Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Complete Joy

Recently this passage of scripture came to mind. Why I’m not quite sure, other than there are days that my joy seems less than complete. Likely it’s because I’ve not talked to God or asked anything in Jesus’ Name.

John 16:24 Jesus tell us; “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (NIV)

For years I’ve had a struggle with this verse. For one, I think I’ve asked for many things in His Name and have yet to receive them all. Frankly few have been answered as I’ve asked. But don’t get me wrong, I don’t doubt God’s veracity to answer prayer, but I do often wonder about my alignment with the divine equation necessary for COMPLETE JOY.

First let me say, as this passage is read from the New International Version it’s very clear that complete joy is the intention of God delivering on our requests. But the question is: do we have pure motives when we ask?

Therein lays the challenge.

Jesus’ half brother James tells us that often we ask God for something and the answer is delayed or not given because our motives are NOT in alignment with God’s.

James 4:3 “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (NIV)

It seems that the only pure motive to ask is when it’s not for our pleasure. And my pleasure is NOT the kind of joy Jesus is talking about. Jesus is referring to a joy that is other-centric not ego-centric. Jesus is speaking of the advance of His Father’s Kingdom. Not ours.

The issue really seems to be about if we are for the Father’s Kingdom or ours? And at the rate we’re going these days, I’m not sure if I can realistically sort out the two.

I mean if I can market a great idea, people may buy it and I will feel blessed and will feel joyful, but is that the kind of joy that Jesus was speaking about?

I’m still thinking about these matters. I’m still thinking about COMPLETE JOY and what that looks like on a day to day basis for the average Christian. Not just the super-Christian that has a lot of things going for them, but the kind of Christian that has a job that sucks and lives in a not so nice neighborhood and drives an old car and has a wife and kids that gripe and complain that they want MORE in life, but the average Joe-Christian just can’t seem to deliver, beyond the simple pay check.

Sometimes I think that we’ve taken the people who would be type-A driven achievers anyway and stood them up as God’s-examples-of-successful-Christianity. And I’m not sure if that’s who He sent Jesus to actually find?

I heard somewhere (a John Maxwell conference I believe) that only 7% of the world’s populations are born leaders. The rest of us are born developmentally and leadership skill challenged. Oh there is no doubt about it that we can increase our influence and success quotient by hard work and tenacity, but COMPLETE JOY? That’s a whole other ball game.

Some weeks back I had a chance to visit an old friend that was and still is a member of a church I had the privilege to pastor. This dear saint has little to nothing in life. She never did and in her later days will not. BUT, she lives with COMPLETE JOY. Not because she has a fancy home to while away her retirement years in. On the contrary, she lives in a small low income elderly housing apartment. She can hardly walk or speak anymore. Bad knees and a stroke have all but incapacitated her. If it were not for her lift chair and walker she would need 24 hour assistance.

Yet while we visited, she wept at how good God has been to her. She prayed for me and my family and asked God to bless and favor us. She even prayed in tongues and worshiped God in celebration of our time together. It was sweet and POWERFUL.

If I were to compare this woman’s life with many of my successful Christian friends and pastor friends; this woman would have zero for stuff amassed in life or influence on humankind. In terms of COMPLETE JOY and treasure stored in heaven; that’s another story.

So the next time you ask the Lord for something, check your motives and ask yourself if you are asking for the COMPLETION of your JOY; or for your own PLEASURE. There is a big difference.

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