Labor Pains


God brings joy through transformation.

John(86) (Part of the Believe(74) series)
by Stuart Johns(233) on July 5, 2020 (Sunday Morning(342))

Joy(3), Prayer(19)


Labor Pains

(John 16:16-24)



“Do you know what the word gospel means? Euangelion. It means literally the joy news. J.R.R. Tolkien, says there’s a kind of story … that brings us unbelievable joy … He says these stories always have a certain kernel to them. There’s always some incredibly hopeless situation, and victory is snatched out of the jaws of defeat. But how? Always through someone who comes in, and whose weakness turns out to be strength, someone whose defeat turns out to be a victory. He says it’s those kinds of stories that just seem to bring us joy. He called them eucatastrophes.


Do you know what the word eucatastrophe means? The joyful catastrophe. The tragedy that turns out to be a triumph. The sacrifice that turns out to bring joy. He said, however, there’s a Eucatastrophe of the eucatastrophes. There is a Story in all of the stories. He believes there’s a bass string to the human heart, and those stories can kind of make it reverberate a little bit but can’t pluck it.


Tolkien says the gospel story is the only story that will pluck that string so the whole heart never stops reverberating and vibrating with joy. The reason it will reverberate is … this is the reality to which all of the other stories point. It happened. It really happened. There really is a hero who defeats the villain. There really is Jesus. The word gospel means the joy news. Joy. It’s real. You have to have it.”


You can read the sermon here.


Tim Keller sermon on “The Joy of Jesus” from the Series: The Fruit of the Spirit—The Character of Christ, (May 3, 1998).





  • ME

    • Seth’s labor and delivery

        • We were expecting Seth, but he was trying to come early

        • For weeks leading up to his birth, the doctor was telling Judy not to have the baby

        • She had been on medication to stop contractions

        • So, when they finally said she could deliver the baby, she was not as mentally prepared as she had been with Wade’s delivery

        • Everything happened pretty quickly from there

        • I remember that Judy was laboring through her contractions, but I also remember that I needed to use the restroom, because my bladder was full

        • When I told Judy I was going to step into the bathroom, she told me I wasn’t going anywhere

        • She grabbed my hand and I stayed right there with her until Seth was born

        • I’m certainly not comparing the discomfort of a full bladder with labor, but I also remember not having to go to the bathroom after Seth was born

        • What discomfort I had was transformed by the birth of our second son

    • Tears of joy

        • Aside from my salvation experience and my marriage to Judy, the birth of my three boys has brought me the greatest joy

        • I tell people that I cried at the births of all three boys, but they were tears of joy

        • If you’ve never experienced the birth of a child, it’s hard to explain the sheer joy that fills your heart

        • The fullness of joy has to spill out of your body somehow and for me it spilled out through my eyes


  • WE

    • Women

        • If you have given birth, you understand what Jesus is telling His disciples in this passage today

        • The birth of your child is what caused you great pain, but the same child is also what brought you great joy

        • I suspect that most women don’t forget the pain associated with child birth, but I also think that the joy that fills their heart and life following the delivery, is what gives women the strength and courage to go through it again and again

    • Men

        • With technology today, we can also experience a little bit of what labor pains are like (we’ll never understand it fully)

        • They have machines that try to simulate contractions

        • They also have weighted belly suits that let us know what it’s like to carry the extra weight of a baby

          • I tried one of those on when we were expecting Wade

          • The instructor dropped a pencil on the floor and asked me to pick it up

          • When I bent my knees and squatted down to pick it up, both of my knees popped

        • While we can’t truly understand and experience the pain of childbirth, it doesn’t diminish the joy associated with the birth of our children


Jesus is trying to help His disciples understand that He is going to be leaving them soon. ​​ They will experience grief and heartache as He goes to the cross, but their grief will only last for a short time. ​​ He uses the illustration of a woman in labor and the joy she experiences at the birth of her child. ​​ God does not substitute something else to relieve the mother’s pain, in childbirth. ​​ Instead, He uses what is there already but transforms it [Wiersbe, 363]. ​​ The same was going to be true for the disciples. ​​ God was going to transform their grief into joy. ​​ He wasn’t going to remove it or substitute it with something else. ​​ God is doing the same thing in our lives even today. ​​ Jesus wants us to understand that . . .


BIG IDEA – God brings joy through transformation.


Let’s pray


  • GOD (John 16:16-24)

    • Resistant Joy (vv. 16-22)

        • Jesus’ statement (v. 16)

          • “In a little while you will see me no more . . .”

