What’s Your Greatest Joy?


3John 4 I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth.


John’s greatest joy was to hear of the faithfulness of his spiritual children. Even when life brought many challenges and difficulties, he knew what was the most important thing in life. He had been raising spiritual children for most of his life and they were what brought him joy.


This was my mother-in-law’s life verse. She became the mother of five amazing children and the mission and calling of her life was to raise them to be followers of Jesus Christ. This was evident in the intentionality with which she raised them to love the Lord. There truly was no greater joy for Thelma Sunberg than to see her children walking in truth. I think that’s why this scripture will always be special to me for, even though she’s passed on, her joy continues for the investment of her intentionality is eternal.

I think about how Thelma brought about her greatest joy. She spoke to her children frequently about spiritual matters and helped them to keep their focus on the things that were most important in life. She never did get very hung up on earthly things. They didn’t have much and she had to do all that she could to help feed and clothe all five of her children, and yet, this was never the measure of success. There were scripture verses placed in strategic locations throughout the house so that they would be memorized and carried in the hearts of her children. And, of course, there were her daily prayers for her children. She gave up of herself in so many ways for these five children, praying that they would walk in truth.

Just a few years ago the whole family was gathered together in Boston for a few days and mom Sunberg informed all of us that there was something very important that she needed to talk to all of us about and wanted to make sure that we gave her time to talk one evening. We were all rather curious what it was that she needed to talk to us about for this was a bit out of her character. She had a lot of one on one conversations but was never all that big on speaking to a group of people. Now, she had gathered all of her adult children together, and the grandchildren were all there too. Her oldest daughter was a licensed minister and her husband was pastoring a college church. Her oldest son and his wife were both ministers and pastoring at a church together. Her second daughter was leading music in her local church where she and her husband were key laypersons in the congregation. Her next son and wife had been serving as a pastor for many years in Canada and her youngest and his family were serving as missionaries in Eastern Europe. So, here was this room packed full of families that were serving the Lord and mom wanted to have a special conversation with them. Everyone wondered what it was that she wanted to talk about.

As we gathered around mom said she had something very important to share with all of us. Dad Sunberg had passed away a few years earlier and we all wondered what it might be that she wanted to share. We didn’t have to wait long when she started her little talk with a roomful of preachers. She was very concerned about our personal spiritual lives and wanted to make sure that every one of us knew the importance of spending time with the Lord on a daily basis. She didn’t care what kinds of positions we might have in the church, if we weren’t spending time with the Lord in prayer and study we weren’t on the right track. She had felt very burdened to remind us all again of what was the most important thing in life and for her, it was making sure that her children were all walking in the truth. Honestly, at the time we were all a bit tickled that this was the “big talk” because here were all these ministers, and yet, it was so indicative of the intentionality that she placed on raising her children to walk in truth.

She has now passed on but that intentionality is making a difference in the next generation. Since that talk three of those grandchildren have gotten their preacher’s licenses and I think that there are more to come. It’s not to say that walking in the truth means becoming a preacher, but for some it does. For others it means serving as faithful laypersons, wherever God has planted them and all of them are intentional about walking in the truth and making a difference in the world.

We often look back on that night when mom had “the talk” with all of us. It was her legacy to pass on and her children walking in the truth was her greatest joy. Today, as a mother of two of those grandchildren my greatest joy is to see my children walking in the truth.

My mother-in-law dedicated her entire life to this goal. It cost the Apostle John a life of persecution. Anything of great worth will cost us something.

Are we willing to invest just as much, in an intentional manner, to experience our greatest joy?


Lord, thank you for the faithfulness of Thelma Sunberg.  Amen.


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