Text: John 16.4-24 (You can read it or read a couple of verses and share the story)
Icebreaker: Is it possible to have joy in the middle of tribulation? Honestly, do you have joy when trouble comes? How do you think Jesus deals with our tribulation - especially in relation to joy?
We can have a very limited perspective when we consider the trouble that we will face in life– we often only see what hurts us, but Jesus sees more than that, He sees how tribulations bring us closer to Him and sees the spiritual growth that will come from those times and experiences. He sees too, an opportunity to teach us how to have joy even in the most difficult circumstances of life.
As His death approached, Jesus became increasingly focused on working to stabilize the joy of His disciples in the face of the imminent crisis that the coming weeks would bring to them. To do this in the text above, He dealt with two main threats to their joy:
Firstly, He is leaving the disciples and going to the Father and this threatens to fill them with fear.
Secondly, He is going to die soon and this threatens to fill them with grief.
Both threats seem pretty bad, and both would seem to be detrimental to the joy of the disciples. It is no wonder that they were perplexed! In answering their confusion and uncertainty, Jesus speaks in a way that reaches out to us across the centuries, seeking to stabilize our own shakeable joy too, aiming to make it unshakeable no matter what trouble comes to us. This is neither accidental nor incidental, it is what He meant to do; it was His purpose: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” – John 15.11.
There are some truths that Jesus teaches His disciples about the relationship between tribulation and joy that we need to understand if we want to have God’s joy, a joy that will last, in our lives.
1) Joy comes not from the absence of tribulation, but from knowing the truth
Jesus seeks to solidify the disciple’s joy in readiness for His coming absence, not by diminishing the love, but by removing the ignorance. He says, “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16.7). Although there were many reasons why this coming loss would be to their advantage, the main reason was that the Spirit was going to make the glory of Jesus more real to them and in them. Yes! Even more real than if Jesus were there in the flesh! - “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. . . . He will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine” (John 16.13-15).
Some people think that Jesus will remove all tribulation from their lives, and that only then will they be able to feel the love of God and have lasting joy. But Jesus Himself teaches us that the way that He gives us that lasting joy, is to show us the way and the truth about God, so that we can fully embrace the life that God has for us even when that involves suffering and struggle.
2) Being a Christian does not prevent us from passing through tribulations in life!
Jesus told His disciples that sorrow would come to them. He didn’t strengthen their joy by telling them that their lives would be without sorrow, but in fact, by telling them the very opposite.
Some people have been hurt by churches and individuals who have spoken wrong things into their lives about this; for example, by saying that some lack of faith, or lack of closeness to God must be at the heart of things if we experience struggle or suffering. Some of those people may even have had good intentions, but nevertheless they have used God’s name to say wrong things, perhaps even things that they wished in their own heart to be true. The truth is that God doesn’t lie, He doesn’t change His mind, He doesn’t contradict Himself! And God says that we will pass through tribulations. We don’t know when or how strong, only that it will happen.
The tribulation is not the absence of God, but a circumstance that we can pass through with God. No tribulation is supposed to be eternal, we are promised that all suffering and tears will come to an end in eternity. It’s so important that we run to God, and not from Him, when the tribulation arrives. God is with you and He can do all things, but that doesn’t mean that everything in our lives will happen in the way and at the time that we would choose.
3) Not only Joy, but victory!
Jesus does not promise only joy, but also victory “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16.33). What a great statement!
How can we not take heart? How can we not be encouraged when we hear about the victory that Jesus won for us on the cross? Our joy has a strong foundation, it is built on Jesus Christ’s victory. Not only has He overcome the world — and hell and the devil and death — but he remains with us and in us like a mighty warrior against all our tribulations.
So, yes, there will be tribulation in this problematic world; sorrows of so many kinds that we can’t count them. But the world that makes us so sorrowful will not have the last word. We already know the end, and the end is that all who walk with Jesus will be with Him for an eternity of joy!!!! This is the joy that cannot be taken from you whatever you are facing in your life today!!
Conclusion: Would you like to have God’s joy in you? So, let’s pray!
* This cell group was based on the article Why Jesus had to leave the earth from John Piper.