Sorrow Transformed

Posted: December 21, 2015 in John, Uncategorized
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John 16:16-24, “Sorrow Transformed”

Transformation can be a beautiful thing.  The classic example is that of a caterpillar undergoing metamorphosis and coming out of its cocoon as a butterfly.  But there are other transformations just as beautiful.  I think of my daughter going through the process of leaving childhood and becoming a young woman.  I think of the men & women here who have become totally new creations through the mercies and grace of Jesus Christ.  We once were vile sinners, totally lost in our complacency & rebellion – but now we’re the children of God, born anew by God the Holy Spirit.  Each single Christian in the room is a wonderful example of transformation!

Of course, things other than people can be transformed.  Attitudes can change, going from apathy to passion.  Circumstances can change, going from hopeless to victorious.  Emotions can change too, even for those who are believers in Jesus Christ.  For the disciples, Jesus spoke to them about their emotions transforming from sadness to joy.  It’s the transformation that is key.  After all, Jesus never once denies the fact that the disciples will face sorrow (on the contrary, He guarantees it).  Yet their sorrow would not remain sorrowful.  Like a transforming caterpillar, that sorrow would become something totally different.  It would turn to joy, and that joy would be abundant and everlasting.  What is it that would make the difference?  The resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The resurrection changes everything.

At this point in the Upper Room discourse, Jesus is beginning to draw things to a close.  The teaching He gave that night seems to have come a bit in spurts, but however long it lasted, it was almost over.  Soon Jesus would pray for His disciples, pray for Himself, and finally enter into the hour of His suffering.  It was for that hour that Jesus was trying to prepare the disciples throughout the evening, beginning from the Passover supper on through the night.  Of course the Passover itself pictured Jesus’ soon sacrifice upon the cross, but John’s gospel concentrates on the events that took place following the dinner.  Jesus had girded Himself with a towel, and took on the role of a servant, washing the disciples’ feet.  In doing so, He was illustrating the kind of extreme service He was about to give them (and the rest of the world), while at the same time giving them an example to go and do likewise.  Jesus spoke of His betrayal – He predicted the denial of Peter – He spoke of His return to God the Father & oneness with God the Father – He spoke of the Holy Spirit who would follow after Him, picking up where Jesus left off.  He also spoke openly of the trials and hatred that the disciples would experience because of their abiding faith in Jesus, but that the Holy Spirit would help them through those times as well.  In the meantime, the disciples were to abide in Christ, love one another, and to depend upon God in prayer.

So now, as Jesus starts to wrap up the time, He tells them of His soon departure one more time, purposefully in a way to get the disciples thinking.  He knew what lay ahead during the next few hours for the disciples: incredible grief and sorrow.  But that sorrow is precisely what would transform into everlasting joy. 

John 16:16–24
16 “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.”

