The Completion of Joy

by Jonathan Haefs

Joy isn’t complete until it is shared.

God designed it this way, and we all know it through experience…even from the time we are kids. Just the other day I was working on my motorcycle when my son, Levi, came up to me and says look Papa!  I lifted my gaze from grease and motor parts to see him holding…a dead opossum.

551443_10100846409645638_1149770358_nI immediately freaked out and insisted, “Levi! Put that down right now…no…wait just a second (I pulled out my cell phone to take picture, click)…ok, now put that down!” I knew I would want photo evidence of this event for his mother. When you look at the picture, he has a very funny look on his face. It is actually the expression he makes when he is about to cry.

You see, he had come up to me so excited and wanted me to share in his joy, but I had the opposite reaction…I crushed his joy! Yes…I know…I’m the father of the year.

Ignore my lack of parenting skills for a moment and see the point…joy longs to be completed by being shared.

You can see this in all sorts of everyday experiences. Kids bring you their favorite toys and sing their praises because they want you to praise the toys too! When you like a movie, you watch it again with people that haven’t seen it just so you can turn and see their reactions. A couple in love constantly tell one other just how much they love each other! Why? Why do we do all these things? It’s because our joy is not complete until it is shared.

Solitary enjoyment can never match shared enjoyment.

As Christians, we are to find ultimate, everlasting joy in God through Jesus. This is the very essence of worship…joy in Jesus! Yet, we often miss is the truth that we so naturally understood as children…that joy is not complete until it is shared! We try to make worshipping Christ and finding joy in him a completely private matter…the pursuit of a personal relationship. But, private joy will never be complete until it is publicly proclaimed!

Praise without proclamation is incomplete praise. Worship without mission is incomplete worship. Unshared joy is incomplete joy.

Joy in Jesus is not complete until it is shared!

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This truth is all over the Bible!  In John 3:29-30, many people are leaving John the Baptist to follow Jesus and John reacts by saying, “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John basically says, “I’m like the best man at a wedding and Jesus is the groom. I was never meant to have the spotlight. My joy is in Jesus having the spotlight. I have proclaimed him so that others would go to him! Others sharing in joy in Jesus makes my joy complete!”

Paul basically says the same thing in Philippians 2:1-2, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”

Paul’s joy is made complete when he sees those to whom he ministers enjoying Christ together, being unified in Jesus, encouraged, comforted, and having affection for one another in Christ!

The apostle John says something similar in 3 John 4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”  For John to hear that the people to whom he has proclaimed Jesus are seeking Jesus, living for Jesus, and finding joy in Jesus…that gives him the greatest joy! It completes his joy!

Our joy in Christ finds completion when it is shared by others. I think this is clearly seen when we overlay the end of Luke’s Gospel and the beginning of Acts. Both books were written by Luke, and he stitches them together by telling the same story to close the Gospel and open Acts…the ascension of Jesus. In his Gospel, Luke shows us that Jesus’ ascension produces joy-filled worship in his followers. But, in Acts he reveals how the ascension propels the disciples to joy-filled proclamation.

By telling the same story with different emphases Luke helps us see that finding joy in Christ is not the end of the story, but only the beginning (that’s why there’s more to write after his Gospel)…for that joy erupts from our mouth in proclamation (which is what we see in Acts). Like a kid holding a opossum, we naturally want someone to share in our joy. We’ve found joy in Jesus and want the world to share in it! We worship Jesus and believe he is worthy of all worship…so we have a mission!

world-mapOur joy drives us to share!

Our worship drives us to mission!

Our praise drives us to proclamation!

And, the goal of all our sharing, our mission, and our proclaiming is that others might share in the joy, worship, and praise! That is what makes our joy complete!

For all who truly worship Jesus, we have been called to share the joy we find in him with others…to the very ends of the earth. Our joy will not be complete until it is shared by people from every tribe, every nation, and every tongue. By the power of the Holy Spirit, let us be filled with praise that erupts in proclamation, filled with worship that inspires mission, and filled with joy that demands completion!

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