            • This part of the statement should not have taken the disciples by surprise or caused them confusion, because Jesus had been alluding to this for quite some time

            • John records at least three times when Jesus mentioned that He would be with them for only a short time

              • John 7:33, Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me.” [NIV]

              • John 12:35, Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. ​​ Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. ​​ The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going.” [NIV]

              • John 13:33, “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. ​​ You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: ​​ Where I am going, you cannot come.” [NIV]

            • Just like the disciples

              • When we’re faced with a situation that we don’t want to accept, it’s easy to block out the truth

              • We hear only what we want to hear

              • We struggle with denial, because we don’t want it to be true

              • So, it’s not difficult to understand why the disciples, even after being told multiple times by Jesus about His eminent departure, are still confused by His statement here

              • They’ve blocked out the truth, because they don’t want to accept His departure

              • My guess is that when they agreed to follow Him, they believed He would be with them longer than three plus years

            • In a few short hours, the disciples would not see Jesus, because He would be buried in a tomb

            • While the disciples should have understood Jesus’ impending departure, the next part of the statement would have confused anyone

          • “. . . and then after a little while you will see me.”

            • Most scholars agree, and John’s first readers would have understood, that Jesus is referring to His resurrection here – this is the benefit of hindsight

            • The disciples didn’t have that benefit when Jesus was making this statement to them

            • Resurrection was not a common activity in the 1st Century – resurrection was not common prior to Jesus’ resurrection or since His resurrection

            • On the last day (the end of times), resurrection will be common

              • John 5:28-29, “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” [NASB]

              • 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. ​​ After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. ​​ And so we will be with the Lord forever. [NIV]

            • Since resurrection was not commonplace, it’s not hard to see why the disciples struggled with the second part of Jesus’ statement

          • What we see next is their confusion

        • Confused disciples (vv. 17-18)

          • Because the disciples have blocked out Jesus’ multiple references to His departure (His death), they don’t understand the first part of His statement

          • And, because resurrection was not commonplace, they definitely didn’t understand the second part of His statement

          • Talking about Jesus instead of to Jesus

            • It’s fascinating that the disciples are talking amongst themselves about Jesus, instead of talking directly to Him

            • They’re all together at this point, with Jesus

            • But isn’t this just like us

              • Whether it’s something spiritual or non-spiritual, we find it easier to talk to someone else instead of the person who has the solution or can actually affect change

                • We spend time talking about our boss to another colleague at work instead of talking to our boss

                • We spend time talking to other neighbors about the neighbor, who is causing problems in the neighborhood, instead talking to them

                • We spend time talking to another family members about the family member we have a problem with instead of talking to the family member directly

                • We spend time talking about other believers in the Church (the universal Church) instead of talking to them about their beliefs

                • We spend time talking about church leadership with other church members, instead of talking to church leadership about our concerns

              • And most of the time we neglect to talk to God, first, about all of these situations, when He is the One who can and will transform our perspective and keep us from saying something that we may later regret

            • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Commit to talk to God, first, about individuals and situations that I am struggling with, and then go and talk with the individual(s) who can affect change.

          • While the disciples started out talking to each other about Jesus, they ended up acknowledging that they needed Jesus’ help to understand His statement

          • Jesus didn’t need to have any supernatural knowledge to know that the disciples wanted to ask Him about His statement, because it was obviously written all over their faces – Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, . . .

        • Jesus’ explanation (vv. 19-22)

          • Jesus asks them what they are discussing (v. 19)

            • Jesus doesn’t keep them waiting in agony

            • Instead He asks them if they are questioning each other about His statement

            • Jesus then repeats the statement

          • Jesus tells them they will weep and mourn while the world rejoices (v. 20)

            • Jesus starts with the 23rd “Amen, amen” saying found in the book of John [Michaels, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of John, 842]

            • He begins to explain what His statement meant

            • Weep and mourn while the world rejoices

              • This is again a reference to His death and burial that would happen within a day

              • The disciples were going to be shocked, confused, hurt, and scattered, because their Rabbi, their Teacher, their friend, their Messiah would be dead

              • This would cause rejoicing by the world

                • The world would be the Romans and the Jews

                • Jesus had been exposing their sin and making them culpable (responsible) for their own sin

                • John 15:22, If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. ​​ Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. [NIV]

                • They knew right from wrong and would have to make a conscience choice to either follow what was right or choose to continue in their sin

                • With Jesus dead, the world would rejoice, because they would no longer have to constantly experience the feelings of guilt every time they saw Jesus in the Temple courts or throughout the Roman Empire

                • What they didn’t understand was that Jesus’ death was part of a divine plan to bring redemption to the world

                • They also didn’t understand that part of God’s plan was to bring Jesus back to life, and in doing so, conquer sin and death

                • This was all part of God’s plan to enable us to be in a right relationship with Him, again

                • Humanity’s relationship with God had been severed since the time of Adam and Eve