  1. If the statement seems a bit veiled, it is.  Looking back from the viewpoint of 2000 years of Christian history and theology, we can readily figure out what Jesus meant (if by no other means, simply by reading ahead just a few verses in the text).  But try to imagine it with fresh ears, and from the viewpoint of the disciples.  All night long, Jesus had spoken of leaving, so although they didn’t like it, they probably understood at least that much.  But what about the part of them seeing Jesus again after “a little while”?  When Jesus started speaking to them earlier in the evening, Jesus clearly told them that He would come back again to receive them to Himself (14:3) – but that would be an event further in the future (i.e. the rapture).  Although it’s unlikely the disciples understood that evening quite how far out the rapture would be, they knew it wouldn’t be in the next few days.  Certainly, it would be considered “a little while.”  It would take time for Jesus to prepare the dwelling places for them, and they were also to expect the Helper while Jesus was gone.  So if that event was the future, what did Jesus mean here?
  2. It might even be confusing for some people today.  There have been some various thoughts in interpretation.  Some believe that Jesus is indeed referencing His 2nd Coming, with the “little while” being figurative.  Others believe that Jesus is referring to the new ministry of the Holy Spirit, since Jesus just came out of that context.  Yet although the Holy Spirit could truly be called the Spirit of Christ, it would still seem to confuse the Persons of the Trinity too much.  The simplest (though not simplistic) explanation is likely the best.  Chronologically speaking, the cross was just hours away.  Soon Jesus would be arrested, tried, beaten, & crucified unto death.  Assuming Jesus was speaking the disciples late Thursday night (10-11pm?), then Jesus would be dead in less than 17 hours, when He’d be buried prior to sundown on Friday afternoon/evening.  Truly in a “little while,” the disciples would not see Jesus.  He’d be physically hidden from them in the grave.  Going on from there, in another “little while,” (sunrise Sunday morning) Jesus would be risen from the grave, and He would physically appear to the disciples on Sunday evening when they were hiding behind locked doors (Jn 20:19).  Thus everything Jesus said, while perhaps a bit veiled, was 100% accurate.  These events could be counted in hours; not weeks, months, or years.  It was just a little while, and they would see these things unfold with their own eyes.
  3. What about the last part of Jesus’ statement? “…because I go to the Father.”  That is something that would take weeks, being that the ascension took place 40 days after Jesus rose from the grave.  Even here, Jesus’ statement is true because the “little while” refers to the disciples seeing Him prior to His departure to the Father.  They would have to see Him before He ascended, and they would indeed be physical eyewitnesses to His ascension.
    1. Technically, not every Bible translation contains this phrase because it is missing from the oldest Greek manuscripts.  It is, however, included in the vast majority of manuscripts & spread out widely across geographical lines, so an argument could be made that it is original.  Either way, the doctrine is absolutely accurate & Jesus made the exact same statement about going to the Father earlier that night in 14:12 & 16:10 (neither of which are disputed).
  4. We’ll look at the disciples’ confusion in a moment, but if we’re being honest, even those of us who know about the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus can get confused about it.  After all, why was it even necessary?  The death of Jesus was the planned will of God, but why?  Even if we know that Jesus’ death was a sacrifice for sin, why did it have to be that way?  If God desired to forgive us, couldn’t He just wave His hand (so to speak) and let it be done?  Why would anything be necessary if God desired to forgive?  Isn’t forgiveness simply a choice that God could have exercised?  To speak to some people, they question why Jesus’ death (or any death) is necessary at all.  It seems so unjust from their perspective.  In reality, it is exactly the opposite.  It is not injustice for God to require a sacrifice for sin; in truth, justice demands it.  So make something just/right isn’t simply a matter of pretending that circumstances are different; it’s actually doing something to make them different.  When we “justify” a scale, we’re making the necessary adjustments to ensure that the scale will read accurately.  When justice is done in a criminal sense, there is action that is taken to ensure proper retribution.  We’ve seen what happens when high-profile criminal trials do not result in convictions: there’s a sense that justice is left undone & there is a lot of unrest in response.  That’s all from a human perspective, but what about from God’s perspective.  God is perfect in all His ways & in all of His character.  When we say that God is “just,” we mean that He is perfectly just – He is the very standard by which all justice is judged.  So when God sees something that is unjust, something must be done in order to make it right.  It cannot be ignored, for God (in His omniscience) would always know that the injustice remains.  Thus, there is action, and thus there is death.  The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23).  When there is sin/injustice, something has to die.  It’s the only way to right what went wrong.  This is where the idea of sacrifice comes in.  WE don’t want to die, but something still has to die, and thus animals were sacrificed to die in the place of men & women.  The problem is that animals are not equivalent to humans, so all men & women still have an outstanding problem with sin.  That finally brings us to the good news of Jesus.  In Jesus, God became a man (being born of a virgin in Bethlehem), thus it was possible for Jesus to be an equal sacrifice for us.  He could (and did) serve in our place when He died on the cross.  Without the death of Jesus on our behalf, we would have faced death and eternal judgment (physical AND spiritual death).  Because of Jesus, now we only face physical death, but we have the promise of spiritual life AND resurrected physical life.  That is why Jesus had to die.  It was the only way to satisfy the infinite justice of God.  We couldn’t do it, so God did it in our place.
    1. Bottom line: forgiveness isn’t possible by ignoring sin; it’s made possible by dealing with sin.  Jesus dealt with sin when He died on the cross & rose from the grave.  That (and that alone) is the reason we can experience the forgiveness of God.
    2. BTW – that’s also the reason we can forgive one another.  Just as much as Jesus died for your sins, Jesus died for everyone else’s sins.  What right do we have to hold onto the debt of someone else?  We are just as guilty, and God forgave us by the acts of Christ.  Thus we can release the debts of others.  Not because they did anything to deserve it, but because Jesus already did everything that was necessary.

