Monday, September 22, 2014

Finding Strength in Joy

     All of us are aware that this world brings many problems our way each day.  Life's troubles can weigh us down if we allow them to, but God wants us to live in His joy in spite of our challenges.
Yet, how do we do this?
     First of all, we need to realize that joy is not the same thing as happiness.  Happiness can come and go depending on our circumstances in life.  It is a feeling/emotion.  While it can accompany joy, it is not quite the same thing as joy.  Instead, joy is the calm assurance and peace we have knowing that our Lord is with us in every circumstance.  A good example is found in Nehemiah.
     This book of the Old Testament tells of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.  Nehemiah is the governor of this territory and Ezra was the Scribe and priest.  In chapter 8, the people have gathered together to hear the Law of God read to them for they had been exiles in a foreign land for many years.  Their sin before God sent them into exile, but now they had returned.  As Ezra read the Law to them, many wept and sorrowed as they heard the Law they had disobeyed.  Nehemiah, however, spoke:  "Then he said to them, 'Go
your way.  Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to your Lord.  And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.'"  Did you catch that?  The joy of the Lord is our strength!  When we are too weary to go on, God's supernatural joy will sustain us and give our hearts rest.  It is not  momentary like happiness can be.
     Joy comes from the living presence of God within our hearts.  This is why Paul, even though he was imprisoned, could write these words:  “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord” (Phil. 3:1). Phil. 4:3-4 says: “And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”  This very act of rejoicing in Christ deepens our joy as we bring glory to God.
     Secondly, joy comes from the knowledge of our salvation through Christ.  The book of Habakkuk tells us:  Hab. 3:18-19: “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; he will make my feet like deer's feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills."  Not only does God provide for our salvation but He also helps us to walk through the difficult days we face with a sense of joy that the world cannot know.
     Finally, we find not only a deeper joy but also greater strength as we immerse ourselves in God's Word.  Jeremiah 15:16 reads: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts."  When we discover who we are and who God is through the reading of His Word, we find real joy.  The Bible is living and brings to us the truth that we hunger for as Jeremiah describes.  This alone satisfies us like nothing else.
     Having a heart filled with joy does not mean that we will skip merrily through life with no painful situations.  Jesus went to the cross and endured its shame "for the joy that was set before Him" (Heb. 12:2) and James tells us to "count it all joy when you fall into various trials..." (James 1:2-4).  Why?  Because as we face life with God's joy, He supplies the strength we need.  We come out having learned lessons we could not have understood had we not gone through the trials.
     I have mentioned in earlier devotions that I used to have a sign above our computer that read:  "Joy isn't the absence of sorrow.  It is the presence of God".  That makes all the difference in the world dear friends.  Living for Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit has made our lives whole in a way that the world will never understand.  What we have in Him money cannot buy.  Therefore, let us begin each day rejoicing in the joy of the Lord for He provides our strength and all we need.  Selah!

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