John 15b Testimony Part 1
“I have told you so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Through this passage I come to see that Jesus had a deeper sense of joy. A joy that could not be taken away from him even when challenges and difficulties came his way. Even when he was about to suffer painfully on the cross. His joy came from obeying His Father’s commands. When he lived his life according to the Father’s command there was nothing that could really shake him. I can see that many Christians think that joy is just about being happy and smiling or laughing or having a good time doing some fun activities. I know it is fun to talk and eat with brothers, like we did last week when we ordered and ate Thai food. Although we enjoyed such a good time together, our sense of joy essentially comes from being in the relationship with God. We know that we cannot have that kind of eating fellowship all the time, but when we come to God in writing testimony or in prayer or in Bible study, we are so happy and thankful to get a chance to do so, to learn more about our Lord where we can be refreshed. I know in the beginning I thought Christian life would always be fun but there were moments where I felt weak, ashamed and defeated due to my weakness or sin problem or complacency. I know that there were times where I had joy in Jesus but then I would lose it due to challenges and difficulties. But I want to learn from Jesus about how to maintain that joy in very difficult or stressful circumstances.
When I first decided to pray at 5 in the morning so as to obey the direction to pray for God’s work through our conferences, I was not so joyful, thinking about how tired I would be. Of course I could have picked the night time, but instead I chose this harder time, because I knew I needed daily prayer in my life, where I could spend time together with God before my day began. Also I came to understand that I needed to pray if I could expect anything great to go on in my Christian life. So I said to God during my first session that no matter what, I would come to him in prayer; whether I felt good or bad, I would come. As I came to him in prayer daily, my heart began to change. The Holy Spirit touched my heart and I came to have real joy dwelling in my heart. Those moments with God were what made prayer wonderful. It wasn’t just an activity or something I had to keep, but it was something that I used to be able to get closer to Jesus, to the one who brings joy to me.
Yet in my shepherding life recently, I could not have joy when my sheep insulted and mistreated me. I felt hurt and began to think dark thoughts, like I would never have disciples. Instead of thinking in that way, I should have thought about what great chance Jesus gave me to serve his sheep with sincerity and love. He also gave me the chance to know and experience his pain. It was like I was going through the book of John in real life, because I experienced my sheep leaving in anger, as Judas left Jesus. Then when my sheep finally came back to his senses and decided to have Bible study with me just before the next conference, I could come to understand Jesus’ love a little more for his runaway disciples, making the message more relatable. Instead of rebuking this sheep and correcting him or shaking my head at him, I just continued to study the Bible with him as though no time had passed. It was hard for me, but I wanted to exercise Jesus’ love for my sheep in this way.
I also saw when a senior shepherd, Robert, encouraged me to think about the great things God wanted me to do, it was like Jesus was trying to dig me out of the dirt of sorrow so that I may have joy, reminding me what Jesus wanted me to do and how he still wanted me to live as a Bible teacher–as a shepherd for the lost, wounded and demon possessed. That greatly encouraged me. Through the word of God that was given to me throughout the weeks and through the conferences, I could pick up renewed vision and spirit. But I know how easy it is for me to look at how difficult the situation is and to lose joy. I can look at how sick I had been these past couple of weeks and my lack of fruit, or I can get up from my mat of laziness or sadness and make effort to live as Jesus wanted me to live–to finish this semester strong, to go to my campus with a joyful heart, knowing that I am doing what my Lord, my first love, wanted me to do, despite the difficulty and challenge of finding a student. My goal is still the same, to have 7 Bible studies before the end of this semester. I know I must give it my all since the clock is ticking. I pray that I would pick up fighting spirit on my campus together with Jesus.