Saturday, September 8, 2012

John 17:11-14

I’m backing up a verse to start our study this morning, as a reminder of the concern Jesus had for His disciples as He prayed for them:

“I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one.  While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.  I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.” (John 17:11-14)

I believe that Jesus anguished over what His disciples would face in the world: the persecution, beatings, imprisonment, and even death. So He asked the Father to protect them. More than physical protection, I think He was asking for spiritual protection, because He referred to how He had protected them while He was with them, and, except for Judas, none was “lost.” They remained in the faith. I think Jesus wanted their hearts protected no matter what they would suffer in the world. Jesus had promised they would have trials in the world, but he knew that the real danger would be in the spiritual realm.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

I love that Jesus said that He was praying for them “so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” Even though they would face hardships, Jesus said they would have JOY! As a new Christian, 36 years ago, one of the first things that struck me was that I was suddenly aware of joy. I had not used that word in my personal vocabulary - even though I was very happy with my life. But joy wasn’t something I really thought about. But once I gave my life to Christ, I experienced that inner joy and peace that only He can give. And I found it was NOT dependent upon my circumstances.

Even in the midst of the worst trials of our lives, we can have Christ’s full measure of joy, because we now have an eternal perspective:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

This is the view that Jesus wanted His disciples to maintain. It’s what He prayed for. And it was an eternal perspective that sustained their joy and sustains ours - even in a world that hates Christians! Yesterday we talked about how our unity is a witness to the world. Well, so is our joy! If we don’t have joy, why would anyone want what we have? Jesus prayed in anguish that we would have the full measure of His joy. Can people see that in us?  

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