We are told that the “joy of the LORD is your [our] strength” (Neh 8:10 NASB). So, what does that mean and how do you live in His strength? It’s a choice. We must choose to live in His joy, just as we are to choose to rejoice each day. “This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps 118:24 NASB). When everything is going well choosing to rejoice, adopting an attitude of joy is easy, but what about when everything goes wrong? How can we have that deep understanding and personal relationship with Christ so that we can experience joy in any and all situations? Let us search the Scripture for insight.
To begin with, we know that joy is a “fruit of the Spirit” [and]…If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:22–26 ULB). Jesus desires for His joy to be made complete in us. He says, “As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love. ‘I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father. You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. This is what I command you: Love one another’” (John 15:9-17 HCSB). So, His joy is made complete in us as we live in His love and put His love into action by loving one another.
We must understand that living in the joy of the LORD does not mean a carefree life without problems. James declares, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (Jas 1:2-4 NIV) Jesus testifies, “I am coming to you [the Father], and I speak these things in the world so that they [faithful followers] may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth” (John 17:13-19 NRSV). So, does this mean that His joy is made complete in us as we face trials and the Word sanctifies us?
Let us listen to the words of Nehemiah: “All the people came together as one…Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon…And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law…Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, ‘Amen! Amen!’ Then they bowed down and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground…Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, ‘This day is holy to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength’… Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them. (Neh 8:1-12 NIVUK). So, do we find the joy of the LORD as our strength when we come into a deep, accurate understanding of the Word?
Solomon, the great sage attests, “I have seen personally what is the only beneficial and appropriate course of action for people: to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in all their hard work on earth during the few days of their life which God has given them, for this is their reward. To every man whom God has given wealth, and possessions, he has also given him the ability to eat from them, to receive his reward and to find enjoyment in his toil; these things are the gift of God. For he does not think much about the fleeting days of his life because God keeps him preoccupied with the joy he derives from his activity” (Eccl 5:18-20 NET). “Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also taught knowledge to the people…The words of the sages are like prods, and the collected sayings are like firmly fixed nails; they are given by one shepherd. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them…Having heard everything, I have reached this conclusion: Fear God and keep his commandments, because this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl 12:9-13 NET). So, we choose to live in His joy as we journey with Christ through life. Praise be to God!
Paul avows, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing,so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life” (Phil 2:14-16 NIV). “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:9-21 NIV). Our lives should reflect Christ with an outward flow of His joy from the hope we have in Him. Praise be to God!!!“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice! Let everyone see your gentleness. The Lord is near! Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things. And what you learned and received and heard and saw in me, do these things. And the God of peace will be with you” (Phil 4:4-9 NET). Stay in the Word, enjoy life, focused on the good, and keep the joy of the LORD growing to completion in your heart. Walk in the Spirit and rejoice in Christ always. To God be the glory!! Amen.