                • God was restoring that relationship through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus

              • Jesus was only going to be separated from His disciples for a short time – three days

            • Grief will turn to joy

              • When Jesus came alive again, He showed Himself to certain disciples (Mary Magdalene, Peter) and then to the eleven disciples, and eventually to around 500 disciples

              • What the disciples thought was the end, was just the beginning

              • The grief they would experience would only be short-lived

              • They didn’t understand that when Jesus told them, but Jesus told them nonetheless – He was preparing them ahead of time

              • “OT Israel knew that it is God who is able to ‘turn their mourning into gladness’ and to give them ‘comfort and joy instead of sorrow.’” ​​ [Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 475-76]

                • Jeremiah 31:13, Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. ​​ I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. [NIV]

                • Isaiah 61:2-3, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. ​​ They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

              • The disciples would only grieve for a little while, because Jesus would be coming back to life and seeing them again

            • “Confusion turns to truth and grief turns to joy when we understand what Jesus has said.” ​​ [Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary, John, 302]

            • Jesus then uses a woman’s labor and the birth of a child to help the disciples understand that God would bring joy through transformation

          • Birth illustration (v. 21)

            • PRINCIPLE #1 – God brings joy, not by substitution, but by transformation.

              • “The same baby that caused the pain also caused the joy.” ​​ [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament, Volume 1, 363]

              • Relief of pain in childbirth

                • Perhaps in the 1st Century there was some kind of root that a woman in labor could chew on to relieve pain, but they didn’t have an epidural or intravenous pain medication like we have today

                • They had to go through the intense labor pains associated with childbirth

                • In the 1st Century there was not a substitute that a mother could use to relieve the pain

                • All the pain and hardship of labor was overshadowed by the joy that the mother experienced once the baby was born

                • The pain that the mother was experiencing was transformed into joy after the baby arrived

              • Jesus uses this birth analogy to help the disciples understand what they will be going through shortly

            • Jesus uses something the disciples understood to help remove their confusion about His original statement

          • Application of the illustration for the disciples (v. 22)

            • Just as a woman’s pain is transformed into joy once her baby is born, so it will be with the disciples and their grief

              • They’ve already been experiencing apprehension and anxiety about Jesus leaving

              • When He is crucified, their apprehension and anxiety will turn to grief and mourning

              • When He appears to them, after His resurrection, their grief will be transformed into joy

              • The same Jesus who had died, would be alive again!

              • God did not substitute another person in Jesus’ place, rather He transformed Jesus by allowing Him to come alive again

              • In Luke 24:17-27 we read about two disciples heading home after Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection (read the passage)

              • They had lost hope, but Jesus transformed their disappointment into joy, when He revealed Himself to them

              • Thomas’s doubt was transformed into belief when He saw the risen Lord

            • No one will take away your joy

              • The joy that the disciples would experience after seeing Jesus resurrected, would never be able to be taken away from them

              • The memory and joy that I experienced at the birth of my three sons cannot be taken away from me

              • As parents, the joy you experienced at the birth of your children cannot be taken away from you

              • As believers, the joy of our salvation experience cannot be taken away from us

              • We have joy that is resistant to any situation or circumstance that this world can throw at us, because of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection

            • Biblical examples of transformation through pain [Wiersbe, 364]

              • Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused of taking advantage of Potiphar’s wife and imprisoned as a result, but God transformed that situation for His glory and to save His people (Genesis 37-50). ​​ You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Gen. 50:20) [NIV]

              • The Israelites experienced persecution by the Egyptians after Joseph’s death, but that persecution only caused them to multiply and prosper

              • King Saul relentlessly pursued David in an attempt to kill him, but God used those circumstances to transform David into a man after His own heart and to give us many of the psalms that encourage us today as we face difficulties

              • In the 1st Century a cross was a symbol of death, but today we wear a cross around our neck or printed on a piece of clothing as a symbol of life, eternal life through Jesus’ perfect sacrifice – God transformed the cross so it would be symbol of hope and joy

            • God brings joy through transformation

          • Application for us

            • Every one of us goes through difficulty and pain, but we can experience joy if we allow God to transform the situation

            • He won’t substitute the pain and suffering, but He’ll use it to transform us

            • We have to be open to His transforming power in our lives

            • The Apostle Paul went through some pretty serious difficulties, things that we have probably never experienced, but listen to his words to the Roman and Corinthian believers

              • Romans 8:18, I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. [NIV]

              • 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. ​​ So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. ​​ For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. [NIV]

            • Substitution instead of transformation

              • I believe that many times God uses pain and suffering in our lives to get our attention, because He was to transform something in us

              • How many times, when faced with difficulties, suffering, and pain do we choose substitution instead of transformation?

