John 16:22 – So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (NIV)
One of the very first Sunday school lessons that I can remember was all about joy. My teacher asked our class what joy was, and we all answered with the usual "being happy", "smiling", and "laughing out loud". She then asked us if we knew what real joy was, which puzzled the class. Hadn't we just explained it to her?
Our teacher put up the letters J-O-Y on her flannelgraph board. "Real joy," she continued, "happens when you put Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last." It was a simple lesson, a beautiful truth, and a lifelong message. I've never forgotten what she said, and I've tried to put it into practice throughout my life. When I do, I rediscover that simple truth again and again.
When Jesus was talking to His disciples about joy, He was referring to the joy of the resurrection. They didn't know it yet, but they were going to be a part of a glorious event that would change their lives and the whole world forever. They would have a short time of grief when Jesus died, but through the miracle of resurrection, their lives would be joyously transformed. They would know of a new joy that would be with them throughout their entire lives — a joy that would last for all of eternity.
These days, some so-called biblical scholars and progressive theologians are trying to take away that joy. They explain the resurrection in terms of symbolism and refute it as an actual reality. They make Jesus out to be a great teacher, but not the Saviour and Lord whom we know. Because of their own academic disillusionment, they have become joy-suckers of the faith that once inspired them. The sad thing is this: the more they try to rationalize the gospels, they less joy they feel in their hearts. They sour the sacred Scriptures and end up academically alone. Instead of putting Jesus first, they have given their own research the priority. In the process, they lose their joy in Christ and let go of their faith in God.
So what's the lesson for today? The same as it was for me almost forty-five years ago. If we want real joy in life, put Jesus first, others second, and yourself last. Try it. You'll find it really works!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, in the midst of all our busy-ness, help us to put You first in our lives. Teach us to take care of others second, and give us the will to put ourselves last. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.
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