Study 7 HOW TO EXPERIENCE FULLNESS OF JOY
BREAD ENOUGH AND TO SPARE
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: John 15: 1-17)
The Lord Jesus Christ wants each of His children to experience joy to the full! We know this because of His word recorded in John 15:11: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Notice when it was that Jesus spoke these words. It was a strange time to talk about joy, for soon He would be in dark Gethsemane. Shortly after that He would be facing His accusers and hearing the taunts and mocking of those who hated Him, and then He would be crucified. In the face of all this He spoke of “my joy…”! – and it is significant that so far as the scripture records are concerned this is the only time that He spoke of His joy. How unique this joy must have been if it still remained with Him in His time of greatest trial and testing! The Lord’s provision for all His children is that His joy should be their joy – “that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete”. Notice three truths in this statement:-
1. As Christians we are to be joyful; joy should be the prevailing characteristic in our lives
We must admit, however, that often we are sad, sombre and gloomy. The Bible teaches that as Christians we should be joyful in everything (Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16). We should experience joy at the time of our conversion (Luke 19:6), and compare Acts 8:39; when reading God’s Word (Jeremiah 15:16); when in prayer (John 16:24); even in the midst of fierce trials (James 1:2); when being persecuted for Christ’s sake (Acts 5:41); when serving the Lord (Luke 15:6); and this joy should be ours until the journey’s end (Acts 20:24). As Christians we should be always rejoicing (Philippians 4:4)!
2. What is the joy that we should experience each day, in all circumstances?
In Jesus’ words in John 15:11 we have a three-fold definition of this joy:-
- It is Christ’s joy. Notice exactly what He said – “…that my joy may be in you” (John 15:11). The true Christian life is simply the life of the Lord Jesus Christ in a man or a woman. Christian joy, therefore, is Christ’s joy in a Christian, and this means that this deep-down, unique and abiding joy is not found anywhere else except in Him. There are other kinds of joy found in other places, but His joy is found in Him alone.
- It is Joy to the full. Jesus expressed His desire by saying “…that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). There is a great difference between joy and fullness of joy. The vessel may be partly filled or completely filled. Our Lord’s desire for us is that we should experience joy to the full, continually – look up and compare Psalm 16:11; John 17:13; 1 Peter 1:8.
- It is joy which “remains” (KJV).This word remains (John 15:11, KJV) indicates that the Christian’s joy is not an intermittent experience but a continuous one. A reference to John 16:22 shows us that Jesus indicated to His disciples that they were to pass through trials and testings, but that it would be possible for them to experience His joy even in the midst of those trials. Consider three illustrations of the abiding nature of Christ’s joy, and the fact that it is unaffected by outward circumstances and conditions:-
- John 15:11 – as we have seen, Jesus experienced this joy under the shadow of the Cross.
- Luke 10:20 – surely the meaning here is this: ‘Don’t let your joy depend on anything worldly, but on that which abides and which can never be affected by any earthly changes.’
- Acts 16:25 – Paul and Silas were experiencing most humiliating trial and suffering, yet they were so filled with Christ’s own joy that they could sing praises at midnight!
It is a remarkable thing that the joy which Christ gives to the believer is not only unaffected by adverse circumstances, but it is actually promoted by such trials and testings. Our authority for saying this is in Acts 5:41; Romans 5:3; James 1:2; 1 Peter 4:12-14.
3. How may we have this joy?
- We have this joy when we have Christ Himself. In other words, if it is Christ’s joy we can only have it by having Him. Turn to Acts 8:8, where we read that “there was great joy in that city”. Why? Verse 5 of that chapter tells us, and in verse 39 we read that the new convert “went on his way rejoicing”.
- We have this joy by complete submission to Christ. In Luke 10:21 we read, first, that Jesus was “full of joy”; then we read that He was completely submissive to the will of His Father in heaven – joy of a glad submission.
- We have this joy by the indwelling and infilling of the Holy Spirit. Dr Weymouth translates Luke 10:21, “In that hour Jesus was filled by the Holy Spirit with rapturous joy” – look up and compare Acts 13:52.
At this very moment the Lord Jesus is exalted, the perfect Man in a perfect human body, in heaven. His desire is that His unique and perfect joy should remain in us. How can this be, because He is in heaven and we are here on earth? The answer is – by the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22 tells us that “the fruit of the Spirit is…joy…”!