Robert Murray McCheyne said, ‘The purest joy in the world is joy in Christ Jesus.’
In these posts, I want to share some reflections on joy and where, as Christians, we can find our joy.
The Joy of Sharing the Gospel
8th March 2021
Last week, I reminded us that when we truly appreciate the value of the gospel, we experience great joy. Joy that is found in the wonder of what Christ has done for us. Joy that is found in the truth of who we now are in Christ.
But what is clear from scripture is that this joy is not to be kept to ourselves. We see this going right back to God’s covenant with Abraham when God says that God’s people would be a blessing to the nations. God’s plan of salvation is not an ethnic plan for one group of people that cut themselves off from the world. But instead, Jesus said, the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. What happens to this tiny seed? It grows and grows and grows. Its branches spread wider and higher until this tiny seed has grown into a vast and huge tree.
And we see something incredible in the New Testament – people experiencing joy when they share the gospel. OK, lets be honest: when someone starts speaking about evangelism or sharing your faith, what emotion comes to mind?
Lets take a look at Acts 13 for a moment. Paul and Barnabas are in Pisidian Antioch and,
the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (v52)
What is going on for them to be filled with such joy? Perhaps they’ve just had a great worship service, or the prayer meeting has been mobbed, or there’s been a really good speaker at a conference. Is this what has brought them so much joy?
No. What has given them such joy is that Paul and Barnabas shared the gospel to the whole town. And Luke tells us,
as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. (v48-49)
Their joy came from sharing the gospel and witnessing people repent and believe in Jesus. And what is more incredible is that their joy was not diminished by what else was going on at the time. Again, Luke tell us,
the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. (v45)
the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. (v50)
Imagine for a moment, Paul and Barnabas, sitting in the evening after a busy day preaching; they have just been kicked out of the city, running for their lives having had all kinds of insults, abuse and hatred flung at them. And everyone whose anyone is against them.
And their overwhelming emotion is joy!
Why? Because there is joy in sharing the gospel and witnessing people repent and believe in Jesus. A joy that is so great that even the opposition that comes our way can’t extinguish it.
We see the same thing in Acts 8 – Stephen has just been killed, a great persecution arose against the church and they were all scattered. One of those scattered was Philip who went to Samaria. What does this displaced, refugee Christian experience? Joy! How? Because he went down to Samaria and proclaimed Jesus to them. And the joy was not only Philip’s but was shared with many in the city who believed.
We’re not alone in our rejoicing
When we fulfil our call to be great commission people – people who make disciples – we share in the joy of heaven. For Paul, Barnabas, and Philip were not alone in their rejoicing, there was greater rejoicing taking place in heaven.
In telling the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus said,
“Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.”
Jesus told this parable in response to the Pharisees grumbling and complaining that Jesus was hanging out with sinners. The parable shows us that in his compassion and grace, Jesus goes in search of the lost. And what is his response in finding his sheep? Joy. Do we experience the greatest joy when someone repents? No. Jesus does. His joy is greater than ours because he is the one who has found the lost sheep, he is one who has brought about faith. But because God uses us in this work, we are invited to share in this joy as we witness the miracle of salvation before our very eyes.
Jesus doesn’t finish there – he goes on to say that there is great joy in heaven whenever a sinner repents. Someone believing in response to the gospel we share causes great joy in heaven.
Who likes a party?
At the end of the parable of the prodigal son, what does the Father do? He throws a party. Celebrate and be glad is the Father’s order because his son who was dead is now alive.
Sharing our faith and witnessing someone come to faith is no small thing. It is witnessing someone who was dead coming to life. It is cause for a great celebration in heaven. And it ought to be cause for great celebration among God’s people here on earth.
Perhaps instead of thinking of sharing our faith as a fearful chore – maybe we should think of it as party planning!
I’d encourage you to let us know when you’re seeking to share your faith with others so the church can be praying for you and your unbelieving friend.
And when they become a Christian, let us know, so we can celebrate together. And we can share in your joy and the joy of heaven.
Next week - 'Enduring with Joy'