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I Have No Greater Joy Than This

In his old age, the apostle John wrote a brief letter to a Christian by the name of Gaius.  This letter became the shortest book in the Bible, which we know as Third John.  In the letter, John presented a contrast between his approval of Gaius and his disapproval of Diotrephes.  Gaius was praised for his selfless help of those who worked in spreading the truth, but Diotrephes was exposed for his prideful rejection of the truth and those who taught it.  John had much more to say on these and other matters, but he abbreviated his letter in hopes of speaking to Gaius in person a short time later.

Presently, let us set our attention on John’s greeting in the first four verses:

“The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.   Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.  For I was very glad when brethren came and testified to your truth, that is, how you are walking in truth.  I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.”

There is a tremendous yet simple lesson to be learned from this brief greeting that applies to all Christians.  It is a simple matter of priorities, and it has a special application to Christian parents.

In the second verse, it is evident that Gaius’ prosperity and health were important to John, but they were not his highest priorities.  Notice that John prayed for Gaius’ physical prosperity to match the spiritual prosperity that he had already obtained.  John was confident that Gaius’ soul prospered because he had received good reports that Gaius was walking in truth.  For this, John wrote that he was “very glad.”  In fact, he emphasized his gladness over Gaius’ spiritual prosperity by saying, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.”  Because John’s greatest joy and highest priority had already been realized in Gaius, he prayed that Gaius’ material prosperity and health would also be realized.

Now, let us glean this lesson: our spiritual wellbeing must have priority over our physical wellbeing.  If John had received a report about Gaius that he behaved like Diotrephes, do you think that Gaius’ prosperity and health would have been the first objects of his prayer?  Of course not!  If that had been the case, then John would have prayed for Gaius’ spiritual wellbeing, and he would have written Gaius to correct his errors.  However, because Gaius’ soul was prospering, John turned his prayers to Gaius’ material prosperity and health.  Such priorities as are demonstrated by John must likewise govern our thoughts and actions.

That said, let us make practical applications of the lesson and consider our shortcomings on this matter.  It is not as if we have been unaware of the Bible’s admonition to make spirituality a higher priority than physicality and materialism (consider Matt. 6:24-34), but our awareness has not always translated into action.  In fact, we are often much more concerned for worldly matters than for spiritual matters.  Christians usually know every detail about who is sick, who is having surgery, who has lost a job, etc., and we publicly pray about such needs, but we do not often express similar concern for one another’s spiritual needs.  Do we know (do we care) who is struggling, who needs encouragement, who needs teaching, or who is in sin?  Do we rejoice to see our brethren walking in truth, and do we grieve to see those who walk in error?  If so, then our words and deeds should show it.

Parents especially need to take this lesson to heart.  Most parents today wear themselves out supplying what they consider to be their children’s physical, social, and educational needs, but they neglect their first priority – their children’s spiritual needs.  They may give lip-service to spirituality, but everything they do exposes their true ambition, which is worldly success for their children.  Instead of this, parents need to embrace the meaning of John’s statement to his spiritual child Gaius – “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” – and then do everything necessary to obtain their greatest joy.  There will be no lasting joy in a child who grows up, gets a good job, makes lots of money, has lots of friends, achieves worldly success, and is lost without the Lord Jesus Christ.  Parents need to make their children’s spiritual success their highest ambition and then work to achieve it by constantly and consistently teaching them the truth, showing them godly examples, and protecting them from ungodly influences.  While other things may be important, they are purely and distantly secondary to spiritual success in the Lord.

Therefore, let us get our ambitions straight.  Our greatest joy should always be for the spiritual success of ourselves and others, whether it is for our fellow Christians or for our own children and family members.  To achieve this joy, we must make spiritual success our highest priority, and spiritual success is obtained only through walking in the truth of Jesus Christ.  If you make this your ambition, then it will be the greatest joy you will ever have.

Stacey E. Durham




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