Break Me, Please!
My wife and I have 4 wonderful children. I remember the times leading up to the birth of each of our children. I also vividly remember the pain, discomfort, and anxiety that my wife went through each time her body began to prepare for labor. I remember being with her in the delivery room as she endured the pain and sorrow of labor as she squeezed my hand with a newfound superhuman strength! But I also remember the moment when each of our children were born and the hours of painstaking labor seemed to evaporate as they laid that little pruney, wrinkly, and gooey looking little baby on her chest for the first time. What happened to the memory of the suffering that had just taken place? The memories of those hard experiences were muted by the rapture of joy that takes place at the birth of a new human being. It’s quite amazing. Women expect sorrow and pain in childbirth. They expect that there is a good reason for calling the process of childbirth labor! The experienced mother also knows that once she goes through that trying time of labor, awaiting her on the other side is a joy that is unmistakable and irreplaceable.
While not every person will personally experience the pain and joy of childbirth. Each and every Christian is destined to go through a process of transformation. Many times, that transformation involves pain and suffering. Jesus, while preparing his disciples for his soon departure, reveals that He would be leaving, the Holy Spirit would be coming and soon their lives would never be the same.
According to Jesus’ words in John 16:1-2, the lives of the disciples were getting ready to become much more difficult. He had already shared with them that the worlds’ hatred of Jesus would be transferred to them. As soon as the sinful world system began to notice the life of Christ in them, then the very hatred that was expressed for Christ would be taken out on them. Later in John 16:20, Jesus’ words are recorded informing the disciples that while they would indeed experience sorrow, their sorrow would be transformed into joy.
What do we typically expect to happen in our lives? Usually, our default setting has been trained to expect the worse. This isn’t just a unique phenomenon of our time. People back in the 1st century had the same default setting. Just think back to the disciples of Jesus who had dedicated their lives to following him. They were no different. Jesus said, I’m leaving.... and I’m going to equip you and empower you for ministry… I’m going to come back and bring you to be with me and the Father in the most awesome place you can imagine.... and the disciple’s response is anxiety about what is to come and fear of all the sorrows that tomorrow may bring.
Jesus is teaching his disciples a lesson from which we all could benefit. Life is full of ups and downs. There will be times of joy and there will be times of sorrow. The disciples would soon experience some pretty deep sorrow as their leader and teacher would depart. He was reminding them of all the things he had taught them so that when he was gone, they would not be led astray, distracted, or deceived.
Jesus shared the details about soon coming hardships with the disciples so that they would be able to stay strong and have hope. That is one of the many reasons God has given us His revealed Word. So that we might believe and have hope!
Why do we need a reminder that there is hope? Probably because many times our default setting is to expect the worst. When sorrows come, it is very easy for us to slip into the spiral of despair. But Jesus’ perspective was different. In John 16:20-22, Jesus tells his followers that while sorrows are inevitable. The very times of trials and troubles would be the process through which they would experience transformation. Jesus says that your sorrows will be turned into joy. The very times of trouble you are getting ready to go through will be the instrument through which God will give you abundant joy! The joys of tomorrow will snuff out the sorrows of today.
Jesus uses an illustration with which many people can identify. Childbirth. No matter what your experience, natural or epidural, childbirth involved excessive pain and pressure. But once that baby is born the hours of labor and the pain of the pregnancy fade as that newborn baby gets placed on momma’s skin for the first time. The sounds in the room change to a joy-filled celebration at the miracle of life.
Jesus says, yes, sorrows will come. You should expect them! But, trust me, as you come through those sorrows you will be transformed. When we see Jesus, our sorrows will be turned into to joy… our hearts will be made to rejoice... and for the child of God… that joy, the true joy that comes through saving faith in Christ, can never be taken away.
Remember, joy is not a feeling.... it is a posture/position. Our joy as Christians is not based on our emotions… our joy as Christians is based on the gospel transformation that takes place in our life when we respond in faith to Christ. Your joy has little to do with you and how you feel.... and everything to do with Christ and what He has done! Jesus was teaching his disciples that true Gospel transformation takes the sorrows of today and changes them into lasting joy! Sorrows will pass, but true joy will last.
As we live life, coming to the place where we realize that our sorrows are actually being used to shape our joy is only part of the equation. Once we come to that realization, there must be some vehicle for maintaining that joy. One of several ways of maintaining joy in our lives through a plan of continued growth that is driven by the discipline of prayer.
At the cross a new era began.... a new arrangement was initiated. Prior to the cross, the disciples were taught to pray to the Father or ask Jesus directly. Leading up to the cross Jesus further clarified how to pray when he said that the followers of Christ should pray in Jesus’ name (John 14:12-14; 16:23-24). Jesus tells us that when we pray in his name that the Father will hear us and answer our prayers. So, Christian, do you want to maintain your joy? Then consistently pray in Jesus’ name. Sounds easy right? What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name? Some people have wrongly interpreted it to mean that we can just tack the name of Jesus on the end of our prayer and then God is obligated to answer us. Many prosperity gospel preachers will interpret John 16:23 mean that we can just ask for whatever we want in Jesus' name and God will give it to us. I mean the Bible says… “My father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive.” --- so God… in Jesus name, give me a new car.... a new house.... a pay raise.... a wife or husband.... a boyfriend or girlfriend. When we pray, we are to ask in Jesus' name.... and doesn’t the bible say in verse 23 that if we ask in Jesus’ name, that the Father will give it to us?
