Do you have complete joy? Do you possess the promise declared by the angels at the birth of Christ, which included good news of great joy? The sad reality is that great joy seems rare in our culture. Even though we have the greatest comforts, resources, and material blessings, very few people, even Christians, claim to be living in complete or full joy.
Tucked away in the back of the New Testament and overshadowed by some of the majestic truths of the Christian faith is a key to experiencing a fullness of joy. This key not only brings joy, but it provides powerful motivating force for evangelism. John boldly and clearly states that his personal and complete joy is made possible by sharing with others the message of Christ, “We write this so that our joy may be made complete” (1 John 1:4). He reaffirms this truth in the short letter of 3rd John verse four with these words, “I have no greater joy than to know that my children are walking in truth.”
Could it be that the missing piece of the puzzle preventing you from experiencing great joy is sharing the message of Christ with others?
I. Accept permission
Some translations mistakenly translate verse four to say “your joy” to emphasize the blessing of a lost soul who receives forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life. While it is true that a lost sinner who receives Christ has reason to celebrate, this text clearly reveals that the one who faithfully shares the message of Christ can expect to experience joy. The Greek pronoun in the text is first person plural “our” not a second person plural “your.” This joy experience was not limited to the apostle John as indicated by the plural pronoun. Divine joy is available to all the saints who engage in the process of evangelism. The apostle Paul echoed this same promise when he declared about the converts he had won to the Lord in Thessalonica, “You are our glory and joy” (1Thes. 2:20).
Some my struggle with the concept of deriving motivation to witness because of what is promised for you personally. Maybe you think it is selfish. But, God in His infinite wisdom created us to respond to certain stimuli, and He even promised to provide what could perceived as selfish in other areas of faith. We are challenged to bring a tithe so that the windows of heaven might be opened unto us. Jesus exhorted His followers to lay up for themselves treasures in heaven. The Old Testament saint Jabez prayed that God would bless him abundantly and enlarge his territory. Here is a principle of Scripture: It is permissible and even prescribed for believes to personally benefit from ministry that is done for God’s glory.
II. Announce the promise
John clearly states that he has a message to share with others. Like the angels declared to shepherds on Christmas day, his message is good news of great joy. John shares the message of eternal life that enables disconnected people to connect with God and with others. We live in a society that debates or considers numerous and often serious issues. Some of those issues include terrorism, border control, health care, education, economic trends, aging parents, marriage struggles, and environmental issues such as the floods in the Northwest, fires in California, or the drought in the Southeast. Guest what? There were major issues that dominated the news in the first century such as political upheaval, religious opposition, competing philosophies, economic challenges, and moral decline. Don’t miss this point! There were a lot of things that John could have talked about, but he chose to share the message of eternal life. You may have an opinion about the hot topic of the day. Your vocation or training may provide you a level of expertise in a particular area, but the child of God is commanded to share the message of eternal life.
Please understand I am not suggesting that we live as ignorant people about the issues that affect people’s lives. I am writing this sermon form a geographic region that is experiencing the most severe drought in history. My 97 year-old grandmother is in the hospital, and my dad and his siblings are in the process of making difficult decisions about medical treatment. What I am suggesting is that regardless of a person’s situation their greatest need is to be rightly related to the God of the universe. John describes eternal life as being in fellowship with God and His Son Jesus Christ. The date of this writing of this epistle is about A.D. 90, which means John has been proclaiming this message for almost 60 years! He is just as excited about the power of the gospel in A.D. 90 as he was when Jesus rose from the grave almost sixty years earlier. Our mission is to share the message of eternal life not to be an expert on cultural issues. We open a door of great joy by knowing and fulfilling our purpose to announce the promise of eternal life.
III. Appreciate the process
Understanding that is ok to witness as a means to experience to more joy, is the first step of tapping into this motivational force. Knowing what God desires for us to share provides additional freedom. Next, we must learn to appreciate the process. Evangelism is not a program, nor is it an event. Joyous evangelism is a process. Notice in the text, John uses several terms to describe his evangelistic effort. He reveals that he testifies, proclaims, and writes. Evangelism for John was more like a buffet instead of a single entree’ on a limited menu. He used several different methods to get the message to those who needed it. Personal testimony is different than a public proclamation. Writing takes more time and would certainly appeal to a significantly smaller group of literate seekers. Part of John’s joy came from a variety of methods and enjoying the work of evangelism as much as the fruit of evangelism.
Consider the image that Jesus used for evangelism when he instructed Peter to became a fisher of men. Several men in our church love fishing. They invest large amounts of money and time in the sport. They participate in fishing tournaments, and some have a club that meets once a month. These men not only enjoy catching fish; they enjoy fishing. Riding in the boat, competing in tournaments, fellowshipping with friends, and the solitude of being out in the beauty of nature create an enjoyable experience even if the fish are not biting. This same concept applies to other activities whether it is deer hunting or cake decorating. People who enjoy traveling learn to appreciate the journey as well as the destination.
I am convinced that part of the reason for John’s joy was due to the promise of the Lord Jesus to be with us when engaged in evangelism. In what is referred to as the Great Commission, Jesus promised when we go “make disciples” that He would be “with you always to the end of the age” (Mat. 28:20). The Bible declares in Psalm 16:11 that fullness of joy is located in the presence of God with eternal pleasure at His right hand. John experienced divine joy flowing from the presence of Christ, which the Lord makes available to His witnesses.
Obviously, the ultimate goal of sharing your faith is to see a lost person come to faith in Christ, but we should not allow a failure to “win a soul” to steal our joy of being involved in the great privilege of carrying the message of Christ to others. The apostle Paul described this privilege as possessing a great treasure in jars of clay (2 Cor. 4:7). He declared that God in His great mercy gave him the ministry of sharing Christ (2 Cor. 4:1). Paul found joy in the process of sharing not just seeing a soul converted. He considered it a great honor to be entrusted with the responsibility of carrying the message to others. Like John and Paul, we can discover the joy of evangelism by appreciating the incredible honor God has bestowed upon us just be involved in the process of evangelism. Some times we have to sow seed while another reaps the harvest, but there is joy to be found at every stage in the process of a person’s salvation.
Several years ago my youngest daughter went through a puzzle stage where she wanted me to help her put puzzles together every night. Often we did the same puzzles over and over again. Even if I was familiar with a puzzle, I would always place the top of the box containing a picture of the completed puzzle, where I could reference the picture and complete the puzzle as quickly as possible. Mackenzie just dumped the pieces on the table and started working. She never looked at the picture. It never occurred to her to complete the task as quickly as possible because she was enjoying the process. She was spending time with her daddy and postponing bedtime!
If you could use a little more joy in your life, follow John’s advice. Find a lost soul and share the gift of eternal life!