Many of us face times of trouble in our life. I ran across an appropriate saying about troubles, "If you could kick the person responsible for most of your troubles in the backside, you wouldnt be able to sit down for two weeks."
When my son was in school, for a time he seemed to always be picked on. Other children were always doing something to him. When I finally talked to his older brother about this, I came to find out that my son was mouthing off to everyone. So they were picking on him because he was inviting it. Indeed, many of our problems are self-inflicted, but others come from situations in our life. Jesus talked to his disciples about finding joy in the midst of trouble. I want to examine these verses and see how we can apply them to our own situations.
So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
The disciples were experiencing sorrow, but Jesus said that they would have joy. What are you facing? Do you feel overwhelmed by adversity? Are you surrounded by pain and turmoil? Jesus has promised us a joy that cannot be taken away. He said our hearts will rejoice. No matter what you may be facing, realize that you are given a joy from God that will never be taken from you. Allow the Holy Spirit to minister to you his joy, and you will be able to endure even the most difficult of times.
The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35 which contains two words, "Jesus wept." But in the original Greek, this is not the shortest verse. In Greek, the shortest verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:16, "Rejoice always." If we combine the meanings of these two verses, we see it is because of the suffering that Jesus was willing to go through that we are able to have a real joy. Because Jesus wept, we are able to rejoice always!
In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name.
I believe this verse is teaching us that to receive joy, we must pray. When our focus is on our problems and troubles, it is difficult to rejoice. But when we spend time in prayer, our thoughts turn from our sorrow to our Savior. As we spend time in prayer with God, our heart is refreshed, our spirit is renewed, and we experience the joy that God wants us to have.
There are two askings involved here in this verse. The first is in that day the disciples will not be asking any more questions. As the New American Standard Bible renders it, "And in that day you will ask Me no question." The next phrase indicates that the disciples need to ask in prayer. As Mayfield comments, "In a unique way the new economy of prayer which belongs to the Spirit-filled life is the basis for a joy that is full."
How much time do you spend in prayer? Do you set aside time each day to be with God or are you like the little boy who prays before dinner, "God good, bless food, amen"? If we want to experience joy in our life, we must spend time in prayer.
Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
This verse tells us what to do if we want our joy to be full. To receive joy, we must ask in Jesus name. There is no other way to true joy. All the things the world has to offer results in emptiness and sadness. To have joy in our heart we must come to Jesus. We must experience his love, we must accept his forgiveness, and we must allow him to be Lord of our life. It is only when we come to him, that our heart will be gladdened.
Augustine in 416 A.D. wrote, "This that He calls a full joy is certainly no carnal joy, but a spiritual one; and when it shall be so great as to be no longer capable of any additions to it, it will then doubtless be full. Whatever, then, is asked as belonging to the attainment of this joy, is to be asked in the name of Christ, if we understand the grace of God, and if we are truly in quest of a blessed life."
There are many other things that people seek after. They seek after riches, they seek after love. They seek after pleasure, they seek after fun. But if we want our life to be filled with joy, we must seek after Jesus.
At a recent auction of the renowned atheist Madelyn Murray OHare, who was instrumental in getting prayer kicked out of the public schools, it was revealed that in her personal diary she wrote on six different occasions, "Somebody, somewhere, love me." She had sought for happiness in all places except for the one place where she could find it in Christ.
I have said this to you in figures; the hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in figures but tell you plainly of the Father.
In that day you will ask in my name; and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you;
for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from the Father.
In verse 27 we are told that God loves us. To have joy, we need to realize that we are loved. Many Christians struggle with feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. But for us to realize that we are loved will chase away those negative emotions. We need to understand that God loved us so much that he sent his son to die for us. He loved us so much that he cares about us and is willing to show his mercy toward us. He loves us so much that he will always be there for us. When we realize that we are loved, then the dark clouds turn to sunshine.
Years ago doctors noticed that babies who received attention, cuddling, and love were much more likely to be strong and healthy babies than the ones who were neglected. In fact, they found out that some of the neglected babies became sick and some even died all because they didnt think they were loved. We need to realize that God loves us.
Augustine asks, "Is it the case, then, that He loveth because we love; or rather, that we love, because He loveth? ... This, then, was the efficient cause of our loving, that we were loved. And certainly to love God is the gift of God. He it was that gave the grace to love Him, who loved while still unloved."
I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.