If just tacking Jesus’ name onto our prayers is supposed to work, then why are do the prayers of so many people seem ineffective? Why does it seem like God’s not hearing? Or, if he is hearing, is he just not answering? Or, could it be that many of our prayers are rendered ineffective because we are coming before God in our own names instead of in Christ’s name?
James Montgomery Boice said that “much modern prayer, even by serious Christian people, is useless and ineffective because the people involved approach God thinking that he is obligated to grant their request because of something they have themselves done for him.” Praying in Christ’s name is not some magical spell we can recite to get what we want or force God to do something for us. … Jesus’ name is not just something we can say, and everything will be better.
We cannot approach God on our own. We don’t have access on our own. There is nothing good or redeemable in us that would even get us close to being able to access God’s throne. Only a real relationship with Jesus does that. Our identity in Christ and relationship with Him grants us entrance into His presence. When we pray in Jesus’ name… we are coming to the Father completely based on the merit of Christ.
When we practice the discipline of prayer.... we are given access to God based on Christ’s merit, but we must also pray in agreement with Christ’s character. When we pray, seeking that our joy is made full, we are to ask for what Christ would want, not just for what we desire.
Here is a reality about prayer that we need to understand. Prayer is not something we do to persuade God to do what we want. If you look at prayer as a way that you get something from God, then you’re looking at prayer wrong. Prayer isn’t a way that we get something from God.... prayer is a way that God does in and through us what He wants.
What does God want for us? John 16:24 says that He wants that our joy in him might be full and overflowing. Our lives are transformed when we repeatedly pray in Jesus’ name and are filled with His joy. As people who have responded to faith in Christ, who are consistently praying in Jesus’ name, coming before God based on Jesus’ merit, asking God to help us to want the things that Jesus wants…why does God give us a fullness of joy? Because God loves us (John 16:27). Why does God answer His children’s prayers? Because He loves you.
Jesus is encouraging every one of our hearts by reminding us of the profound truth that God loves you! And that truth… is the basis of your joy and security. True joy and security only come through true gospel transformation.
As our lives are transformed by the gospel, we gain true joy and security. Along with that gospel transformation comes a certain amount of trials and sorrow. Why? So that we will grow strong in our faith and so that we will not be led astray. Jesus uses our sorrows to develop true joy in our lives as we are transformed more into his image. Through the times of suffering and sorrow, our confidence and dept of faith is tested. Our joy, security, peace, and hope are not derived from our feelings of happiness or contentment but are based on the truths of Christ that are transforming us.
As Jesus spoke with the disciples about how their soon-coming sorrows would be transformed into joy he said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.” That is the gospel perspective for the Christian. In Christ we have peace. Jesus says to us.... do you believe? If so, then have confidence.... have joy because as you go through the sorrows of life… your belief in me… in the gospel will transform the sorrows of your heart to joy and you will have peace.
The gospel is the only truth that is able to transform sorrow into joy! And Gospel transformation is the only path that leads to true peace. The miracle that took place on the cross.... transformed sorrow into joy and brought ultimate peace for Jesus and his apprentices.... and that very miracle can do the same for you today.
How can Jesus guarantee that our sorrows will be transformed into joy and that we may have peace? He has overcome the world! (John 16:33). The curse of sin.... and the fallenness of the world.... Jesus has overcome it all! He is victorious! Jesus says I have already overcome any obstacle that you can imagine! So, when the sorrows of the world corner you and keep saying “I will break you”. The Christian can have confidence that Jesus uses our brokenness for His glory. In our brokenness we are transformed by the gospel… and Christ gives us joy… peace… and hope.
Christian, expect transformation. Don’t be surprised when the world tries to break you. Expect to have sorrow over sin. Expect to suffer for the name of Christ. Expect to be broken by the world. Then bring your brokenness, sorrow, suffering, and anxieties to Jesus.
When the world comes and says… “I will break you” we can confidently say.... bring it on! Jesus is using this to make me more like Him! When we acknowledge our brokenness.... we have strength. As we are humbled, Christ is exalted. The miracle of the cross.... changes everything. That miracle is still changing sorrow into joy today.
You will experience sorrow today. You may experience pain tomorrow. But, today's sorrow and pain will fade as we, by faith, embrace the never-ending joy and peace of Christ.... that is yours to access through your relationship with Christ...… and in Christ, we are able to enjoy a joy, peace, love, and hope that have no limits. Jesus did not save us to just stay the same as we have always been.... No, He Expects us to be transformed… and as we are transformed by the gospel… we will have lasting joy! Lasting Joy only comes through Gospel Transformation