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The Surprising Gift Jesus Wants to Give You

I have read the words plenty of times before, so I am not sure why I was so stunned when I read them again this week. Maybe it is the stress of these times or the struggles in MY times, but I came across a word that stood out like

a gold coin sparkling on a dusty patch of road.

Jesus is having a precious conversation with his closest friends and followers on the night of his arrest. Tomorrow he will be dead, so he is doing his best to comfort them and clarify the most important things he wants them to remember. One of those things is found in John 15. Jesus tells them why he has worked so hard to teach and model the good life God has for them. I have said these things to you so tha_________.

Can you fill in the blank?

Did Jesus say, “I have said these things so that you can have all knowledgenope. So that you can be my witnesses and teach others? Good idea but not what he said. So that you can get your act together and fly straight? Not even close. Jesus said the reason for all the parables, sermons, sidebars, and miracles is so that my JOY may be in you and your joy may be complete. Jesus wants to give us joy and a sign that we are catching on to what Jesus is saying and doing is that our joy meter registers higher and higher.

I suppose when I think of it, joy was radiating out of Jesus all along. You can hear it in the playful way he nicknamed his friends, calling that volatile and erratic Simon a “rock” (Peter). Or winking when he dubbed James and John “sons of thunder” who were as likely to call down lightening on an unresponsive audience as showers of blessings.

How else do you explain little children feeling free to play right under his feet, or all the party invitations that came his way (think wedding at Cana and boisterous bashes with tax collectors at Matthew’s house)? Why would Jesus need to defend himself from people who called him a glutton or a drunk (Luke 7:34) if he did not know how to have a good time?

In his most famous sermon, Jesus launched every major point with a joy word: Makarios or Blessed. Blessed are the poor in spirit, mournful, meek and all the rest. “Blessed” is bigger than happiness while including the emotion. Blessed are those in His Kingdom and care because despite tears, hunger, and conflict, we are anchored to the pulse of a joy that never stops beating. Jesus must have glowed with that kind of joy and been the reason why so many found a safe, warm space where they could be themselves while being open to new possibilities.

Of course, we are talking about Joy and not her undependable cousin called Happiness. Happiness shows up if the weather is perfect and everything is going his way. Happiness stays if everyone agrees with him and wants what he wants. Happiness requires circumstances to be nicely stacked in his favor before he appears, but Joy does not pay much attention to the weather.

Joy is at home in blue skies and soggy afternoons. Knows how to smile even when everyone in the room is not happy, or if someone changes the channel without asking. Joy is delighted in things that do not easily shift and knows how to build a warm fire in the coldest of conditions. Joy is not oblivious to harsh circumstances and realities but knows that there are more cards to play than the ones we have been dealt. And Jesus wants us to have his joy and to have it to the point of overflowing.

So how do we tap into this kind of joy? Here are three quick suggestions. First, take a few moments to list the things that currently bring you joy. When I started my list, a quick 10 soon turned to twenty. Then the next day, I began to add another ten and my list continues to grow. No prizes for who has the longest list, but the goal is to first notice that there are currently springs of joy bubbling up around you from which you benefit. Putting your joys on your mental map will be a source of joy in and of itself.

When you develop your list, make some time now to walk among the springs and give thanks. You will notice something about joy as you take time to be grateful. Joy is not waiting for new circumstances to arrive because old joys still have the power to refresh. What delighted you once can delight you again when you visit those moments with a thankful heart.

An old prayer of thanksgiving highlights sources of joy that only grow sweeter with time: our creation, preservation, redemption, the means of grace and hope of glory. When we remember the gift of our heartbeat, and the treasure of a new day, we begin to taste the joy Jesus wants for us. When we consider how God has healed our worst failures and daily provides fresh starts, we are tapping into his joy. When we remind ourselves that his love and goodness stretch down a highway that never ends, we sip a joy that never dries up.

Finally, look at your list and begin to cultivate joy now that you know the dependable places where it can be found. You may see some places on your Joy List that have been neglected for some time. God has a gentle way of guiding you to “still waters” that restore your soul. Pick a spring and drink deep this week. Jesus wants you to because he wants you to know his joy and for your joy to be complete.

I know Jesus did not walk around giggling every moment with a smiley face permanently glued. His face was sometimes tear-streaked, and his heart was anguished. But even in the hardest of times his joy was in view. As the preacher said to his exhausted congregation short on hope and long on complaint, “fix your eyes on Jesus who for the JOY set before Him endured the cross, scorned the shame and finally sat down at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 12:2).” Even a cross didn’t block Jesus’ view of joy.

Let us do the same! Fixing our eyes on Jesus and letting him fill us with his kind of joy. Joy that lifts, laughs, and dances as best as it can. Joy that energizes, propels us forward, and carries us in new directions. And most of all, joy that overflows so that people standing in arms reach get splashed as well.

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