God’s Well of Joy
2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
This is an if then statement. If something exists then something else will come from it. The result of what Paul asks the folks to focus on is his joy being complete. This completed joy is really the sharing of what is joyful from someone else. When something really great happens, then it is compounded in a positive way when we share it with others. So, your joy shared completes my joy in you.
Context of course is anxiety, fear and pressure that comes from Paul being in prison and therefore, unmet expectations concerning what God is doing in both their lives and the life of Paul.
If God is wise, strong and loving how can he be good and we have this level of trouble?
This passage points to three things that are a well of joy in every circumstance for the follower of Jesus:
- There is encouragement from Christ
- There is comfort in the love of God
- There is the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
The result of this is joy shared in these experiences. It is as if Paul is saying to them, this is where I find my joy, look here!
Next week we will look at the corporate bond of unity expressed in a united way of thinking and purpose that makes all of us useful to the kingdom of God!
Ok, so what are the things that create the well of joy that Paul draws from?
- Encouragement that Comes from Jesus
Root of the word is courage. To encourage is to give courage to. To discourage is to take courage away. Encouragement causes people to endure. Discouragement causes people to quit because they do not see the point in maintaining the current course in the face of their difficulties. Encouragement vs. Discouragement
- Fellowship in Suffering
Pain is incredibly isolating. It screams for our attention and demands we attend to it. It creates open ended scenarios that threaten to fill our entire lives with bitterness! Feeling isolated it is easy to give up! How do we deal with the isolation of our suffering? We find fellowship in it. With who?
- With witnesses before us. And we are becoming witnesses too!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
- With Jesus Consider Jesus!
Jesus walked this path. There was no one like Jesus in His person, in His gifting, in His understanding, in His calling, in His ministry. There is no one like Him. Consider Jesus!
The Garden prayer: No one praying with Him. No one waking with Him. My God, My God, Why have you forsaken Me?
How did it feel and what was the result of His faithfulness? Was the isolation forever? No. And so the author of Hebrews connects these believers to the faith of those in the Old Testament. When faith becomes sight, then there is no longer any need for faith. So much of our struggle is just with the whole concept of having to live by faith.
- Look to Jesus
I might even say look for Jesus! Like Stephen at his stoning. But at least begin by repeating to God what Jesus said in the Garden. Nevertheless, not my will but your will be done! And in chapter 3 of Philippians Paul says, this is what is important to Him:
8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ …
10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
If you experience trouble in life because of the manner of life that Jesus has brought you to, then you are sharing in Jesus’ sufferings. Some people hate God. It’s as simple as that. And they live a toxic life as a result. And that makes them even angrier at their very existence!
- You are God’s child
In a very real sense if you do not see any difficulty that following Jesus causes in your life, then you should question your relationship with Christ. You should at least recognize the struggle within yourself to obey in the face of your own sinful desire.
5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
So, the first part of the well of joy is encouragement that comes from Jesus! Next we should consider the love of God for us.
- Comfort That Comes from God’s Love
In the midst of painful suffering, whether it is natural in the fallen world in which we live: Weather calamities, geological calamities etc. or whether it is the result of sinful men who are in rebellion against God, God has this to say:
16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now… 24 For in this hope we were saved. 25 …if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- What Does God’s Love Look Like?
10 Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.
11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
- God proves His love personally
Suffering and not knowing what to do: God gives the Spirit to help us to pray and promises to make all things work out for our good.
Without ignoring the terrible circumstances that we find ourselves in at times, God reinforces that He chose us to be His adopted children, there are no accidental adoptions!
If God is for us what does it matter who else is against us? Who would you rather have as an ally? Lol. Nothing can separate you from the love of God.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Corrie Ten Boom
- Ask God to Show You His Love
Ephesians 3: 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
This is a powerful prayer of Paul for the Ephesians. It is his prayer for you through them!
Where does Paul’s personal knowledge of the love of God for him come from?
I Tim 1: 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
This love of God surpasses knowledge. It just is. Do not think you deserve it, you do not. Just like disobedient children are loved by their parents!
