Nehemiah 8:10 – “Don’t be dejected and sad for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
The Joy of the Lord
We all know how energizing it is to be happy, excited, and full of joy. When we feel up we are full of life – positive, up beat, patient, and kind. But when we are down we feel drained and exhausted – dark clouds surround us and everything looks gray. There’s a reason that the main symptoms of depression are excessive sleeping, lack of interest in usually enjoyable pursuits, and self-isolation. Of course most of what the world calls joy is merely temporary happiness based on favorable circumstances. Real joy (like real peace and love) will transcend our circumstances and carry us through every part of life.
That joy is “the joy of the Lord”. So what is “the joy of the Lord”? It is the kind of joy that can only be found in God, and like everything it starts in Him. All good things not only come from God (James 1:17), but are also rooted in Him. In Himself God has joy and peace and is in fact love itself. So true joy is in God, of God, and from God – the source of all joy. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (God made flesh) we can be made right with God, reconciled (2 Cor. 5:19, Ephesians 2:16) and at peace with Him (Romans 5:1). Through faith in Him we enter into a relationship with God – this is what is meant by “eternal life” (John 17:3).
Once we have entered this relationship with God through Christ (John 14:6), we are able to experience His love (which is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit; see Romans 5:5) His peace, and His joy. As Scripture says, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him, rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8)”.
Strength for What?
Such glorious joy is strength indeed:
- To persevere through trials
- To love others with God’s own love
- To do the work God calls us to
- To resist temptation
- To pursue God
It was joy that strengthened Christ to face the cross. Scripture says, “… for the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God… (Hebrews 12:2)”. We are to “fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2). He is our example and hope. Therefore we must be “joyful in hope, (which helps us to be) patient in affliction, (and keeps us) faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12)”. For this reason we are commanded to “be joyful always” (1 Thess. 5:16).
So why don’t we better experience this joy? Though there may be plenty of other reasons these are the big three:
1. Complaining – this is always in the end complaining against God since He is sovereignly in control at all times. A complainer is never a joyful or faith-filled person. Complaining is almost always the whining voice of doubt against God’s character and His Word. God never takes well to complainers. Scripture says, “Now the people (of Israel, after leaving Egypt) complained about their hardships (in the wilderness) in the hearing of the Lord, and when He heard them His anger was aroused (Numbers 11:1)”. Thus Scripture says, “do everything without grumbling or complaining (Philippians 2:14)”
2. Apathy – whether it is in our jobs, our families, or our personal and spiritual growth; apathy always smothers our joy. We are meant to be passionate and active as God Himself is (see Exodus 34:14 and John 9:4) we are to do our work (whatever it may be) “as working for the Lord” (Ephesians 6:7) and to “not grow weary in doing good… (Galatians 6:9)”.
3. Disobedience – this is the root of it all, even the first two. When we live in knowing and willful disobedience we grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) who lives in us and we distance ourselves from God’s loving presence. Disobedience also gives ground to the enemy (Ephesians 4:27) whose only purpose is to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10) and that includes our peace, purpose, passion, and joy.
How to Regain and Maintain Your Joy
- Follow Jesus through the Word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit for “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, …. (Galatians 5:22)”.
- Know, believe, receive, and remember God’s promises. Trust in God for Scripture says, “Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength (from the joy of the Lord?)…” (Isaiah 40:31) and that God will “fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him” (Romans 15:13).
- Spend time cultivating your relationship with God then you can say with David, “You have filled me with joy in Your presence… (Psalm 16:11)”.
- Use your gifts and talents to serve and help others that you may say as Paul did, “we are workers with you for your joy” (2 Corinthians 1:24) and that God may say to you (now as well as later) “well done good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your Lord (Matt. 25:21)”.
- Cultivate a thankful attitude. Scripture tells us to, “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18)
- Celebrate God’s faithfulness. This was the main reason why God established the various celebrations for the Israelites “celebrate…rejoice…celebrate…be joyful (Duet. 16:10-15)”.
As Christians, we should be the most joyful people around because of the hope we have in Christ and because of the empowering and loving presence of God in us by His Holy Spirit.
Point to Ponder:
Have you discovered the joy that comes from a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ? That must be your first stop in pursuit of true and lasting joy. If you once had that joy but find yourself without it most days, then take a close and honest look at the three joy stealers outlined above. Ask God to show you if you have fallen prey to any of them and repent. Now trust God, pursue God, and let joy in Him strengthen you for life’s journey.
Let’s pray, “Our Father in heaven, thank You for making a way for us to be restored into a right relationship with You through the sacrifice of Your Son. We believe on Him as the only way to You – to joy and life – and by faith we receive forgiveness of sins through His blood. We confess that we have not lived as we should. We have been disobedient, complaining, and lukewarm. Forgive us, Lord, and cleanse us (1 John 1:9). Help us to pursue You by spending time in prayer and Your Word. You have given us all the strength and power we need to live a godly life (2 Peter 1:3) and to be pleasing to You in everything – may we walk in the power of Your Holy Spirit every day. May we remember and celebrate Your faithfulness and so be thankful to You in all circumstances remembering that You are always in control and are working everything out for our good (Romans 8:28). In the name of Jesus and for the sake of Your glory we pray. Amen”
And now, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)”.