BLOG: Praying for Distinction, Part 1


Praying for Distinction, Part 1
Companion blog to “When He Prays for His Church

In Jesus’ direct prayer to God (John 17:13-23), He lays out for us five distinguishing marks of the chosen people of God (His church):

  1. Joy
  2. Holiness
  3. Truth
  4. Mission
  5. Unity

So many evangelical churches today end up blurring those distinguishing lines because they believe blending in with the world will attract more church-goers that might then come to Christ through their inclusive efforts.  I won’t belabor the potential for heretical thinking here but choose to focus in on those distinguishing marks Christ speaks of and allow their truth to elaborate on your heart.

In John 17:13 Jesus asks that we have “joy” after He is gone.  We believers are set apart for this request.  He was not asking for the whole world.  He was not asking that we have more joy than we currently experience in daily living.  He was asking God to give a unique people the unique joy that was His alone to give.  He was referring to a joy that is divinely distinguished from common joy.

Divine Joy or Common Joy

We Christians sometimes think our only joy, or lack-there-of, is attached to our personal circumstances.  It is not.  Divine joy is a different animal entirely.  It is gifted to us along with our justification and sustained within our countenance by the Holy Spirit.  It takes a certain level of effort bent on denial of Christ’s work to hide divine joy, if indeed you possess it.  This joy is joy that celebrates through the harshest of trials; loudly praising God’s hand in it all.

We are set apart from the world to respond differently.

Unbelievers don’t have access to this joy and when Christians refuse to express this unique, distinguishing characteristic of the church with a woe-is-me attitude, they rob their brothers in Christ of support and unbelievers of the opportunity to see the glory of God powerfully at work in life circumstances similar to their own.  No wonder our neighbors in crisis are turning to pills, gilded-culture, self-help gurus and books for something spectacularly different and joy filled.

What Jesus actually said…

This divine, un-earthly joy Christ refers to is not now, nor was it then, some hopeful, fairy-dust-induced trance that teaches us Christians to fake-it-till-you-make-it.  It is joy based on the foundation of doctrine (what Jesus actually said).

Example:  You have cancer.  Which request is an example of divine joy and which is an example of the world’s common joy?

  1. You ask everyone and God to heal your cancer.
  2. You ask God to help you glorify His name through your attitude during this intense time when the world is watching.  And you ask for relief from suffering, and even healing, if that will bring glory to Him.

Loss and suffering are our golden opportunities to clock-in and get to work witnessing through our everyday behavior.  Yes, you might just be called to be God’s clean-up batter!  So many souls are yet to be saved for the completion of the kingdom.  I joyfully tell you this is true because…

  • Sound doctrine declares the wages of sin is death[1].  Human bodies die off.
  • Sound doctrine declares Jesus to have substituted His life for our eternal death sentence[2]; allowing His chosen ones to be alive in heaven with Him forever[3].
  • Sound doctrine declares He left His very own spirit to live and act within us[4], while we are still on earth, so that we lack nothing we need to do exactly as He has commanded[5].
  • Sound doctrine declares He will gather all who are His and none can be taken from His hand[6].
  • Sound doctrine always brings joy to a believer’s heart because he/she knows it’s true[7].

If somehow you believe that you are the exception to Jesus’ request for you to be able to respond with utter joy in times of crushing loss or sorrow, then you are forgetting that Jesus knew you and your trouble specifically when He asked His Father for you to have His joy.

Take this week to evaluate your life and its losses.  See God’s hand in it all.  If it is a current situation, pray to God that the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth of Scripture that brings understanding for your situation.  Yes, that might mean you call your pastor today.  Ask, that you can know what God says about your situation.  For there is nothing you can experience in your lifetime that He has not given instruction on, you just may not know what that is.  There are men who do.  They are your elders, your pastors.  Please, find understanding and then get to work loving your brothers and sisters who need to see your joy (aka Christ’s joy).

Next week we will look at another of the distinguishing marks of the church.  I hope you will subscribe to this blog and keep learning all God has for you through these lessons taught by Pastor Steve Wilson of Grace Community Church.


    [1] Romans 6:23

    [2] Romans 3:25-26

    [3] John 17:24, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

    [4] Galatians 5-22-26

    [5] Matthew 5:16

    [6] John 10:27-28, Romans 8:38-39

    [7] Psalm 19:8