Years ago, I was part of a leadership team that took a group of women to China for a ministry trip. We started out in Beijing, which has a large international population and many people who speak at least minimal English. After a few days, however, our large group divided up into small groups of five in order to travel more unobtrusively to several more remote parts of the country. My job was to lead one of those groups of five to an interior city that had very little Christian witness. Moreover, I knew there would be very few English speakers who could help me if I got lost! I was nervous about this responsibility, but I had an information packet with me that provided some security. I had my passport, of course; but in addition, I had a detailed itinerary of everywhere that I was to go and what I was to do. I had the phone number and description of our contact person, who was to meet us when we arrived. I had emergency numbers to call in case plans went awry before meeting our contact. These things were essential to both my peace of mind and my effectiveness as a leader.
Jesus also provided a very important "information packet" to help us navigate through life.
Difficult times and circumstances seem to surround us on every side, and dealing with change and transition can leave us feeling untethered and insecure. While grappling with these feelings myself lately, I began meditating on Jesus’ words to us in chapters 14 through 17 of the book of John--particularly in the following sentences:
“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)
“I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace.”
“…these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.”
Jesus obviously intended for His followers to experience His joy and His peace in abundance, and He spent four chapters explaining why and how we can experience them. What exactly are “these things” that He told us would lead to our joy and peace?
I spent some time sifting through John 14-17 and listing all the assurances Jesus gave as part of “these things.” (I recommend the exercise, if you want to dive a little deeper and take the time to do it yourself!) But for our purposes in this space, “these things” can be summarized into three main points. Here are the reasons why Jesus has promised that we can have a real, abiding joy and a real, settled peace:
1. Hope for the future
Jesus starts with this right off the bat: “In My Father’s house are many rooms…I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). The ultimate foundation of any settled peace and certainty is that we have an eternal future with Him; that one day all that is wrong will be made right, and every brokenness will be healed. Hallelujah! He reiterates this truth over and over again in these chapters—”I am coming back for you, I will see you again.” (14:18, 14:28, 16:16, 16:22). While we wait, keeping an eternal perspective is a big key to joy and peace.
2. Help for today
“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever…I will not leave you as orphans” (John 14:15). Jesus has left us with the Gift of all gifts: the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is our Counselor, Guide, Friend, and Comforter. He is the Sustainer and the Supplier of Divine power and strength. Indeed, Jesus tells us, we will have trouble, and we will suffer in this life. But He also promises us that the Holy Spirit will be a continual Presence within us to provide us with ALL that we need to persevere.
3. Healing for my heart
So many of the things that suck the joy and peace out of our souls—insecurity, shame, fear, and loneliness, to name a few—are addressed by a repeated theme in these four chapters: the abundant love of God for you and me! Jesus says, “He who loves me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21). Over and over again He assures us of the fact that we are loved by God (14:23, 15:9, 16:27, 17:23). He lavishes these truths upon our souls: that we have been chosen (15:19), that we belong to Him (17:9), that we are protected by Him (17:11, 15). Let your heart soak in the richness of it all!
Just as the information I carried into China was essential to my peace of mind, “these things” that Jesus shared with us are essential to our sense of security. We are all on this journey of life that can often seem mundane, and sometimes terrifying. But hear this: our birthright—bequeathed to all of His children by Jesus Himself—is abundant joy and peace. Let’s choose to claim and carry it!
“Joy means the perfect fulfillment of that for which I was created and regenerated,
not the successful doing of a thing.”