says, “I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve but your grief will turn to joy.” Satan and the world aligned with him rejoiced at the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. The disciples felt utter sorrow. They wept, they mourned and they scattered to their different homes. Some could not bear to see the suffering of Jesus. They could not believe that something so terrible could happen to their loved one! But Jesus promised them that their grief would turn to joy!
Jesus does this by transformation. Look at the illustration he used: the same child that caused great pain during the labour and delivery brings about total joy! God does not ignore our pain and suffering in this life. God doesn’t gloss over the reality of life! God is a creator! He created the world out of nothing. He transformed emptiness into the beauty of the universe we live in. And God takes the pain and suffering in our life and he transforms it. He doesn’t hide it under painkillers. He doesn’t want us to use meditation to avoid and escape pain and suffering. God calls us to deal with the pain and suffering and to expect Him to transform it into Joy!
Transformation leads to growth and maturity in our relationship with God. We are the children of God, and God looks after us as a perfect loving parent looks at His children. Our lives are full of pain and suffering. That is reality. Now every time we experience pain and sorrow, God could give us something to make us feel better. Like a parent who deals with a child who has broken a toy, or whose friend has just moved away, God could substitute another, the parent could give a new toy, or call another friend over.
But if parents always gave new toys, or called new friends over, then the child would remain immature, and would always depend on the parent to provide relief. If God treated us like that, then he would prevent us from dealing with the situations of life. Jesus did not say that a mother’s pain would be replaced with joy, but that it would be transformed by joy. The same baby that caused the pain causes the joy. The Christian life is the same: God takes the sorrow and trials and transforms it by his Grace to joy and triumph!
In Joseph’s life, God turned evil into blessing. He used Joseph, sold into slavery, to save his people from death. Joseph says it himself, you meant this for evil, but God meant it for good.
Is the cross any different? Jesus took the cross, a symbol of shame and a curse, and he transformed it into a symbol of victory and triumph!
The amount of suffering experienced varies doesn’t it? Some women have long excruciating labours. Some have short excruciating labours. In both cases, it seems like it will be forever before the baby actually comes! Now, as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth, we also are preparing for Christ’s return. It seems to be taking a long time.
We have the atomic clock, which is 100% accurate. We know that there are always sixty seconds in a minute, and always sixty minutes in an hour. But essentially those exact measurements of time mean nothing depending on what you happen to be doing! Half an hour in the dentist chair can seem like hours! Three hours spent fishing, or talking with friends and family can fly by, as though it were only three minutes. When we are sorrowful and experiencing deep pain, Christ can’t come soon enough. But when we are happy and are looking forward to things in life, then we don’t give his return a second thought!
Whether happy or sad, we have to transform our situations to Christ. If we are happy, we have to become willing to transform our wants and desires to the pattern of Christ, to the will of Christ. If we are sorrowful, we have to allow Christ to transform the situation to joy. We must not become like spoiled children who demand substitutions to ease our pain and suffering. We need to put our hand firmly in Christ’s and look dead on into the suffering, and allow Christ to work, transforming our pain to joy. That is what women experience in childbirth. As surely as it happens to them, it happens to all Christians who trust in Jesus. We can all expect complete joy. We just have to ask the Father.
We seek what we need from the Father, and we ask it in Jesus’ name. That is the whole reason for praying. We turn to God and ask him to provide everything we need. God loves us, just as Jesus loved his disciples, and God will provide what we need. Often, even before we ask it. Why then do we need to go through the motions? If God is our perfect provider, why bother listing to preachers preach? Why bother doing devotions? Here’s the answer: to know our Father in heaven! A spoiled child will know his parents and will always ask for substitutions. A mature child will know her parents and will ask for help to deal with life’s situations.
A Christian life will be a fruitful life, if prayer is at the centre of it. Jesus focussed his life and ministry around prayer. He demonstrated the power of prayer. He taught the disciples how to pray. He told them that some demons could only be cast out through prayer. Throughout his teachings, Jesus taught the importance of prayer.
The book of acts shows that the early church depended on prayer completely. They trusted Jesus’ words, and they asked things from God. And God provided them. Sometimes we look at those guys and wonder how they did it. How did the church grow so quickly? What was so special about them? The answer is prayer. The purpose of prayer is not to overcome God’s reluctance. The purpose of prayer is not to convince God to do something in our lives. The purpose of prayer is to remove our reluctance to let God’s willingness to pour into our lives and into the church.
There are certain things we know about the status of this area, Stony Plain/Spruce Grove. You probably have problems with drugs and gangs like we do. There are many churches but most of the population don’t attend church.
Now, we can look at the reality and wallow in hopelessness. Or we can ask God in prayer. Jesus words are right here, “ask the Father”.
If we want good things for our community, if we want people to come to church, to come to a saving knowledge of Christ, and to turn away from drugs, how much less do you think God wants those things? He wants them even more than we do! But he calls us to action! He calls us first to pray! Pray without ceasing!
It’s Advent. We will experience the joy of being together as families and friends. Last weekend, my parents were up. On Sunday afternoon, our kids we allowed to open one present each.
Hannah, our second oldest, opened her present and was through the moon because it was exactly what she wanted. Her face filled with joy! In a burst of glee, she ran over to my mom and gave her a great big hug, saying “Thank you.” That totally made my day, and filled my heart with joy also!
Prayer is like that, it’s like giving God a hug! For Advent and Christmas are the times we stop and remember the greatest gift! We open the gift of Christ and realise that God has given us what we really needed, the gift of Himself in Jesus Christ.
There is joy in transformation. The transformation that takes place in birth, the child that brings pain transforms that pain into joy. The transformation that takes place when we allow God to share His good news in our community through us, transforms them from darkness into light. When we allow God to do his will in our lives, we experience complete joy.
Let’s not sit on the joy we have. Let’s work together. Look at the light of the candles in this room. As surely as God created the light to shine in the dark of night, God created us to shine as light in the darkness of the world. Let us go into the world bearing the Complete Joy of Christ, shining God’s love into a dark and hurting world! Amen.