This past week’s sermon was a challenge for me. I preached from John 15:1-11, Jesus’ teaching about the vine and the branches. He instructs his followers to abide in him. The challenge for me came regarding Jesus’ teaching on joy in verse 11.
11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.John 15:11
To be truthful I’ve struggled to have joy during the past several months. Now if Jesus had taught to be full of fear, doubt, frustration, or uncertainty, I would have had those covered during the last several months. My guess is that I’m not alone. Between pandemics and protests, viruses and racial tensions, stay-at-home orders and lifted restrictions, there is a sense of uncertainty that permeates our experience. Uncertainty does not feed joy.
As I studied and preached this text over the weekend, I became convinced that the goal of abiding in Christ is that we might have joy. Abiding in Christ is an active command from Christ, but it is first of all a gift. Jesus declared to his followers in verse 3:
3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.John 15:3
As humans, we are born in sin and inherently flawed. We are prone to worry, doubt, and impatience. But Jesus teaches us that abiding in him and being made clean by him are gifts that he offers. No, I’m not inherently joyful. But when I reflect on what he’s done for me, I can have joy: the delight in God’s control in all things and his care for me through all things. Here are some reasons we can have joy regardless of our circumstances:
- Jesus makes us clean through his cross. We don’t earn or deserve cleansing; it is a gift.
- Jesus invites us to abide in relationship with him. We get to know and relate to the Creator of the universe.
- Jesus makes us fruitful when we abide in him. We get to live a life that matters eternally because of Christ.
- Jesus promises to answer our prayers when we abide in him. We get to bring our burdens and requests before him confidently.
John 15 teaches that our relationship with Jesus is the reason for joy. Do you need joy? Pause and think about the salvation that Jesus gave you. Remember that you are in a relationship with the Creator of all. Know that your life matters because Jesus gives you eternal life and the opportunity to share that life with others. Take heart that you can bring whatever struggle or situation to Jesus in prayer.
Abide in Jesus and have joy.