When I think about why I have a relationship with God, I do not think about my Bible knowledge, my prayers, my encouragement of others to follow Jesus, my serving the needs of others. I think that God loves me, He has chosen me and revealed Himself to me. That’s it. All of those other things are incomplete, they are too weak to sustain the weight of my pride, my lack of self-control and my greedy nature. The only thing that sustains me is the knowledge of the love of God. And I know that He loves me because He has shown me His love in my life in concrete ways over and over again.
So, we find joy in encouragement that comes from Jesus, love that comes from God the Father and finally, (participation with the Spirit)
III. Experiencing the Holy Spirit
As we experience the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives, then we will see His fruit. Joy is #2
- Jesus is gone and the Spirit has come
And the ministry of the kingdom of God is exactly the same!
- The Holy Spirit is the power of God in you
The power of God to do what? His will. The power to say no to what does not give life and the power to say yes to what will give life.
The Holy Spirit is the wisdom of God in you as well. He leads us into truth. He teaches. He enliven the Word and it’s ministry in our lives. The Bible corrects, trains, teaches and rebukes us. But the Bible does not do this apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with power to do God’s will
Power to speak in tongues? Not good enough.
Power to make you happy and laugh a lot? Not good enough.
God has a design for your life, it looks like you exhibiting His image. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. You are to follow Jesus, to look like Him. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you power to exhibit this image. And then believe that He will give you that ability and take steps of faith.
I was born without arms.
That is the best way to summarize my story. I stepped into suffering at birth. My physical body is a billboard for my pain. This has brought mocking, cruel jokes, stares, and the constant feeling that I am not like anyone else that I meet.
I have never been able to hide. Many people can bury their pain, but my heartache is written all over my two empty sleeves. Those sleeves tell a story without my mouth ever saying a word. My pain almost swallowed me. But Christ showed me how much greater he was than my empty sleeves.
I used to think that being born without arms was the most horrible thing that could happen to a person. In Christ, he has helped me say that the worst and most painful thing that has ever happened to me is also the best thing that has ever happened to me.
I am thankful for my pain. All of the frustration that has come with it has reaped a bounty that I never could have produced on my own. God stepped in and carried me along in my weakness, letting me taste his strength, grace, and love in new ways. In my pain, he has magnified so many of his attributes.
I have always been drawn to C.S. Lewis and his perspective on pain. Lewis had tasted pain in ways that few can relate to. He lost his mother at an early age, saw his dad emotionally abandon him, suffered from a respiratory illness as a teenager, fought and was wounded in World War I, and finally had to bury his beloved wife. Through all of this, Lewis wrote about all of his heartache in his work The Problem of Pain. In this work, Lewis penned one of his most famous lines:
Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
We are most keenly aware of God’s character in our suffering. It is when our self-sufficiency is peeled away that we see how weak we really are. It is in that moment of weakness that, as God tells Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “my power is made perfect in weakness.” It is in our pain that God has us taste his power most intimately.
I see the reality of Lewis’s statement clearly in my own life. God has shouted to me through my pain and reminded me of his truth. As the mocking words of men fell on my heart like an avalanche, God showed me that it is only his words that bring life (Psalm 119:25). It was in my brokenness that I saw God’s true strength as he carried me along. It was in seeing my shattered identity as a disabled boy that I could see the beauty of being a blood-bought son (Romans 8:15). God used my hurt so that he could clearly write the lessons of his grace on my heart and set my affections on him (Psalm 119:67).
One of the most interesting realities of suffering is that our personal pain also speaks to those around us. Our pain becomes God’s megaphone to a watching world. The world gravitates to the cancer patient who has hope and peace. Bystanders are astounded over the parents who cling to the Good Father as they bury their own child. My friends are taken back when I can shrug off hateful words of my disability and turn my focus to what God says about me.
Our pain gives us a platform. The question becomes then, what am I saying to the world in the midst of my pain? Do I let my faith become the product of my circumstances or is God still good even if my circumstances are not? The scope of his character and grace do not change when suffering comes. As I trust God, even in my heartache, I let my life speak of a hope that extends well beyond what we can see or touch.