17 Then some of His disciples said among themselves, “What is this that He says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?” 18 They said therefore, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is saying.”

  1. The sticking point for the disciples was the “little while.”  They couldn’t understand what Jesus meant by it.  They were confused enough by His statements of leaving & resurrection.  Although Jesus had taught of His death & resurrection many times, the disciples never really did grasp it until they witnessed it for themselves.  At this point, not only is Jesus going back to the ideas of death & resurrection, but He’s also putting a timeframe on it.  This was simply beyond their capability to understand.
    1. Keep in mind, it’s not as if they were stupid.  These men may have had simple lives, but they were not simple-minded.  They were fishermen, but they weren’t imbeciles.  They were just like you & me.  They were people who wanted to serve & worship the Lord – they were men who just wanted to see the glory of God.  They were well-versed in the Old Testament Scriptures, and they knew how to talk to the people around them.  They didn’t have a lack of intelligence, but they did have a lack of understanding.
    2. The reason why is obvious: they hadn’t seen it yet.  Again, we look back with 2000 years of history – we have the completed canon of Scripture (OT & NT) – we have knowledge that they had not yet been blessed with.  At the time, they did not even have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  They were just doing the best they could with what they had…it just wasn’t enough.
  2. They did make one mistake.  Notice to whom they spoke: “some of His disciples said among themselves”  Apparently, the disciples were having a conversation with one another throughout the night about the things Jesus was saying…but they never once asked Jesus.  Jesus was still in the room with them, and none of them bothered to ask.  Why not? Perhaps they were embarrassed by their lack of understanding – perhaps they were afraid they might get chastised by the Lord – we don’t know, as the Scripture doesn’t tell us.  What we do know is that whatever confusion they had lasted a lot longer than it needed to, as they could have had the answer at any time.
    1. Sometimes we might get theologically confused.  Sometimes we might have questions.  There’s nothing wrong with us when we do.  The only thing that’s wrong is when we don’t do anything to fix it.  We do not have Jesus physically incarnate in the room with us as did the disciples, but we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit – we have the fully completed Scriptures – we have an open invitation from Jesus to come before the Father in prayer – so ask!  We have access to the Living God, so ask HIM to guide you and teach you.  He might give you the answer as you’re praying – He might guide you to the right Scriptures that speak directly to the situation – He might arrange a divine appointment with someone who knows exactly what you’re going through – He might do any number of things, and He can because He is the Living & Active God.

19 Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, “Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’?

  1. Although Jesus certainly had divine knowledge, this isn’t necessarily a case of Him exercising it.  The group was fairly small at this point.  Any side-conversations the disciples had among themselves would have been fairly obvious. It’s rather silly to think that we can keep anything secret from God, but the disciples could not even be subtle about it.
  2. Jesus understood that it was the timing He spoke of that caused all of the confusion.  This “little while” stuff was the sticking point.  The disciples were looking too far ahead, and couldn’t understand how to fit this all together.  They wanted to know the answer, but were too hesitant (for whatever reason) to speak up & ask, so Jesus took the initiative to explain it to them.

20 Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.

