Growing up and living in West Texas provides many interesting and unique opportunities. On any given weekend a person may be able to enjoy a rattlesnake roundup, ranch rodeo, demolition derby, or a random dust storm. The landscape provides an array of drought resistant vegetation which includes many shades of light green to brown grasses and our version of trees; the Cedar and the Mesquite. Many people have scoffed at the West Texas landscape; but then the sun begins to sink below the horizon. The once simple and somewhat desolate land is filled with beautiful shades of pink, orange, and purple. No artist can capture the majesty of the West Texas sunset, except the original artist who set the sun in motion.
Now, enough about the sentimental beauty of West Texas and on to what everyone knows is most important: Friday Night Football! Yes, High School Football could be classified as a religion here in West Texas, and I have to admit that I tithe regularly to the stadium box office and concession stand. I had the opportunity to be quarterback of Sterling City High School and I still love to cheer on the local team. I can remember those Friday nights and how nervous I would get before taking the field. My worst fear was that I may forget a play or which way to run. I am sure our coach understood our fears. Before the game we would always run through the most important plays of the week. This last minute time of preparation and my coaches encouraging words reinforced what was most important during the game and helped to calm my nerves. Once the game started, no matter how dire the situation became, I could rely on those last parting words and instructions from my coach.
In John 15, Jesus and the disciples have begun to travel to the garden where Jesus will be arrested. The words on that walk were Jesus’ final teachings to the disciples. I have to think that Jesus chose the words he wanted to speak very carefully because these would be the words the disciples would have to hold onto in the dark days to come.
Jesus uses the example of a vine, branches, and fruit. Simply stated this means that we must do everything we can to foster growth in our relationship with Christ so that we live our lives according to Christ’s example. Believing in Christ gives us salvation, but that is only the beginning of the relationship we have with Christ. From believing in Christ we should become followers of Christ which is what bearing fruit means. Why would these be the words Jesus chose to teach the disciples at this pivotal time?
Jesus understands that people are searching for hope, peace and meaning in their life. When he says, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete,” Jesus tells us how to live a fulfilled life. The joy Jesus speaks of is found only through him. His joy transcends happiness and is not based on human emotion. Jesus’ joy is found only when we remain in him and bear fruit. The joy Jesus gives brings hope to the hopeless, peace to the tormented, and purpose for those who are searching for meaning. Amazing! Some of Jesus’ last words before his death were given so that our joy would be complete.
Jesus has now told the disciples how to experience true joy; remain in him and bear fruit. The next thing Jesus says helps to clarify what bearing fruit really means. Verses 12 and 13 say, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” We will never find joy if we do not love other people. I believe Jesus experienced pure joy throughout his life because of his love for people. This joy was experienced even as Jesus gave up his life because he was giving his life out of love for you and me. The more we remain in him and grow closer to him the more we will be able to love others.
Ironically, the world tells us that in order to find joy we need to focus on our own needs, desires and dreams. Jesus tells us that when we love others as he has shown, our own joy will be complete. When I look around at all the heartbreak in the world the evidence is overwhelming that the world’s way of finding joy is a lie. We must grab hold of the truth and proclaim the truth to a world that desperately needs to find joy.
Through Christ we are able to love others as he does and live our lives so others will come to love him. I am so amazed that we have a God who desires for us to find true joy in this life. I hope you will live your life so that your joy may be complete. Do you feel that your joy is complete? Are you loving others the way Jesus loves us? Are you living your life so that others will see your love? How can you do a better job of remaining in Christ? How can you show your love for others?
We have three daughters, which makes my house exciting and emotionally charged at all times. I remember when our youngest daughter entered into the dreaded time of life so affectionately called the terrible two’s. She started to become very independent and she knew what she wanted. The biggest problem was that, even after three children, I do not always understand random finger pointing and incoherent noises, which was her preferred method of communication. If this method failed she resorted to screaming and making noises that would make a wounded animal proud. We try to be good parents so we began disciplining our child so that at age sixteen our daughter does not throw herself into the floor kicking a screaming when she does not get her way.
When we got to the point of correcting our youngest little angel/heathen, I found that our oldest child, who was eight at the time, would immediately come to the aid of the little angel. She reminded us that our little angel is very young and does not know any better. I must admit that she came up with some very clever excuses for our youngest daughter’s behavior. While her actions did not stop us from dealing with our youngest daughter’s misbehavior, the love she showed for her little sister was precious. She became her advocate. She spoke for her and stood up for her even in times of trouble.
The Encarta Dictionary defines advocate as, “somebody who acts or intercedes on behalf of another.” I think all of us have a desire for someone to be our advocate and I know that we all need an advocate. The problem is that in this world we seem to be so focused on ourselves that we seldom take the time to be an advocate for others. In these passages, Jesus is continuing to tell the disciples the hard truth of the future while at the same time giving them hope and encouragement. Jesus promises that the Father will give us an Advocate in this world. An Advocate who will help us, strengthen us, and speak the truth to us. An Advocate who will never leave us, no matter how difficult life may get. Jesus tells the disciples that life will not be easy for them and that they will come under attack, but the Advocate will never abandon them. I am comforted knowing God has sent us an Advocate who will never fail us because our Advocate is God himself through the Holy Spirit. Human advocates may fall short of our expectations or needs, but with God as our Advocate we will never lack for His support.
Not only does the Advocate sent by the Father intercede for us and support us, but also testifies about the one who overcame the darkness of sin and death, who is Jesus Christ. In John 15:27, Jesus tells the disciples that they must also testify just as the Advocate testifies about Jesus. I believe this applies to us as well. The Father does not send us an Advocate just for our own personal security, but also to help and encourage us to become advocates to this world.
Jesus says the Father will send us an Advocate so that we will not be as orphans, abandoned and alone. A man named James Lual Atak grew up in Southern Sudan and spent his childhood fighting for his life in ways that we cannot even imagine. Fighting for food was minor compared to avoiding capture, enslavement, and death at the hands of the Northern aggressors. When James was in his early teens he was forced to fight as a soldier for the Southern Sudanese government and became part of the group known as the “Lost Boys of Sudan.” Finally, James ended up in Kenya and was given the opportunity of a lifetime: a visa to come to the United States and start a new life. James had been waiting for that day, but when the day arrived something stirred inside of James that changed his life. Listening to the stirring within him from the Advocate, James turned down the new life in America and went back to his hometown in Sudan and started New Life Ministry. He now ministers to over five hundred orphans who have been ripped from their families because of the overwhelming violence all around them. James returned to the place that took everything from him. James is now giving back by being an advocate to those orphans. He is standing up for them when the world has turned its back on them. He gives these orphans a voice in the midst of the violence and evil. James is being an advocate because he has experienced and listened to the Advocate Jesus told us would be sent. The Advocate does not only comfort us and strengthen us in times of need, but empowers us to impact the world for Christ.
If you believe that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior you can be assured you have an Advocate. The Holy Spirit will be with you, even if sometimes you may not realize His presence. The question for us is not whether we have an Advocate, but are we being an advocate? Are we encouraging those who need to find courage? Are we being a voice of comfort and peace to those who are in the midst of the storms of life? Are we speaking for those who the world refuses to acknowledge? Are we helping those who so desperately need to see that there is someone who cares for them?
You can be an advocate in this world and make a difference. Open your eyes to those around you and be their advocate and share the light of Jesus that overcomes the darkness of this world.