If there is ever any promise of Jesus’ that we have full confidence of experiencing, it’s the one we find in John 16:33 where He declares: “In this world you will have trouble.”
We believe it, don’t even question it. We see trouble every day.
So, why is it so easy to believe the truth of the above promise and not as easy to believe Jesus’ declaration just one chapter earlier in John 15:11, “that His joy would be in us, and that joy would be full”? It sounds good, we want to believe it, but we’re not as confident. Just how do we experience this promise of full joy?
The answer, I believe, is pretty basic. Simple really, but that doesn’t change the truth of it. The truth is: we see what we’re looking for. Our eyes take in and acknowledge things our brain is telling them to look for. Kind of like that game, Slug Bug (hate that game), where you don’t see the hundreds of VW Bugs all around until you start looking for them. You know, just so you can punch your buddy in the arm.
I think the experience of God’s promises in every Christ-follower’s life is very much the same: we see what our thoughts and expectations are telling us to look for. If we’re looking for trouble, we’re going to find it, and the looking is easy. However, if we change the focus of our eyes and go on the hunt for joy, we will find it, and you know what I’m discovering…the hunt for joy is harder, but oh so worth it.
Knowledge of a Promise
Recently, I came upon a verse with beautiful imagery that stirred my heart and prompted the above questions. Then it got more personal: “Darci, what are you expecting to see?”
Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. Psalm 97:11
Just as surely as Jesus promised that “in this world we will have trouble”, God promises in this Psalm that we will have Light and Joy. And the imagery here is what I find so beautiful. It is one of God scattering Light and Joy, like seed, all along the path of the righteous and causing them to sprout at just the right time and in just the right place as is needed by His child.
Can you picture it? God sowing seed just for you. Him, who knows exactly where you are on your path and exactly what you need to keep moving. Him taking just the right measure of Light and Joy, pouring them carefully into His palm, and then expertly scattering it all along your road. Sprouts timed for the moment of greatest impact. Seeds of Light sown for when you are desperate for guidance, and seeds of joy planted for when your spirit needs comfort. He promises Light and Joy!
This promise doesn’t negate the promise of trouble that will also spring up in our path, but instead tells us to hold on and expect Light and expect Joy in the midst of the trouble. It has been sown for us. It’s a promise and we can expect it.
The Matthew Henry Commentary says it so well…The subjects of Christ’s kingdom are told to expect tribulation in the world. They must suffer by its malice, and must not share in its mirth; yet let them know, to their comfort, that light is sown for them; it is designed and prepared for them. What is sown will come up again in due time; though, like a winter seedness, it may lie long under the clods, and seem to be lost and buried, yet it will return in a rich and plentiful increase.
From Knowledge to Experience – How to Experience the Promise
Step One: Pursue Righteousness
First, we make sure that we are included in the group to which this promise is made: the righteous and upright in heart. Not everyone can claim and expect the benefit of these two gifts, only those who are pursuing a lifestyle of righteousness. The Psalmist gave us his description one verse earlier (vs 10) of what a pursuit of righteousness looks like, “O you who love the LORD, hate evil!” Living a righteous life and having an upright heart = hating evil. What God hates, we hate. And we don’t have to guess what this includes, we just need to read His Word to have understanding, places like Proverbs 6:16-19 and Ephesians 5:3-12. The more we desire to please the heart of God, the more we will hate anything that grieves that same heart.
Step Two: See and Acknowledge
Then, once we know these promises are ours to claim, we refocus our eyes with an expectation of seeing sprouts of Light and Joy all throughout our day. We go on the hunt for Light and Joy. In the exciting and in the mundane, we’re on the hunt. And because we are looking for Light and Joy, we’ll SEE Light and Joy!
We’ll see and acknowledge Light in the Word for our next step of faith.
We’ll see and acknowledge Light that God is tenderizing the heart of our spouse.
We’ll see and acknowledge Light for how to keep the heart of our teenager.
We’ll see and acknowledge joy in a crazy beautiful sunset.
We’ll feel and acknowledge joy in the warm smile of a friend.
We’ll hear and acknowledge joy in the giggles of a child.
And in the SEEING and ACKNOWLEDGING of Light and Joy that He planted for us, we’ll SEE AND ACKNOWLEDGE God.
Step Three: Rejoice and Give Thanks
Finally, once we start expecting and seeing Light and Joy, “we rejoice in the Lord, and give thanks to his holy name” (vs 12). The giver of all good gifts, the sower of our Light and Joy. We come before the One, the source of all life, and we rejoice in what we’ve seen and acknowledged as coming from His hand, and we give thanks for His abundance. And why wouldn’t He want to sow more Light and Joy for you when He sees His child rejoicing in His gifts, giving Him thanks, and enjoying Him with such awe and wonder?
How about you today? What are you expecting to see? Looking for trouble, or hunting for joy? The aim of my charge today is that as confident as your heart is that you will have trouble, that an even greater confidence will grow that we will experience Light and Joy. An unmovable, unshakable confidence in the steadfast love and faithfulness of our God, the ultimate promise-keeper.
So, where have you found Light or Joy recently? I’d love for us to use the comments section as an opportunity to rejoice and give thanks! He is worthy!
To close I’m going to say three words I’ve never said before: Let’s go hunting!
February No-TV-Challenge Update: It’s been 10 days. I did watch half of the Super Bowl but otherwise, I’ve been faithful. I’ll share much more when I post at the end of the challenge but the one word I feel so far is relief. Relief in the obedience, relief to not waking up with guilt, relief in pursuing the best things for me right now. Oh and my man didn’t want me to walk alone so he is also going TV free for February. I’m seeing and acknowledging that as Light and Joy!