We need to understand that the reason Jesus came to earth was to bring us joy. He came to earth to redeem us from our sins so we would no longer be under the bondage of those things that would weigh heavily on us and burden us down. Jesus came to set us free. He intentionally came from the Father and was obedient for our sakes. Now that he has left the world and returned to the Father, our redemption is complete. In his place he has sent us his Spirit to comfort us and help us in our troubles.
The Beacon Bible Commentary remarks on verse 28, "In four compact clauses Jesus gave to the disciples His total biography I came forth from the Father His preexistence; I am come into the world His incarnation; I leave the world His death; I go to the Father His ascension."
His disciples said, "Ah, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure!
Now we know that you know all things, and need none to question you; by this we believe that you came from God."
Jesus answered them, "Do you now believe?"
The disciples spoke confidently as if they were totally committed to Christ, but Jesus knew that in just a short while they would all scatter from him and become discouraged. So he asks them if they really do now believe.
A man went to the circus and was asked if he believed the story in the Bible about Daniel spending a night unharmed caged up with lions. He answered, yes he believed it was true. Next, he was asked if he believed God could stop the mouths of the lions today. Again, he said that he believed it could be done. Finally the man at the circus pointed to a lion cage, and asked him if he believed it enough to enter the cage with the hungry lions. He hesitated for a moment and then ran out of the arena.
Now, Im not advocating we tempt God by exposing ourselves to danger, but the fact is many of us say we believe, but we dont really believe in our heart. If we want our joy to be complete, we must be willing to really believe. We must believe that God is with us, we must believe that Gods promises are true, and we must believe that God will get us through whatever problems we may be facing. Nothing will kill our joy quicker than doubt and fear. Christ asked his disciples, "do you now believe?" Maybe each one of us should ask, "do I now believe?"
The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, every man to his home, and will leave me alone; yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.
The disciples scattered from Christ because of discouragement. We cannot allow discouragement to rob us of our joy or rob us from spending time with Christ. Sometimes things dont turn out the way we think they should. It may even seem that God doesnt hear our prayers and that he has abandoned us. It is easy to fall into discouragement and even depression as the disciples did. But when we are overwhelmed by despair, we will find our joy slipping away. We cannot allow discouragement to get a foothold.
It seems that discouragement is one of the great tools of Satan. If we cannot be made to stop serving God, then Satan tries to discourage us so that we lose our joy. The one thing that my wife has noticed working with the children in the church is that they dont want to try something they dont think they can do effectively. They would rather not attempt something instead of being viewed as inadequate. They are so easily discouraged. But arent we the same way? The slightest thing comes along, and our bright sunshiny day has suddenly turned to darkness and gloom. The reason the disciples became discouraged is that they abandoned Christ. Let us always stay near him, even during trying times. With Jesus near, our spirits will be lifted and our problems will seem to diminish.
I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
Finally, its important to remember that no matter how great our problems may be, Jesus has overcome the world. There may seem to be dark forces surrounding you, there may seem to be people out to do you harm, there may seem to be trouble looming on all fronts, but Jesus has overcome the world. No matter what may come against us, we are more than conquerors in Christ. He has given us the victory because he paid the price for our redemption. So when it seems like all is lost, rejoice for Jesus has overcome the world.
Mayfield tells us, "Yet, in spite of their wavering faith and His own sense of being left alone, our Lord assured the disciples of the steadfastness of the Father...and also promised to give them peace. To these insecure and unstable disciples there would come a new peace which would be in great contrast to the tribulation in the world. This peace would come from a clear knowledge of the facts made known to them by Jesus and from a firm faith in their Lord."
Notice that Jesus said that we will have tribulation. We will have troubles and sorrow and times of despair. But then Christ says to be of good cheer. Even in the midst of tribulation? Yes, even when everything seems to be going against us. Let us never forget that our joy comes from the one who has overcome the world. He is able to overcome even our problems, so let us be glad and may our joy be full.
This study on John 16:22-33 © 1999 by David Humpal. All rights reserved.
All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the Revised Standard Version © 1971, A. J. Holman Company
Kicking in the Backside from Bits and Pieces, December 1990
The New American Standard Bible © 1977, Holman Bible Publishers
Mayfield: Beacon Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pg. 186 © 1965, Beacon Hill Press
Augustine: Homilies on the Gospel according to St. John, Tractate CII, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, vol. 7, pg. 389, Hendrickson Publishers
Augustine: Homilies on the Gospel according to St. John, Tractate CII, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, vol. 7, pg. 391, Hendrickson Publishers
Beacon Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pg. 187 © 1965, Beacon Hill Press
Mayfield: Beacon Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pg. 188 © 1965, Beacon Hill Press