Sunday, July 8, 2012

John 16:16-22

I’m so grateful to be back from Washington, DC! I was a delegate to the NEA (National Education Association) Representative Assembly, which included about 8,000 delegates (mostly teachers) from all over the country. It was a long week of meetings from 7:00 am to about 6:00 pm. Delegates had one day for sightseeing - the rest was business! Thankfully we were in air conditioning, because the temperatures ran from 98 - 104, with LOTS of humidity. Great fireworks on the 4th! I was reminded at this convention that teaching is not what I DO, it is who I AM. I love that!

But I feel like I’ve been in a desert and am so glad to be back into God’s Word!!! It’s been a while, so just want to remind you that in this chapter Jesus is speaking to his disciples as He prepares them for His arrest and crucifixion.

“In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” Some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?”  They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.” (John 16:16-18)

Jon Courson, in his Application Commentary, finds humor in the fact that the disciples start murmuring in confusion to one another, rather than taking their questions directly to Jesus: “Here the disciples are discussing things about Him when they should have been talking to Him... I’m always amazed at how ready I am to talk to another person - when it is the Lord alone who knows the solution.” (Courson, P. 570)

Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’?  I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.  A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.  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.” (vs.19-22)

Courson points out that the disciples had left everything (family, friends, business) to follow Christ for three years, and now He’s telling them He’s leaving them. No wonder they were confused! But Jesus affirms that the grief they will feel will eventually be replaced with joy. He uses the illustration of the woman in childbirth who is suffering great pain in the process. In fact the very thing that is causing the pain is what will bring her great joy. Here’s where Courson makes a remarkable observation that blew me away!

“Yes, there’s pain and struggle, perspiration and anguish. But yet it’s the very object that produced the pain that provides the joy when the baby is finally born. In other words, Jesus says, ‘My leaving, My being crucified, My death is going to cause you great joy when you see me again in heaven, when you finally understand it was necessary for Me to go to Calvary in order that your sins be forgiven completely.’

“When you go through pain, the Lord does not take away that which caused the pain and replace it with something else to bring joy. It is not substitution, but transformation as He produces joy with the very thing that once caused pain.” (Courson, P. 570)

Here’s what I take from this that I find mind-boggling! It is NOT the answer to prayer that produces the ultimate joy; it is the need for prayer (the situation that makes us turn to Him), the struggling in prayer, the WAITING for the answer that is what transforms us and actually brings joy! All of those things that have been negative and hurtful in our lives - the disappointments, the struggles, the betrayals, the losses, the financial and health crises - these are what God uses in our lives to transform us and make us people God can use for His glory and our joy.

Courson uses the example of Joseph in the Old Testament. Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused and thrown into prison for years, then finally brought to the place of second in command in Egypt so that God could use him to save the Jewish nation, from which the Messiah would come! Joseph utters one of my favorite statements in all of the Bible when, facing his brothers and looking back on it all, he declares, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen 50:20)

Joseph did not merely put a happy face on the situation. He acknowledged the evil intention of his brothers. What they had done was WRONG! However, Joseph saw that the sovereign God of the universe works ALL things together for good for those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) That was the key to Joseph’s being able to forgive and love his brothers freely.

What struggles have you gone through that have been excruciatingly painful? What betrayals have been unbearably hurtful? In your struggle to overcome or forgive, don’t be looking for something to REPLACE the hurt, rather look to the object causing the pain and ask God to help you see it with His eternal perspective, so that you may find joy in your transformation! God will use the very thing which causes the pain to bring great joy to you and glory to His name! Amen?  

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