“Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.
As far back as I can remember, the idea of JOY, the expression of it and the desire for it, has been meaningful to me. My grandparents and parents encouraged a joyful disposition in me to the point that throughout my life I received figurines and ornaments symbolizing joy or art pieces with Scripture about joy for presents at Christmas and birthdays. I liked the thought of being joyful and hopefully bringing joy to others.
However, the past several years, this hope filled word, full of promise and satisfaction, has been far from me. This is my testimony of struggle for joy. A little over 4 years ago, my side of the family began facing some difficult challenges. The pain from the sin,rebellion, and division in this situation has been deeper than all other pain I have known in my life so far. Simultaneously, our foster daughters came into our home from their own broken and painful situation. I know many of you have experienced this kind of pain, sorrow and grief. Pain that buckles your knees and makes your breathing difficult. Some of you may be experiencing it right now or you will be facing it in your future. In the midst of these moments/years of pain and trial, the idea of “joy being made full” seems like a polar opposite. Instead, words like endurance or long suffering seem more appropriate.
As a former athlete, I’ve always appreciated the verses about running the race marked out for us, in our journey of following Christ. Verses like Hebrews 12:1-2 inspire me:
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
or 1 Corinthians 9:24
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.”
I look at these verses and am encouraged to have faith through trials, to hold on and to run through the finish line with all my might... to run in such a way as to win! But if I were to be really honest, the race has become more and more about just finishing for me. Running strong and finishing well. Isn’t that what it means to “run in such a way that you may win”? To be faithful through it all (the crud, the mess, the awful) and finish? I mean finishing is the goal, right?
Philippians 3:14 says:
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
The Greek meaning of the upward call is “a calling and divine invitation to embrace the salvation of God in the heavenly place”. In fact, Scripture, tells us that THE PRIZE is the calling and divine invitation to embrace the salvation of God.
In this present trial and suffering with loved ones, I have fixed my eyes on the end of this trial... the finish line of sorts. As I have gazed helplessly and hopelessly at the finish line with physical impossibilities of restoration this side of Heaven, thoughts like “how can I make it or I can’t make sense of this, I don’t understand, or how can this be fixed”, joy has also seemed impossible.
I don’t know about you or what trial/pain you face, but I have run this race far too long fixing my eyes on the race itself or on the goal to finish rather than the PRIZE!
This PRIZE, this salvation, this calling, this relationship with Christ, this PRIZE is where we find joy! Chapters 15 and 16 in John explains that when we receive Christ and abide in Him there is great JOY!
The word JOY appears 182 times in the NASB, the Hebrew/Aramaic languages have 16 different words for our English word, Joy, and the Greek language has 8 different words that translate to our English word, Joy. All of them mean gladness and joy but some may have a more fuller meaning associated with shouting, singing, leaping, crying or exceeding joy.
The Joy of the Lord is actually defined for us in Scripture. Many of you are familiar with it and it is one of my favorite verses.
“Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord IS your strength” Nehemiah 8:10
The joy of the Lord is your strength. In studying this passage, I couldn’t help but want to understand this better. The original word is “ma’owz”. It means place of safety, protection, refuge, stronghold. In other words, the Joy of the Lord is your place of safety, protection, refuge, and stronghold.
A true disciple of Christ longs for satisfaction in Christ and Christ alone. A true disciple of Christ asks for things in the Name of Jesus Christ according to the Father’s will. Our JOY will be made full and our gladness, our strength will be complete when we “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross”.
If today, you are weary like I have been, fixing my eyes on the finish line rather than the PRIZE of Jesus Christ, John 16:24 tells us to “ask in My Name and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full”.
My dear friends, I plead with you today, one weary runner to another, HE is our JOY....won’t you ask in His Name and fix your eyes on Christ, so that your joy may be made full?!