This is an adapted excerpt from In All Things: A Nine-Week Devotional Bible Study on Unshakeable Joy (Multnomah, 2018).
Last words matter.
When someone dies, we often think back to our final conversation, remembering and reflecting on what we said to each other. I hope my final words will be full of love and care for those I leave behind.
On the night before he died, Jesus shared a final meal and conversation with his disciples. Though they didn’t understand that Jesus was about to die, Jesus knew his time was short. What was Jesus concerned about as he prepared to leave those he loved?
The apostle John recorded much of their conversation. In John 14–16 we read that Jesus comforted his disciples and encouraged them to not be troubled. He assured them that although he was going away, he would come back for them. He told them that if they loved him, they would obey him. He explained that the Spirit would come and dwell within them and be with them always.
He also taught them to abide. He told them he was the vine and they were the branches. Apart from Jesus they could do nothing. They’d be dry and useless. But if they would abide in his Word and in prayer, and obey his commandments, they would bear much fruit—all to the glory of God.
We get so caught up in what we’re supposed to do, we often forget the reason Jesus wants us to do what he’s asking.
And then Jesus explained why he was telling them all these things. His answer is somewhat surprising. We get so caught up in what we’re supposed to do, we often forget the reason Jesus wants us to do what he’s asking.
As Jesus spoke these words, he was on his way to the cross. He was preparing to endure unimaginable pain. At this moment, what was on his moind? What goal prompted his last words to those he loved?
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
Jesus was concerned about our joy.
As I write these words right now, my eyes brim with tears. At the height of his own agony, his love desired my joy and yours. It’s unbelievable, isn’t it? For the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross (Heb. 12:2).
And Jesus wasn’t hoping for us to have a little bit of happiness. He wants us to have fullness of joy—overflowing, abundant. Our joy matters to Jesus.
Here’s what Jesus knows. He knows that joy isn’t found in the latest and greatest new gadget. It’s not found in getting our way or having more money, more friends, or more adventures.
Jesus is the source of our joy, and he’s the sustainer of it. Apart from him, our lives are empty, meaningless attempts to find satisfaction. We wander, desperately thirsty until we drink from him. He’s the beginning and end, the alpha and the omega. Every good gift is from his hand, and nothing good exists apart from him. Our desire for joy is ultimately a desire for Jesus.
Your joy matters to Jesus.
In the book of Philippians, we have the opportunity to see genuine joy. Joy begins with salvation and increases as we experience true fellowship, understand Christ’s lordship, partake in Christ’s humility, and obey God’s Word. As we grow in faith, our desires change. We long to know Jesus. We place our hope in heavenly joys rather than earthly circumstances. We pray with thanksgiving rather than fret with anxiety. We give generously to further the work of the gospel.
Just as Paul learned the secret of being content in plenty and in need, as we grow in our dependence on God, we bloom into people of joy. By relying on God, we grow in courage, saying with Paul, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).
The source of our strength is secure, eternal, abundant. Jesus is enough for every circumstance we face. Abide in him, trusting in his promises. Delight in his Word, seeking him continually. Pray to him, asking him to do immeasurably more than you can even imagine.
May his joy be in you, and may it be full.