  1. The bottom line for all of this “little while” stuff is that Jesus was going away.  No matter how many times Jesus prepared the disciples for this, they still didn’t want it to happen.  Who would?  From our perspective, we can look back with supreme gratefulness that Jesus left them, because if He hadn’t, He would never have gone to the cross & we would never be saved.  But if we had been standing alongside the 11 disciples at that time, we would be just as fearful of Jesus’ leaving.  We would be just as hesitant and uncertain.  Like the disciples, we would have been caught up in the moment, gripped by fear.
  2. Jesus promises three things.  First, the disciples would grieve, and their grief would be great.  He tells them “you will weep & lament” – that’s not exactly a promise from God that most of us would want to hear, much less memorize from our Bible promise books.  Yet it was the truth.  They would wail & engage in all of the mourning that was appropriate to their culture when a loved one died.  Why?  Because that is exactly what was going to happen.  Jesus was going to suffer & die, and the death He was about to experience was horrendous.  Beyond Peter’s denial of Jesus, the gospels never tell us the reactions of the disciples during the events of Friday.  At some point, the apostle John comes to stand at the foot of the cross alongside Jesus’ mother Mary & some other women (19:26), but early on, all of the disciples fled the scene.  But that’s all that’s said.  What went on behind closed doors is unknown to us.  How they reacted when they saw the whips tear across Jesus’ back, or the spikes driven through His hands & feet is unsaid.  No doubt they wept & lamented.  It was a grievous time for them.  Surely the air was thick with sadness when Jesus was buried and lay in the tomb.  It would have felt like the end of their world.
    1. We can relate to a lot of the experiences of the disciples, but it’s doubtful that we can truly relate to this.  Thankfully, none of us will ever know the pain of seeing our Lord & Savior crucified, killed & buried, with all of the uncertainty of what would come next.  That was done once, never to be done again (praise the Lord!).  Yet we do know sorrow.  We do know doubt & grief.  It is not the same as the disciples, but we have sorrows of our own.  Jesus never told us it would be otherwise.  Sometimes we get the idea that Christians are always supposed to be happy, without any care in the world.  That’s simply not the case.  We will have sorrows, and Jesus knows it.  The good news isn’t a lack of sorrows; it’s the plan that God has to use them.
  3. Second, “the world will rejoice.”  Along with the sorrow of the disciples would be the added trouble of the rejoicing of the world.  The enemies of Jesus gloated over Him as He hung upon the cross, and the devil & his demons surely shouted out in evil glee when Jesus gave His last breath.  It’s one thing to grieve; it’s another to have your face rubbed in it.  Yet that’s exactly what the disciples could look forward to.  Thankfully, it wouldn’t last…
  4. Third, the grief of the disciples would be transformed.  The sorrow of the disciples would be temporary.  It would (in a literal translation) “become” joy.  (Greek word order is different: “The sorrow of yours into joy will become.”)  The idea isn’t so much replacement, but transformation.  The joy would not come unless the sorrow came first.  It would be the sorrow itself that experienced the transformation.  What would it look like?  Childbirth…

21 A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.

  1. It may seem weird for a man to speak about the pain of childbirth – but remember that this is Jesus, so cut Him some slack. J  Childbirth is painful, extremely so (from what I understand) – something so bad that many husbands develop a whole new respect for their wives as they watch them endure their suffering.  Yet when the birth goes well, how long does it take for the mother’s cries of anguish to be turned into tears of joy?  All it takes is that first baby’s cry or that first touch from the babe she had carried for 9 months.  In that instant, the pain is forgotten.  Don’t misunderstand – it’s not that her body does not still feel the after-effects, or that her brain can never remember what it felt like in labor – but the immediate intense pain is over, and it has been taken over by something greater: intense joy.
  2. Yet how did the joy come?  Through the pain.  If the pain never came, then it means the mother would not have done into labor & the baby would never have been born.  The pain was necessary for the joy.  The pain isn’t simply replaced; it’s completely transformed.  The same experience that brings forth one brings forth the other.  That’s Jesus’ point for the disciples in vs. 22.  The grief & sorrow that the disciples were about to experience were necessary.  These were the very natural responses that would accompany Jesus’ death upon the cross.  But their sorrows would be transformed into joy.
  3. As an aside – before we leave this, please note how Jesus refers to the newborn baby here: as “a human being.” Technically, the word Jesus used was the word for “man,” with the obvious context referring to a “human.”  But the point is that the child wasn’t less than human when he/she was still living inside the womb; he/she was always human even through the moments of birth.  One of the biggest arguments made by abortion supporters is that the baby inside a mother isn’t really a baby, but rather just a “clump of cells.”  Wrong.  That baby is human, which becomes clearly apparent on any 4D ultrasound.  Location does not determine humanity, as if a baby is not human in-utero, but all of a sudden human when born.  That baby is always human, and needs to be cared for as such.

22 Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.

