John 16:22 Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.
We’ve been studying for several months in our Sunday morning worship hour the book of Philippians. But I want to bring your attention to this passage in John 16:22 because I believe that it holds some of the best news we could possibly hear today—this Resurrection Sunday.
In our study in Philippians we’ve often noted how we can experience true joy.
We’ve seen how we can only have true joy when we look for it in the Lord, when we stand for Christ with boldness—being unmoved by this world and it’s turmoil. And there’s real joy in rejoicing in the Lord.
Paul helps us see that being like-mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind (Phil. 2:2) with other believers will help us experience joy. And we’ve noted that we can experience joy by not being selfish but by serving others and treating others as better than ourselves.
We’ve also noted that you can live the joy filled life by worshiping God with the way you live, letting your tongue confess to others that Jesus Christ is Lord. There’s real joy in giving away your faith.
We’ve learned that we can experience real joy when we do all things without complaining and arguing.
We’ve learned that we can have real joy when we hold to the truths of God’s Word and when we give ourselves completely to God for His honor and glory.
We’ve noted in our studies that you can learn from other Godly believers how to have real joy—you can follow their Godly example. Paul was a great example of joy in the Lord in the midst of adversity. We’ve learned that there’s real joy in caring for other believers and that we can guard our joy by being careful not to be lead astray by those who teach something other than God’s Word.
And we’ve learned that we maintain our joy by keeping our confidence in the Lord and not in ourselves and what we can do for ourselves.
We’ve discussed that there’s real joy in looking ahead—having an eternity perspective—keeping our eyes off of earthly things and on heavenly things—realizing that as followers of Christ we are citizens of heaven and that as such we are ambassadors for Christ and we ought to now live in such a way that points others to Christ and a saving knowledge of Him. There’s real joy in that.
So yes, it’s important that we learn how to have joy. But in the midst of the trials and difficulties of life how do you keep your joy? Not only do we need to know how to have joy we need to know how to keep it.
We’ve kind of been painting this picture of the joy-filled life and there’s another part of the picture of joy we find here in John 16 that we need to see if we really want to keep our joy in the midst of our trials and difficulties. And who wouldn’t want to keep their joy.
We know we need our joy don’t we? But we know too, that as long as we remain on this earth that we’ll experience the trials of life—we will still face hardships and disappointments, and keeping our joy won’t be easy.
Didn’t Jesus warn the disciples that they would experience sorrow? Jesus says in John 16:20,
Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful…
And if we go back to the beginning of this chapter we see Jesus warning the disciples that they will be despised and even killed and it will all be done to them as if they are doing God a favor. But Jesus says in John 16:4-6,
4 But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. “And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you. 5 “But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.
Jesus tells the disciples that they will find it difficult to keep their joy—they will be misunderstood and opposed and even killed—verse 22 says, Therefore you now have sorrow.
But he also says that they will experience real joy—joy that no person and no circumstance can take away. Jesus tells them in verse 20 that their sorrow will be turned into joy. And we see he says it again in verse 22, that their heart will rejoice.
And that’s what I want to impress on your heart and mind today. That there’s real joy to be had and that no one can take it away.
But how can that be? What kind of joy is this? How is it that sorrow can be turned into joy?
I want to put it to you the way Warren Wiersbe states it when he describes for us the joy God gives—he says, “God brings joy into our lives, not by substitution but by transformation.”
Again, “God brings joy into our lives, not by substitution but by transformation.” And I believe that’s true and very helpful.
If you want to keep your joy you need to have your perspective changed about how you do that.
As I see it there are two perspectives—two ways we can look at how to keep our joy. There’s the worlds way and there’s God’s way.
The World’s Way
The world says you keep your joy by getting bigger and better stuff. Let me give you an example of how this works for me.
I’ve been interested in learning how to fly fish for some time. I’m told we live very close to some great fly-fishing on the AuSable River. Occasionally I get this wonderful catalog in the mail that has all kinds of fly fishing gear in it. If I were to let that catalog do it’s job I’d be convinced that I need several hundred dollars worth of gear if I wanted to catch anything. Right now there’s a fly fisherman or two out there who’s wife is thinking, “But I thought you told me you couldn’t fly fish without that $300 rod.” Sorry guys but I happen to have a friend who’s an experienced fly fisherman that tells me you don’t need to spend your money on all that expensive gear just to enjoy fly-fishing. So you should be cross with Bob Greene for spilling the beans, not me. Thanks to Bob’s advice I now have a starter fly-fishing rig that cost less than $20 and I’m anxiously looking forward to my first opportunity to hit the water.
But the world says—no you’ll never catch anything with a $20 fly-fishing rig. The world says that real joy is in bigger and better, and bigger and better than what your neighbor has is even more likely to bring real joy. That’s what the world would have you believe.
The world says real joy is in making more money this year than you did last year. Worldly wisdom says that to have real joy you need a bigger home than the one you’re living in now. The world says that to have joy you’ve got to lose weight and get a makeover. The world would have you believe that if you aren’t happy with your marriage you should ditch your wife and find a younger more attractive one.
But the world’s way to joy is really no joy at all. That’s the truth we see expressed in Ecclesiastes 2:10,11.
10 All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor. 11 Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun. (NASB)
This is why we need to understand and live by God’s way to joy.
God’s way is different. God’s Word tells us that our sorrow can actually be transformed into joy—changed to joy. So how are we transformed from sorrow to joy today and how do we keep our joy?
Look again at what Jesus told the disciples in John 16:22.
Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.
How can this be, our hearts will rejoice and our joy no one will take from us? What kind of joy is that? Don’t we face things in this life daily that threaten to steal our joy? Have you ever seen an advertisement that after trying to impress you with how beautiful you’ll look if you use their product or how skinny you’ll be if you drink their shake or how popular you’ll be if you drink their beverage and then at the end it says, “but wait—there’s more—this product is so great you’ll never lose your joy!”
