“Three things I thank God for every day of my life: thanks that he has vouchsafed me knowledge of his works; deep thanks that he has set in my darkness the lamp of faith; deep, deepest thanks that I have another life to look forward to- a life joyous with light and flowers and heavenly song.” Helen Keller

I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. [John 17:4-5]

It is said that “familiarity breeds contempt.” That is probably true, but it is also true that familiarity can uncover great treasure. When we come to a passage of scripture like John 17, a passage that is very familiar to us, we can pass over it and fail to give it the devotion it demands and deserves. This is part of the “living word” that Hebrews describes for us. That does not mean it is changing or growing in any way. It means it has power and life that can thrill our hearts and throttle our hopes every time we thrust ourselves into its truth. The scriptures have riches hidden in them that are uncovered only by determined digging. If you come to this passage expecting to rake leaves, you will go away with a basketful of dead kindling. If you come to the passage with a shovel, pick and faith in God’s desire to speak, you will leave with precious pearls of truth and wisdom.   

It is crucial for us to know that we need more than human thinking. We need a divine tutoring. That is behind the prayer of the psalmist: “Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders.” [Ps 119:27] We can understand what the sentences and paragraphs are saying with a natural ability to read. But to hear God speak, to understand his truth, to enjoy the wonders of his riches, we need the supernatural help of the Holy Spirit. He is the One who opens our eyes to the truth God is speaking to us today. [Psalm 119:18] So, we pray for his help: “Holy Spirit, help us to hear and see and wonder at the awesome beauty that you would reveal in your Word today. May the glory of Jesus Christ capture my head and heart this day.” Now, if that is our prayer, we are ready to begin.    

Before us we have one of the last prayers of our Lord and Savior as he approaches the cross and the completion of his earthly mission. The time had arrived. The culmination of his ministry is at hand.  Last words are always crucial for they often gather up and express what is crucial to one’s life on earth. I have discovered three valuable lessons from this portion of the “Battle Prayer of Jesus.”  

First, we see that Jesus had one dominating passion. He will live and die for the glory of his Father. He prays that he will complete the mission on the cross so that he might complete the Father’s will.  I find it very interesting to note that the accomplishment of his mission was never in doubt, for it was ordained by the Father in eternity past. Still, Jesus recognizes his need of the Father’s help and so he prays. It is an important lesson for us to learn. Jesus’ mission on earth will be accomplished not by fate but faith. God has ordained that his promises would be procured through prayer. The same is true for our lives. The promises of God are found throughout the Bible and God has ordained that they would be possessed by the asking of his people. Too often we have not because we ask not. [James 4:2]

Second, we see that Jesus had a specific mission. He was limited to the directions that the Father had given him. His mission even included the very words he would say. “For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. [John 12:49] His actions were deliberately fashioned after the Father’s works: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” [John 5:19] Not only was he limited in what he said and did, he was limited to where he would minister. His whole target area was limited to a strip of land just 75 miles wide and 150 miles long. Although he taught the multitudes, he targeted and trained twelve men. Ultimately and finally, everything he said and did was governed by one ultimate goal: The manifestation of the glory of the Father through perfect obedience.  

We also have a limited mission. We have been given the thoughts to think, the words to say and the deeds to do. All are found in God’s inspired Word. We have been stationed in a particular place and time in history. We have all been given specific gifts and a particular calling. And, all that we are, all that we say and all that we do have one all encompassing goal: To display the glory of our God by our love and devotion to his Son, Jesus Christ. We cannot do everything but we can do something. Our calling is to identify what God has called us to do and then do it in the strength he provides, “so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” [1 Peter 4:11]

 Third, we see that Jesus had a joyful destination. The foundation of his incredible determination was built on the bedrock of joy! Hebrews 12:2 gives us this insight: “Who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The cross is not the end. It is the door to a new and glorious beginning. It is the door to future joy! Jesus is returning to the glory that was his in eternity past. The shame and the pain of that terrible cross are put within the perspective of God’s ultimate and sovereign purposes to bless and reward his Son. His knowledge of and confidence in the Father’s sovereign and gracious will, provides the inward strength to complete his mission.   

Jesus is our example. When we find ourselves in a dark and dangerous place; when it seems like pressure and pain is all about us, when we are tempted to compromise or give up, we need to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” [Heb 12:2] He showed us the way. He laid down the path. He won the victory. He set down the example. This world is not the end. The final rewards are not given in this life. When surrounded by enemies we need to, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” [Heb 12:3]

One of our great resources we have been given to help us to win in war is the biographies of men of faith who are now dead but still speak. They are a part of that “great cloud of witnesses” [Heb 12:1] that have gone through the fire of testing and come out the other side rejoicing. They are those soldiers who were commended for their faith even though they did not receive what they were ultimately looking for in this life. God had planned “something better” [Heb 11:39-40] for them in the next. They were willing to lose everything in this life for the joy of receiving everything in the next.    

I am thinking of normal men with desires and passions like us but who were radically transformed by the beauty of Jesus and his rewards. The promises of this world and the pleasures thereof were just not big enough to keep them satisfied and secure in their comfortable “American dream.” A nice, quiet retirement was just not on their radar screen. Life was too short, the call was too big and the glory too awesome to get caught up in what everybody else was doing. Their vision went beyond the cares and causes of this world to the riches and rewards of the next. They were men and women of incredible faith. I want to be like them. I want to be like Jesus. Don’t you? Ask for vision. Find you place. Set your heart. Live for joy!