  1. Jesus knew something else about the disciples’ sorrow.  It wasn’t just future; it was present.  Jesus hadn’t yet left them, and they were already grieving.  Again, this is natural.  This is something that the disciples had been experiencing all night long.  Jesus began His teaching in 14:1 telling them not to be troubled, knowing that “trouble” was exactly what all of their hearts were currently experiencing.  They didn’t have to fear the future, though their fear was natural.  Their grief was natural as well, and though they already experienced a taste of it in the present time, it would start in earnest in just a few hours.
  2. But Jesus also knew that their grief wouldn’t last.  When the disciples saw Him, they would “rejoice.”  Not only would their sorrow be transformed into joy, it would be transformed into everlasting joy.  This joy would be something that “no one [could] take” from them.  This is joy that is not only promised, but protected.  This is joy that would last forever.
  3. What makes the difference?  The resurrection.  In childbirth, a baby comes into the world.  In the resurrection, Jesus comes out of the tomb.  Jesus comes out of death.  Death itself is defeated, and its sting & pain is forever gone.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ is THE event which transforms the sorrow of the disciples into joy.  On Friday, Saturday, and during the earliest hours on Sunday, the disciples experienced grief on a scale that can hardly be imagined.  We’ve all lived through the death of loved ones in the past, and depending on your relationship to them, it may have felt like more than you can handle.  But if there’s one thing none of us have experienced, it’s the death of God.  The 11 remaining disciples had confessed their faith in Jesus, believing Him to be God…and then they see a sealed tomb, knowing that His body lay behind the stone, cold & dead.  We can only imagine that level of grief.  Yet that grief was transformed into something greater: pure, unshakable joy.  There’s a reason that the apostles would rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer shame on behalf of Jesus (Acts 5:41) – they knew Jesus was risen from the dead!  If Jesus is truly risen, it didn’t matter what the world did, or how they reacted.  Why?  Because Jesus had overcome the world! (Jn 16:33)
    1. The resurrection still makes all of the difference.  Again, we don’t experience the same sorrows & griefs as did the disciples, but we do have sorrow of our own.  If nothing else, we sorrow over our sin.  We grieve how we rebelled against God when we were nonbelievers, and we mourn how we still fall into temptation and failures as believers.  Yet we don’t have to live in that grief & sorrow.  Why?  Because Jesus is risen from the dead!  His resurrection is the proof that He offers life & forgiveness of sin.  His resurrection is proof that He has overcome the world.  His resurrection is proof of our own resurrection to come – the same resurrection that is available to anyone who would turn to Him in repentance and faith.  Jesus is raised, and our sorrows are transformed!
    2. Is your sorrow transformed?  Believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ!
  4. The resurrection is wonderful, but that’s not all Jesus has to say about it.  Remember there’s more to Jesus’ work than the resurrection – there is also the ascension.  The disciples will not see Him, then see Him again, and then He goes to the Father.  The disciples would see the risen Jesus, but eventually they would not even see that.  Vs. 23…

23 “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.

  1. In what day?  In the day that Jesus is no longer with them.  Right now, the disciples could ask Jesus anything (though they didn’t), but eventually they would not have the opportunity.  It’s not that they couldn’t pray, but they couldn’t physically look into the eyes of Jesus, ask their question, and watch Jesus open His mouth & audibly hear His voice telling them the answer.  Once Jesus ascended to the Father, they would ask Him “nothing.”  But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t ask.  On the contrary, they had an open invitation to go to God in prayer! 
  2. There would just be one change: they would pray to the Father in Jesus’ name.  To this point, when the disciples prayed, they prayed to the Father based on what?  Themselves.  Yes, all the people of God throughout the Old Testament were invited to seek God in prayer, and they would come based upon the mercies of God – but ultimately they were coming their own names, praying that hopefully God might hear them & grant them an audience.  Yet how were the disciples to pray in the future?  In Jesus’ name.  They would no longer pray based upon anything in themselves – they had nothing to offer anyway.  They would pray based upon the work of Jesus in the resurrection – they would pray based on the fact that Jesus told them to pray – they would pray based on the fact that Jesus was with the Father, and had personally invited them to pray.  When the disciples would pray in the future, it would not be based upon the authority of mere men; it would be based upon the authority of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ.
    1. This is what it means when we pray in Jesus’ name.  So often when we utter the words “in Jesus’ name,” at the end of our prayer, all we’re doing is uttering words.  We’re just saying a phrase without thought or meaning.  Perhaps we heard it from someone else when they were praying, so we thought we ought to include it in our prayers.  To pray in the name of Jesus is not merely to sign off our time with God (10-4 good buddy!) – it’s not some sort of magical incantation to help ensure that we’ll really get what we’re praying for – it’s a statement that we’re coming to God based upon the person of Jesus Christ alone, because Jesus died for us, Jesus rose again, and Jesus invites us to pray.
  3. Notice what praying Jesus’ name says about Jesus: it says that He is God.  At this point in time, while Jesus was still physically standing in front of the disciples, they might ask Jesus questions from time to time, but they didn’t pray to Him.  When they prayed, they prayed to God the Father.  Yet once Jesus ascends & is personally involved in their prayers, what does this mean?  It means that Jesus hears their prayers…it means that Jesus is God.  The Bible declares that there is one mediator between God & man, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Tim 2:5).  The reason Jesus can be our mediator is because He is both God AND man.  No one else can claim this.  There is a reason the Bible never instructs the Christian to pray to Mary, to the disciples, or to any of the saints of the past…they cannot be our mediators.  They cannot hear our prayers.  They cannot interact with our prayers.  This is something that is only possible for Jesus.  Jesus is the God-Man, and thus He is perfectly suited not only to stand in our behalf in front of God as we pray, but personally hear our prayers as well.
  4. Jesus told the disciples to pray in His name for a couple of reasons. (1) They would receive what it was they asked for, and (2) they would have joy.  Vs. 24…