No product I’ve ever seen advertised can promise unquenched joy. But Jesus says to the disciples, you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.
Here’s the key to keeping your joy—God’s way is so different than the world’s way. Jesus had already told the disciples that he was going away and that for a little while they would not see him—He would be crucified. And then for a little while they would see him—because he would conquer death and the grave and on the third day rise from the dead. And then they would see him for a little while—some forty days—but then he would go to the father—he would ascend into heaven. And if that were the end of the story one might say, “where’s the joy in that?” You die and then we’ll see you for a short while and then you’ll leave again? Where’s the joy in that?
The disciples were confused. He had told them in verse 16,
“A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.”
This confused them. We see it in the verses that follow. In verse 17 we see the disciples inquiring of each other, “What is this that He says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?” This puzzled them but Jesus doesn’t leave them puzzled too long.
When Jesus said that in a little while they wouldn’t see him, He was referring to the fact that he would be crucified. He knew that soon his life would be taken. And he knew that they would experience deep sorrow over this. But he also knew that shortly thereafter they would see him again after the resurrection and then they would experience real joy.
And Jesus knew that this seemed contradictory to them so he helped them with what we see in verse 21.
21 A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.
This was something they could understand.
We celebrated our oldest son’s fourteenth birthday a few days ago. I remember being in the hospital room with Carolyn on that Sunday afternoon in March as she spent a few hours in labor. Being our first child we went to the Lamaze classes to learn some things that helped prepare us for the delivery and such. But I was completely unprepared for something we experience for about an hour or so that afternoon.
There was a lady in the room down the hall from Carolyn’s room who was in the midst of the hardest part of her labor. At least that’s what I assumed, because she wasn’t bashful about letting everyone know how she was feeling. All I remember was her horrible screams from the pain of labor. This went on and off for a period of 45 minutes to an hour. It was downright scary.
I’m sure my eyes were the size of golf balls as I listened and thought about what lie ahead for my wife. But when it came time for Carolyn to deliver, things were a bit different. I’m certain there was intense pain—they don’t call it labor for nothing. And I do recall it taking several days for the feeling to return to my right hand. Carolyn wasn’t as vocal as the lady down the hall but she did make up for it by squeezing my hand whenever she had to deal with the most intense pain of the contractions. Through Carolyn’s period of labor I certainly got the idea that she was in a lot of pain and I was certain I was better off than she only having my hand squeezed.
But when the baby finally came things were very different than during the labor pains. Seeing Carolyn’s pure joy while holding our new little one was an amazing sight. From pure agony and pain to total happiness and joy and satisfaction. The intense pain of labor and delivery was gone and the one that had caused her all that pain was now the cause of her deepest joy.
And that’s how Jesus illustrated to the disciples how they would experience great sorrow and then great joy.
He told them—I’m going away for a short time. You’ll soon experience the sorrow of this—I must leave you—I’ve told you this before, that the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men (Luke 9:44). I’ll be gone for a short time and you will be filled with sorrow. But I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.
And there’s the beauty and wonder of the joy that they would experience—no one will take it from them.
And here’s why no one can take this joy from us. This joy that Jesus speaks of is the joy that comes from putting your trust in Jesus Christ. This is the joy that is the result of being a follower of Christ. And when Jesus says that he will see the disciples again after his resurrection this gave them great hope as it does us, because this means that Jesus lives again never to die again.
And since this joy comes from being with Jesus and He lives, we can never loose this joy. Because He has risen from the dead and he lives for all eternity we know that his promise is true—that we will live for all eternity with Christ. That’s the truth of John 3:16, that those that believe in Jesus Christ have everlasting life. And we know that this is a trustworthy promise because Jesus lives. Jesus conquered death and the grave and He lives.
But you say, “Well that’s good but I can’t see Jesus now. How do I have joy right now while I’m still here living life?”
And I say to you look at what Jesus told the disciples earlier and God’s Word tells us now. Look at verse 7.
John 16:7 Nevertheless 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 depart, I will send Him to you.
And look at verse 13-15.
John 16:13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
No, we don’t see Jesus but those who believe in Jesus Christ, now have the Holy Spirit—the authority of Jesus Christ sends the Helper to those who believe.
Let’s understand that we can only have joy because of the transforming, redeeming work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Nothing on this earth will be a suitable replacement for the sorrow and difficulties we face. Only the joy we have in Christ, the presence of the Holy Spirit and the promise that we will see Christ and live forever with Him makes it possible for us to keep our joy.
And this is why we can gather today, this Resurrection Sunday and rejoice and worship the Risen King.
But there’s still something I need to draw your attention to. Look at verse 20 again. Jesus says to the disciples,
20 Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.
Jesus says, “Know this—you will weep and mourn, while the world is rejoicing that I’m gone. But I will only be gone for a short time and then I will come and find you and then you will rejoice.” The implication is that the world will then mourn. The world will mourn without Christ.
Jesus will live, never to die again, and those who believe in Him as Lord and Savior will live with Him through all eternity. But those without Christ will be separated from Christ in anguish for all eternity.
So this morning as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I ask you—is Jesus your joy? Can you celebrate in knowing that your joy no one will take from you?
Is Jesus your Joy? Let me challenge your heart with the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:19-21.
19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (ESV)
God allowed the death and resurrection of Jesus to close the gap between God and Man. We can now be reconciled to God because the sinless Jesus was made sin on our behalf.
1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. (ESV)
Is Jesus your joy today? You will find and everlasting joy if you will trust in Christ today. If you are His, your joy no one will take from you.