Friday, April 17, 2015

His Joy Is Our Strength

     One of the greatest needs we all have is to experience joy in our lives.  Too often, I believe people equate joy with happiness, but there is a difference between the two.  Happiness is a momentary emotion that can come and go.  Joy, however, is a deep abiding confidence that God will see us through whatever storms we may face.  I have mentioned it before in my writing but it bears repeating.  I used to have a little sticker that said:  "Joy is not the absence of sorrow but the presence of God."  I like that definition because we face a life here in a broken world that is difficult to walk through.  There are disappointments and losses as we journey each day, but as Nehemiah says:  "For the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10b).  Why did he say this?
     Nehemiah was used of God to bring the people back to Jerusalem out of captivity to rebuild the walls of the city.  When the work was done after much opposition to this endeavor, the Lord called upon Nehemiah the Governor and Ezra the priest to set aside a holy day in which the Law would be read to the people.  As the people listened they wept because they saw how they had disobeyed the Lord.  Their repentance was genuine, and when the reading was completed, Nehemiah sent them out to eat and drink and celebrate their new found relationship with the Living God.  This is why he told them that the joy of the Lord is their strength.  True repentance leads to joy that enables us to face whatever life throws our way.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
     Even our Lord Jesus Christ knew this kind of joy that enabled Him to face death on the cross for our salvation.  Hebrews 12:1-2 says:  "1Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  We must fix our eyes on Jesus just as He fixed His eyes on the goal of our salvation through the cross.  Our Lord was able to endure the agony of flogging and death by crucifixion because His eyes were set on the goal of finishing His work and sitting down at the right hand of God the Father.  This joy gave Him strength.  When we focus on the Lord rather than our circumstances, we are doing the same thing.
     Honestly, I do not know how in the world I could have ever faced some of the heartaches that life has brought me without God's inner joy which has helped me through it all.  Losing my mother after a ten year battle with Alzheimer's, losing my father to a rare brain disease much before his time and then, losing our first born grandson suddenly two years ago are not easy things to face.  Yet, God's joy has undergirded me with strength.  I do not know how anyone can face the hardship and pain of loss without Jesus Christ.
     Jesus Christ made known to His disciples what He was passing on to them in John 15:11:  "These things have I spoken to you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."  This same joy is what we find as we open the pages of the Bible.  Reading the Word fills us with a joy and peace that the world cannot know outside of Christ.
     Like the people of Israel after hearing the Word of God went out to rejoice in His strength, so we also can do the same thing when we put Christ first.  Psalm 30:5 tells us:  "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning."  Let us trust in God whose joy can walk us through the deepest valley and over the highest mountain top.  Selah!

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