24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

  1. One thing the disciples could be assured of when they prayed in Jesus’ name would be an answer to their prayers.  In vs. 23, Jesus promised that the Father would give them what they asked; here He reaffirms that the disciples would receive what the Father gave.  This isn’t the first time during the night that Jesus taught this.  Back in 14:13, Jesus promised to do anything that the disciples asked in His name.  In 15:16, Jesus spoke about the fruit of love that would abide within the disciples, and as it did, the Father would give them whatever they asked in Jesus’ name.  Here in 16:23-24, Jesus basically says the same thing.  Remember that this is not a blank-check to get anything that our hearts may desire.  Jesus is not our genie or our butler; He’s God, to whom we humbly pray.  But Jesus does promise to act…repeatedly so.  God answers prayer.
  2. That seems like such an obvious statement to make in church, but it needs to be said.  If I was to ask for a show of hands as to who believes that God answers prayer, we’d see the vast majority of hands in the room shoot up.  That’s the “good Christian” answer, after all.  Yet if we privately took an anonymous poll, we might find some different results.  It’s not unusual to talk to Christians privately who wonder if God ever hears them when they pray.  They wonder if God ever answers prayer, because it sure feels to them as if He never does.  They wonder about the point of prayer, if all we’re doing is speaking on our end, but never seeing any response from God on His end.  Christian, hear this clearly, based solely on the authority of Scripture: when we pray in Jesus’ name, God not only hears us, but He answers us.  God.Answers.Prayer.
    1. That doesn’t mean there’s always an easy answer for the times we don’t believe we get a response to prayer.  Many pastors in the past have summed up God’s answers to prayer in three ways: “Yes – No – Wait.”  There’s some truth to that, but it can be rather simplistic.  That’s not very satisfying when we’re watching a loved one die of a horrible disease.  That’s a tough pill to swallow when we’re struggling with something & we don’t see a way out.  There are times that simple answers won’t satisfy.  Faith does.  We need faith in the word of God, and in the promises of Jesus Christ, and Jesus promised to answer prayer.  Three times in three chapters, Jesus promised that God would answer any and all prayers offered in His name.  We have got to trust that He does. Even if we never see what it is God is doing, we need to have faith that God IS doing something.  Why?  Because Jesus said He would, and His word is enough.
    2. What does that mean for us as believers?  It means that we pray – and we keep praying.  Whether we see the answer we’re looking for or not, we keep praying with the assurance that God IS answering our prayer according to His will & His glory.  We pray with readiness – we pray with confidence, because we know that God will never break His word and promise.  God is working with every prayer, every time it is offered in the name of Jesus.  So pray!  Pray knowing that God hears you.  Pray knowing that the Living God is paying attention & He knows your needs and your situation better than you do.  Pray knowing that He will give you exactly what you need in the moment that you need it…and many times that moment comes while we’re praying.   
  3. What is one guaranteed result of prayer?  Joy.  Full joy – completed joy – joy to the utmost – joy that is fully satisfying.  Jesus tells the disciples (and us) to ask, in order that our joy may be full.  Is our joy connected with the answer to prayer?  Yes, but it’s more than that.  Don’t forget the context: this is still all related with Jesus’ answer to the disciples about His coming resurrection & ascension.  It’s connected with His overall victory over sin & death.  The sorrow of the disciples was going to be transformed into joy that could not be stolen from them, and that joy was something that they could experience in all of its fullness how?  As they prayed.  When we pray, we interact with our Living Lord Jesus.  When we pray, we’re conversing with Almighty God, based on the work of His Son, our Savior.  The very reason we have an invitation to pray to God at all is because Jesus has saved us through His sacrifice at the cross, has risen from the grave, and has showered us with His grace in new life.  We can pray, simply because we are Christians.  The work of Jesus has made us the children of God, and now we can boldly come before the throne of grace, giving all of our requests to God in humility & reverence.  Why do we have joy when we pray?  Because we can pray.  Prayer is possible, something it never was apart from Jesus.
  4. That being the case, what happens when we reverse it?  What would happen for the disciples (and us) if they didn’t go to God in Jesus’ name?  They wouldn’t experience fullness of joy.  If the disciples didn’t pray, they might know the joy of Jesus’ resurrection, but they wouldn’t know the fullness of experiencing that joy because they wouldn’t be interacting with the risen Jesus.  Remember that praying in Jesus’ name & Jesus’ resurrection are related here.  He tied the two things together.  Thus people can be believers, and still not experience the joy of Jesus.  Why?  Because they don’t pray.  Prayerful Christians are joyful Christians.  How could it be any less?  Those who spend time in prayer spend time in the presence of the King!  They converse with the Author of Life!  They draw strength from the Living God!  Of course they would walk in joy…it simply couldn’t be any different.
    1. Is this your experience?  Are you currently experiencing the fullness of joy promised by Jesus?  Jesus didn’t hedge His bets here – He didn’t couch His statement with a bunch of “maybes”…He’s straightforward & clear. “Ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.”  If we’re not walking in full joy as believers, we’re not asking.  We’re not praying.  So pray.