                • When there’s conflict at work we look for a new job instead of allowing God to transform us

                • When there is pain and suffering in our family, we substitute with social media, friends, hobbies, etc., instead of allowing God to transform us

                • When there’s conflict in our neighborhood or at church, we may move to another neighborhood or church, instead of allowing God to transform us

                • God will transform the pain into joy for His glory, if we allow Him to

              • “The way of substitution for solving problems is the way of immaturity. ​​ The way of transformation is the way of faith and maturity.” ​​ [Wiersbe, 364]

            • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Experience joy by allowing God to transform the pain and suffering that I’m currently experiencing.

        • We not only can have resistant joy, but our joy can also be complete

    • Complete Joy (vv. 16:23-24)

        • Prediction of His ascension (v. 23a)

          • In the New Testament, in that day, usually refers to the end of the age or the last days – when Jesus returns a second time

          • That’s not how it’s being used here, because the disciples are going to be asking the Father in Jesus’ name – they’re not in heaven yet

          • In that day,” is referring to the time after Jesus rises from the dead, ascends into heaven, and sends the Holy Spirit as another Counselor

          • The disciples will no longer ask Jesus for any questions

        • Praying in Jesus’ name (vv. 23b-24)

          • Two different Greek words for ask

            • In that day you will no longer ask me anything

              • Erōtaō – means to question or inquire of

              • NASB – In that day you will not question Me about anything.

            • I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name

              • Aiteō – means to ask, to ask or request for oneself

              • NASB – Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you

              • As I mentioned in John 15:16, this does not mean that Jesus or the Father are like a genie in a bottle, granting every wish and whim that we ask for

                • As Jon Courson points out, praying in Jesus’ name means that we are coming in His authority and in conformity to His character and nature [Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, New Testament, 571]

                • Too often we pray selfish prayers that fall into the category of “Comfort” instead of “Mission” [Carter & Wredberg, Christ-Centered Exposition: ​​ Exalting Jesus in John, 331-32]

                • When we pray using the example that Jesus gave His disciples, we can be confident that the Father will give us whatever we ask in Jesus’ name

                • Matthew 6:9-10, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” [NIV]

              • “The name of Christ is both the passport by which the disciples may claim access into the audience chamber of God and the medium through which the Divine answer comes.” ​​ [Swete cited by Hoskyns cited by Burge, The NIV Application Commentary, John, 442]

            • The disciples didn’t need to ask the Father in Jesus’ name before this time, because Jesus was with them

          • Jesus was with them

            • That doesn’t mean they never asked God for things while Jesus was on earth or even before He was on earth

            • The dynamic of praying to the Father would change after Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension

            • PRINCIPLE #2 – Believing prayer, in Jesus’ name, is the power that brings complete joy.

              • The disciples would experience complete joy as they prayed in Jesus’ name according to the will of God

              • We can experience complete joy also when we pray in Jesus’ name according to the will of God

              • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Pray in Jesus’ name according to the will of God, so I can experience complete joy.


  • YOU



  • WE




“According to author and pastor Tullian (Tuh-lee-en) Tchividjian (Cha-vid-jen), ‘Suffering exposes the foundation of your life.’ In other words, suffering will reveal the true source of our joy and identity. Tullian offers the following personal story to illustrate this truth:


Seven years ago, after 41 years of marriage, my parents got divorced. It wasn't because of infidelity or abuse, physically or emotionally. My family and I still scratch our heads and wonder exactly what happened. Was it really a case of irreconcilable differences? I don't think that's possible for Christians because of the power of the gospel. It was an incredibly painful time for my siblings and me. We experienced a happy, healthy, loving home growing up. We had remarkable parents, and they provided the stability we needed as children. I don't know what it's like for a mom and dad to go through a divorce while their children are young. All I know is that it's weird to watch your parents' divorce in the stage of life where you have to explain it to your own kids.


The Bible states clearly that God hates divorce. It grieves his heart. There was nothing about my parents' divorce that seemed redemptive. I couldn't understand why God allowed it to happen. I was struggling with the whole situation, not simply because I was sad that my mom and dad apparently could not keep the promises they made to one another 41 years earlier, but because part of my identity was wrapped up in being the son of my parents. I felt important because of their standing in society. My mom and dad were remarkable citizens and church people. Their reputation made me feel significant. I realized years later that much of the devastation I had experienced was due to the fact that I had idolized my parents and their reputation.


Tullian concludes: ‘If the foundation of your happiness is your vocation, your relationships, or your money, then suffering takes your source of joy away from you. But if your ultimate value in life is God, then suffering drives you closer to your source of joy—God.’”


Tullian Tchividjian, "Job: Center Stage,"