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THERE IS JOY IN REPRODUCTION
“A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world” (John 16:21).
There are a few passages in scripture that men will never have the capacity to understand as we as women can. This is one such passage. I can’t read this verse without remembering a day in a hospital room when that fragile little body in a flannel blanket was laid on my chest, a tiny hand wrapped wee fingers around my forefinger, and a feeling of joy that is beyond what I can record on this page just enveloped my whole being. I got to experience this twice in my twenties. Now I’m some twenty years beyond those experiences. I have never since felt the same kind and level of joy. Will I someday feel it again when I hold my grandchild? I don’t know. Maybe some of you know.
When Jesus wanted us to know about joy beyond compare he spoke of the childbirth experience. The psalmist speaks of the joy of motherhood in Psalms 113:9. Physical reproduction is an awesome blessing of our Father (Psm.127), and despite our society’s manifest disrespect for life in the womb, those of us who know Jehovah don’t have to be convinced that a baby’s passage from the womb is a time to bless our God with joyful praise and thanksgiving.
Last week I had the chance to witness birth. My friend Regina, with whom I’d been studying was born of water and the spirit (John 3:5), and as I gave her that big wet hug as she came up from the waters of baptism, it occurred to me that she had just been born; that she was that tiny fragile baby in the flannel blanket, so totally dependent on others for her very spiritual sustenance. Her fingers were wrapped, as it were, around my forefinger and she needed me in a way that few have ever needed me. What I experienced as she changed clothes and we went out to meet those other Christians who would help her through her infancy was definitely joy…a joy, again, that’s too deep for the printed page.
While I am not the one who gave birth to Regina (that was the Spirit as we read in John 3:5), there is a small sense in which I facilitated this birth. Just as Paul called Timothy his son in the faith (I Tim. 1:2), I feel a sort of parenting bond to those who may have come to the new birth as God used me to teach. While this bond lays upon me a huge responsibility, it is a bond of unbridled joy. It is a childbirth kind of joy that doesn’t have to stop with menopause! It’s a spiritual delivery room kind of joy that we can experience over and over through all of our years.
Christians today universally recognize the apostle Paul as being one of the most joyful people of scripture. Yet when we read 2 Corinthians 11, we are amazed at the persecutions, perils and near-death experiences of this man of God. What was the secret of his joy? We don’t have to look very far in scripture to find it. In Acts 20:24 we read that it was his race…his ministry…that brought him joy. Paul spoke these words as he was “bound in the spirit” (verse22) and on his way to Jerusalem where he would be arrested for the sake of the gospel. But it was the ministry of this same gospel that brought him joy.
In Philippians 4:1, Paul told the Christians in Philippi that they were his source of joy. Paul had begun the Philippian church in Acts 16 from the cell of a jail, where he had been arrested, beaten and incarcerated. I don’t know about you, but I think I might have had the temptation to induce a mental block when I thought about the town of Philippi. But not Paul. He was fully into the pain/joy concept of childbirth and his joy at the birth of the Philippian church was so great that he scarcely even remembered the pain.
I don’t pretend to have achieved the kind of faith that produces this deep joy in evangelism, but I’ve been blessed to taste enough of this joy that I want more. Because of faithful brethren and sisters who sent me, a God who sustained me and His blessed Word that I could share, I was blessed to go to Kharkhov, Ukraine this last spring. While there, God gave me the opportunity to study with three women in this large metropolitan area who were baptized into Christ before we came home. It occurred to me as I was filled with the joy of these individual births that these three women would be the nucleus of a brand new congregation of God’s people in a large area of Kharkov where a church had not existed since before the communist takeover of their country. God had let me be an instrument in the birth of a church! My songs that evening around that baptismal pool were songs of praise and thanksgiving and, yes, profound joy!
Psychologists all agree. If you are struggling with depression, the most effective medicine is to find someone who needs you and start filling needs. It works the same way spiritually. If we find ourselves struggling to feel secure and happy in the Lord, the best remedy is to get busy evangelizing. If you have never been involved in bringing a soul to the Lord, you are probably nowhere near as happy as you can be as a Christian. So, go ahead. It’s not too late to roll up your sleeves and help yourself to happiness. Your personal joy quota can increase dramatically in a short amount of time. Just do it. Here’s how to get started:
First brainstorm a list of all the people you know who are not Christians. Then choose from that list ONE person who is most likely to be interested or become interested in the gospel. Assess needs and circumstances that may influence your choice. Then choose ONE thing you can do to start the process of influencing this person. It may be taking a pie and a tract to a neighbor. It may be offering to keep a young mother’s children, so she can go to the mall for a couple of hours. It may be inviting this person to a marriage seminar, parenting class, or youth day at your congregation. It may be, for starters, just praying daily for a week for an opportunity to talk to this person. Whatever it is, write down the ONE thing you are going to do to try to reach this soul. Where should you write it? On the calendar, of course. That’s where we write the activities we really plan to do. Choose ONE date by which you plan to complete this activity and then be sure you do. In the interim, be sure you pray ONE daily prayer for this soul. Pray that God will providentially open doors in this person’s life. Pray for wisdom to approach this person in the most effective way. Pray for boldness. When the date has come and gone and you have accomplished this first step, re-evaluate. What is the next thing I can do to lead this person to Christ? Plan it, write it, pray about it, and do it. Then keep starting all over again. Remember, the goal is to come to a place in your relationship in which you can say “Would you like to study the Bible with me?” or “Have you thought about becoming a Christian?” or “Can we talk about your spiritual beliefs?” Sometimes you will come to a dead end in your effort. That’s okay. Choose a new person and start over with zeal. Soon you will have a long prayer list of people with whom you are at various stages in the conversion process and you will be covered up with opportunities to teach. Christians who want to teach can teach. And those who teach are happy Christians.