Conclusion:
Joy!  This is what was made available to the disciples & to all Christians everywhere.  Would sorrows come?  Yes…especially for the disciples.  They would have necessary grief because Jesus’ death was necessary.  If Jesus didn’t die, then Jesus couldn’t fulfill the plan of God for our salvation.  We’d be lost in our sin, and all of creation would remain fallen & under the righteous wrath of God.  So yes, sorrow had to come, but that sorrow would be transformed.  Grief would give birth to joy, and that joy would be unshakable.  Jesus is risen from the dead, and His resurrection changes everything.

Because we believe that Jesus lives, now not only can we experience that initial joy, but we can live in the fullness of joy.  When we pray through faith in Jesus, in the name of Jesus, we are interacting with the Living God.  We can trust that God knows us & hears us & acts on our behalf simply because He said He would.  When we pray in Jesus’ name, we are declaring by faith that Jesus is risen from the dead, and that He is God.  And as we spend time in His presence, we are continually transformed by His grace, and we experience the joy that He desires for us.

Let me ask you again: do you know this joy?  Do you want this fullness of joy?  Then pray.  Pray in the name of the resurrected living Lord Jesus Christ, pray often, pray continuously, pray fervently…pray.  Just do it.  Be done making excuses for yourself why you don’t pray, and just start.  That’s what Jesus freely & repeatedly invites us to do, and He promises that we will experience joy as a result.  Put Him to the test on this, and do it.

There is only one caveat: we need to pray in the name of Jesus.  That means we need to come to faith in Jesus, believing Him for who He is & what He’s done.  If you haven’t believed upon Jesus, asking Him to forgive your sins, asking Him to be your Lord & Savior – then it doesn’t really matter how much you pray to God.  You’ve got no access to God to be heard.  But those who go through Jesus DO.  Believe upon Jesus today!  Receive the salvation He offers, and you too and experience the joy He promises.

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