Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Pastoral Ponderings ~ Fullness of Joy for Another New Year

          One of my most profound lessons of the I-wouldn’t-have-believed-it-if-God-hadn’t-said-it variety is the extent to which God has worked for his children to know the extent of joy we can have in him. Yes, JOY!
          As we cycle into another new year, the annual encouragement to evaluate life invites us to consider what God has done for our joy, and to examine our hearts to determine if our experience of joy is consistent with God’s gift of joy.
          The starting place in any consideration of joy is God. After all, he has so much influence over our world, and our lives, that we are bound to face many things this coming year where our paths will cross, so to speak. Is he the cosmic kill-joy that many imagine? Or is he joyfully different than the God-hating world could ever believe? Let’s consider some things God shows us in his word, and see if we can get to know him the way he reveals.
          “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”[1]Here we learn that, in God’s presence there is “fullness of joy.” Wherever God is, there is joy as full as joy can be. The “pleasures” that are with God will last “forevermore.” God has the fullest measure of joy, and this joy will never end because he will never end.
          Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”[1] We know that Jesus is the image of God.[2] Since God is glorious in joy, Jesus is the image of that radiant joy. He speaks to us, his brothers, with the distinct aim of giving us his joy so that our joy “may be full.”
          It is no accident that God’s presence is characterized by fullness of joy, and Jesus gives us his joy so that our joy can be full. “Joy-ful” certainly takes on a whole new meaning when we see it from God’s perspective!
          Jesus added, “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”[3]Jesus did not tell us that we will receive what we ask for in prayer because of how important it is to get what we want. He identified that everything to do with asking and receive in prayer has to do with joy. Whatever God does in response to our prayers is because he is working to fill up our joy to the full.
          Paul wrote, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”[4]
          Paul identified that, if the people he was writing had “any” experience of the transforming work of Christ (and they did), then there was a way that they could complete his joy. It wasn’t by giving him what he wanted, or putting him first, or seeking to please his whims and wishes. Paul’s joy would be complete in their joy. He wanted them to have the same mind, the same love, the same unity, the same oneness of mind, so that the realities of joy could be fulfilled.
          John added his own encouragement in this regard when he wrote, “And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”[5]What he had written to complete our joy was, “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”[6]
          Paul wanted fellowship with the believers that would complete their joy, and John wanted this same joy-completing fellowship. This makes sense that, if in God’s Triune presence there is fullness of joy, and at his right hand there is fullness of joy, and we were created in his image and likeness, that we would find our greatest joy in the fellowship between the Triune God and their many people.
          John expresses this very personally when he writes, “Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”[7]While John could write one letter to build up the completeness of joy in the church, he knew that in –person kind of joy was even better.
          Of course, God did not give us so many encouragements to joy just to stir us up at the start of another new year. Rather, he has brought us into his joy now, giving us the words that will fill us with joy in ever increasing and maturing measure, with that certain hope that we will one day be in his presence where “there is fullness of joy” forevermore.       
          This helps me understand even more of what it means that God will one day wipe away all the joy-stealers we have ever known, and make everything new.[8] This is described so beautifully in these God-breathed words:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’”[9]
          If the dwelling place of God will be with his people, and in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore,”[10]then God is obligated to wipe away tears, bring an end to death, stop our mourning, crying, and pain, and make everything new. It all fits him, and his joy.
          What now? Peter says it like this: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”[11]
          According to God’s breathed-out words, we can “rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” NOW! Why? Because we are ALREADY “obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” Our present experience of salvation has us “being transformed into the same image” as Jesus “from one degree of glory to another,”[12] while we wait for Jesus to return and take us to our forever home,[13] in fullness of joy, with pleasures forevermore.
          Lately I have become painfully conscious of the fact that, when something seems to be blocking my joy, it is because I have been trying to satisfy my God-sized need for joy in people or things. When God turns my attention back to him, I discover that his joy satisfies so fully that it encourages our joy in one another in the church in that love-covers-a-multitude-of-sins kind of way.[14]
          As I imagine what kind of life-experiences God’s children are in, I include those who are dealing with deep heartaches and pain that seem to deny any possibility of joy whatsoever. I am sympathetic. I am empathetic. I can weep with those who weep while striving to rejoice with those who rejoice.[15]
          What I encourage everyone is to seek God for the fullest experience of that fellowship between God, the apostolic writings that continue to speak to us for our joy, and the rest of the body of Christ, so that our joy can be complete on earth, while awaiting the unhindered perfection of our joy in heaven.
          “Rejoice in the Lord always!” Paul said, “And again I will say, rejoice!”[16] And, when he said this, he was talking to the church that was gathering together in Jesus’ name. It is in that fellowship of God, his people, and the timeless message of the Scriptures, that joy will flourish.

© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Psalm 16:11
[2] Colossians 1:15
[3] John 16:24
[4] Philippians 2:1-2
[5] I John 1:4
[6] I John 1:3
[7] II John 1:12
[8] Revelation 21:5
[9] Revelation 21:3-4
[10] Psalm 16:11
[11] I Peter 1:8-9
[12] II Corinthians 3:18
[13] John 14:1-3
[14] I Peter 4:8
[15] Romans 12:15
[16] Philippians 4:4

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