I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
3 John 1:4
When my oldest son, Sean, was four, he appeared in his first school play. Seeing him on that stage while singing with all his classmates gave me an adrenaline shot of pride unlike anything I had ever experienced. I felt like a fool as tears welled in my eyes. It wasn’t a manly reaction to something so simple as cute little kids singing.
As a parent or grandparent, you can relate to those special occasions, events, and accomplishments in which our children fill our hearts with great joy.
In our focus text, the writer is expressing great joy regarding his children in the faith, assumedly those who had come to the Lord through his ministry. He is joyful because his children are walking in the truth.
Once we grasp the magnificence of salvation in Christ, and what it means to be a believer, we have cause for celebration whenever we hear of our friends and loved ones who are serving Him. Even if we had nothing to do with the ministry that brought them to Christ, just the mere knowledge of their service for the Lord is cause for celebration.
But just as we experience feelings of joy for those in Christ, we should be motivated to pray for the lost. If we love everyone as we have been taught by God, then we should want the best for them. And there is nothing more important or more valuable than a right relationship with Jesus Christ.
Most of my professional career was as a radio DJ. As you can imagine, I crossed paths with many who had little interest in God. But one of the very pleasant surprises here late in life is to know that many of my old co-workers have given their lives to Christ and are serving him.
A young man contacted me yesterday to share his story of how he came to Christ and his desire to serve the Lord. He was a stranger, but his testimony of God’s grace lifted my spirits and produced joy in my heart.
How would you react if a stranger called to tell you he had just won a TV set or bought a new car? Well, you would have thought he was two fries short of a Happy Meal. But what if he said, “I just needed to tell someone that I have given my life to Christ.” You would listen, right? And even share in his joy. But why?
In John 17, Jesus prayed for his disciples. In verse 13, He said this. “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.”
The full measure of Christ’s joy resides within every Christian. The whole package that is eternal life, including the abiding presence of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, everything we need for this life and the next. Eternal joy has been planted in the heart of every believer. We have it in common with all believers to be shared and enjoyed.
Who do you know that needs this joy? A child, a co-worker, an old friend, a brother or sister, or a parent or grandparent?
The hardest people to talk to about Jesus are those closest to us. But God doesn’t tune you out. He listens and answers our prayers. Don’t give up. God can do what we can’t.
I told you about the young man who contacted me to share the good news of his salvation. He said he had always believed in God, but it took the sudden death of his mother to get his attention. Even after that shocking event, it took several years for him to recognize his need to surrender to Christ.
It may take years for your prayers for others to be answered. And it may not happen in your lifetime. Don’t let that stop you.
Who do you need to pray for today? Pray for them now?
For more on this topic, check out this article: The Best Thing You Can Do for Your Children
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 2 (April – June) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Today’s chosen text is an object of great curiosity to many people. James’ instruction to “consider it pure joy… whenever you face trials of many kinds…” appears, at least at first glance, unrealistic and even flippant.
When life hits you with painful difficulties, “pure joy” is not the normal response. In reality, “trials” such as job loss, financial chaos, chronic pain, crippling disease, death of a loved one, and divorce produce an opposite response. Imagine yourself driving home after just getting fired and singing for joy. “Oh boy, I just got canned. Joy, joy, joy!”
James lived during a very difficult time in the life of the early church. He and his “brothers” in Christ were experiencing persecution for their faith. His words were meant to exhort and encourage those early Christians to look, not to their current circumstances, but beyond those trials to something far greater…spiritual maturity. “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
It should be the desire of every Christian to grow spiritually. However, just like all other worthy pursuits spiritual maturity takes hard work, discipline, dedication, and “perseverance.” Perseverance is the glue that holds our dreams and ambitions together. It says “I’m not going to give up on my dream, no matter what!”
Consider all that is involved in accomplishing any great thing. To receive the trophy of a champion you must pay the price for getting there. “Pure joy” is the emotion experienced by those who have paid the price and gone onto win the great victory. It is experienced by the Olympic athlete when he or she receives a gold medal as tears of joy stream down their face. It is demonstrated by the euphoric jumping, shouting, and cheering of the winning team in the World Series or Super Bowl. They persevered, refused to give up, stayed the course, and achieved their dreams.
We pray for spiritual growth. “Grow me, Lord.” And then hardship or difficulty comes our way and we wonder what happened. Without problems you cannot grow in the faith. If you don’t have anything to trust God for then there is no need for faith. If you are serious about spiritual maturity then you can expect that God will always leave something in your life that requires faith. James says that “the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”
Have you ever worked out with weights? The object, of course, is to gain physical strength. Muscle mass is increased by resistance. To continue growing you must add more weight. The same is true for spiritual growth. God allows “testing” in the form of “trials” for added resistance. If we “persevere” then we attain the desired result of spiritual growth.
“Pure joy” can also be found in the realization that no matter what happens, God is faithful and completely trustworthy. With each “test” and “trial” you will gain a greater appreciation for the very personal involvement of God in your life. As your faith grows so will your confidence in God’s provision and His constant “help in your times of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) Then your faith will respond expectantly and hopefully. “God, I don’t know how or when you are going to handle this, but I know you will.” You’ll even grow to the point where, in the midst of the trial, you will find yourself saying, “God, I just can’t wait to see the amazing thing You are going to do to handle this predicament.”
Some day you will stand on the victor’s platform to receive your reward from the King of Kings. You will then be “mature and complete…” and “…not lacking anything.” “Pure joy” will be yours for all eternity.
For more on this topic, check out this article: What Does the Lord Require of You?
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 1 (January – March) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.