Monday, September 10, 2012

That Our Joy Might be Full

"These things have I spoken unto you that my joy might remain in you, 
and that your joy might be full. "
John 15:12

As a young adult, I was so afraid of God's sovereignty that I literally robbed myself of the joy that I now believe He wanted me to experience. I remember wondering things like: “What if He wants me to be single?” “What if He wants me to be a missionary to Africa?” “What if He wants me to marry someone who liked to move a lot?” “What if He wants me to have two children when I want six?” I came across the above verse a few years ago and I have been intrigued by it ever since.

Christ told the parable of the Vine and the Branches to His disciples and in that parable He says He wanted them to stay plugged into the vine so His joy would fill His disciples until it overflowed. It was a shock for me to realize Christ wanted His joy to fill us! That means that no matter what we go through in life, He wants His joy to remain in us and for that joy to sustain us through the difficult things we experience. I don’t know about you, but for me, “joy being full” doesn’t sound like a thread of joy to barely hang on to.

As a young adult, I had the perspective that if I was faced with something hard I must be doing something wrong or that maybe God was angry with me. Sometimes I think I even bordered on believing God did not love me as much as He did others. That faulty belief system meant whenever I experienced emotional pain I had to do something to become a better person to get the pain to stop. That mindset left me pretty worn out. Verse two of Chapter 15 says it is when God sees fruit in our lives that He begins to prune us so we can produce even more fruit. That means when He sees us begin producing godly characteristics like love, peace, self-control, righteousness or sharing Christ that He will begin to refine us even more so we might produce even more fruit.Could it be that the trials and temptations we face that are not of our own choosing are not a punishment, but a pruning? They are a loving and intentional method God uses to transform us. God continues to prune us of the things that hinder our potential to produce the quantity and quality of the fruit He desires us to produce.

It is His desire for us to love with His love not a worldly love. That means He may bring a series of people into our lives that challenge us and that we will have to work at loving them as He does. If He wants to produce the peace that passes understanding in us, He may have to put us in situations that require facing fears so we can experience His peace in circumstances that don't warrant peace. If He wants to produce kindness in us, He will more than likely bring people to whom we will have to work hard at showing His kindness so it becomes more natural for us to do so.

He also points out in the parable that the way we have joy is to remain in Him. This means we are to be dependent on Him. Just as sap flows freely from the vine into the branches feeding and making the branch healthy and productive, the Holy Spirit fills us, enabling us to produce godly character. Apart from Him, we cannot live the Christian life and produce godly fruit He desires us to produce. Apart from Him, we cannot forgive from the heart, we cannot love the unlovable, or overcome the weaknesses of our flesh. To live for Christ requires supernatural power that can only come from being in a right relationship with Him. It also requires we do what we can to have our minds filled with His thoughts and surrendering our will so that it will conformed to His will. As He works in our hearts and lives through us, it will be reflected in the way we act, think, react, and talk and it will impact our relationship with Him and with everyone with whom we come in contact.

In closing, Christ's goal for us is to glorify our Heavenly Father by bearing much fruit. When we fulfill that goal the outcome is always joy! As God prunes and as we become more like Him, we will experience joy to the fullest. When vines are being pruned, they cut off all the little tiny twigs that sap all the nutrients away from the fruit, not the big branches needed to bear fruit. The question each of us should ask ourselves is, “What are the fruitless twigs in our lives?” Could they be our business? Could they be the misconceptions we have of God? Could they be unhealed hurts? Could they be unbelief, fear, bitterness, unhealthy friendships, enemies, stress, addictions, worldly desires or worldly viewpoints? If none of these touched a vein in us, we can ask ourselves what stands between us and God or what takes our energy and our focus away from Him. If we can relate to things on the list, we don't need to "beat ourselves" up. It is more beneficial to be curious and to accept our humanity. That we can see them and identify them is proof God is at working in us. We will spend the rest of our lives trying to balance jobs, family, and friends. We will spend the rest of our lives learning about God and still not have internalized it all. We will spend the rest of our lives learning how much the Lord loves us and delights in us and the rest of our lives laying our hurts, our doubts, our concerns, and our fears at His feet. We will spend the rest of our lives learning to love friends and enemies. If we have a weakness in the flesh or an addiction we will spend a lifetime walking closely to Christ to have victory. We will spend a lifetime studying His word and letting it give us discernment about the world. The question that needs to be asked is, are we willing to persevere that we might be more fruitful in order to find our joy?

Prayer: Father, thank you for providing a way out of our sin. Thank you that Christ's desire was for us to experience His joy to its fullest. Help us to trust the pruning process and help us to grow in obedience so that we might produce more fruit and be filled with Your joy. We praise you for You are good, You are Holy, and You are perfect in all of Your ways! Help each one of us to abide fully in you. Amen.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!