Your True Strength—the Joy of the Lord

A beam of sunlight shining through grey clouds on a body of water between two low mountain ranges[Image Credit: Davide Cantelli/Unsplash]

“Make no attempt to leave, thirst and mull over your spoiled gruel and keep it all for yourself, regardless of how much worse another’s condition is: for this night is full of sinful revelry to our Lord the devil: make every effort to feel sorry for yourself; for the misery and disappointment of the devil is your weakness and hopelessness.” Doesn’t this fictitious passage from an “anti-Bible” sound depressing? Yet it could describe just another day and night in the life of many people today. Why is it that way? It is from to a lack of real joy in their hearts.

We most commonly equate joy only with happiness. We can have happiness along with joy, but happiness is not all that joy is. Happiness is only a temporal and often conditional state of mind or being. It will come and it will go. We humans have often proven ourselves capable of going from happiness to misery in an instant. But real joy holds fast, regardless of our current condition or situation. The fact is that true and lasting joy comes from Jesus Christ alone.

Here’s that verse from the “anti-Bible” again, this time in its proper biblical form: “…Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Here the Israelites, who had been in captivity in Babylon over one hundred and sixty years, were just now returning to Jerusalem. While they were removed from their homeland for such a long period of time, they had been kept from really knowing the law of God (the first five books of the Old Testament—basically the “Bible” of that period). When, at long last, the people were able to hear God’s word read and explained to them again, they were grieved in their hearts and down in spirit as they became aware of their ignorance and disobedience.

As a result, Nehemiah, the governor of the land, made this proclamation to the Israelites, in order to encourage and remind them that it was a time of renewal and restoration of God’s covenant.

He and the priests did not want the people to focus on their failures, but on the One who could bring them out of their hopelessness and helplessness.

The “joy of the Lord” in this verse means reliance on the unfailing nature of God. But when men build their hope up on this sinful world, they will be disappointed every time. Joy is one common thread woven throughout the whole Word of God. It is not based on what we do, or don’t do, or only on our current circumstances. Joy is something that Jesus places within those who have committed their heart and life to Him. Joy is not found in what Jesus does, but in Jesus Himself and His unfailing nature.

When Jesus came to this Earth as a man, He didn’t just bring a smile to someone’s face and then move on. That would only be happiness. Instead, His life became the perfect example of joy. No matter what trial or situation He went through, He put “the joy of the Lord is your strength” into practice. He did not wonder or agonize over how, or if, He was going to make it through. He put His whole trust in His Heavenly Father instead, who always made His joy complete. He knew without any doubt that failure was not part of His Father’s nature.

Open Bible laying flat on hardwood table with hands folded and resting partially near lower portion of book[Image Credit: Pixabay]

How can we have the joy of the Lord? Simply by keeping His commandments and obeying His Word. “As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love. If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love. These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:9-11).

How do we effectively keep His commandments? By not trying to physically accomplish them in our own incomplete capacity. Obedience to God’s Word is not like a collection of merit badges that we must try to earn in order to be in right standing with God. Due to our inherently sinful self, it is impossible for us to fulfill all of God’s law and requirements in our own strength—although untold millions have tried to, always without success. That is why He sent His Son to Earth—to be our source of strength. Jesus is fully qualified and capable of fulfilling all God deems necessary to be in right standing with Him. Instead of trying to do everything to be obedient to God by our own efforts, we should look to Jesus—which is just what God has wanted from us all along. All the way from creation to today, He has wanted man to trust and be dependent on Him alone.

All too often we focus only on misery, doubt and disappointment, which are inspired by the devil. But they only keep us in bondage.

No matter how hard we attempt to overcome the trying circumstances that we are in or will be going through, we will never be totally victorious without Jesus Christ. We can even be the happiest and most joyful-looking people around, but that is not lasting joy. True joy is Jesus Christ. He alone is our strength. Always turn to the One who cannot fail. He will carry us through, regardless of the difficulty of the trial or situation. Then we will know for ourselves that the joy of the Lord will be our strength.

Pleasing God by Faith

“…without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

We all encounter many kinds of complications as we go through life. Most people go along with no hope of going through them successfully, while many face various difficulties because their selfish desires hinder them in trying to have a relationship with God. Difficulties can also come from lacking faith in who God really is. In their search for inner peace, people often reach out to the physical things of life, yet what they really lack is perfect, divine, peace in their hearts. Where can such perfect peace be found? It comes from God alone.

The Lord Jesus Christ came into my own life and heart many years ago, yet I can still remember that special day when I repented of my sins and accepted Him.

I can still remember that special day many years ago when I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ into my own life and He spoke to my heart: “My son, I have chosen you to bear My name.” When we truly welcome Jesus into our heart, we become His followers. He chooses us to become a ‘living’ vessel to bear His name. Then we can experience true, divine, eternal union with Him.

If we don’t accept Jesus Christ into our heart and life, then we do not have true faith in God. Therefore, it is impossible to please Him.

And what is the essence of faith in God? We must first believe in who He is—in His nature as God, in order to have the kind of faith that truly believes when we approach Him. When we believe in His true nature, we please God. Once we have been renewed in the spirit of our mind and become one of God’s people, created in His own image, then we are to bear witness to others as to who He is.

In both the Old and New Testaments, the name used for God is “Father”. This name describes Him as the One who produces all things, and as the Creator of all men. Therefore, all people have a relationship with Him as part of His creation. But this does not automatically guarantee that we all have salvation (deliverance from the power and effects of sin). Jesus said, “If you had known Me [personally], ye should have known My Father also…” (John 14:7). If we understand that God sustains all life, then we can better understand who He is. He is Jehovah-Elohim (“Lord God”)—the Creator-God—who is not detached from His creation. He takes care of His people by attending to their needs. In fact, the Lord Himself came down to Earth in person in order to help and save us all. By doing this, He demonstrated Himself to be the God who keeps His covenant with man.

The image of God that He put in man is man’s source of kinship with Him. God wants us to “…put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him…” (Colossians 3:10 emphasis mine). At that point, a new creation in Him comes forth from this unique, eternal bond as we are united with our divine Father, His Son, and His Holy Spirit. Once we enter into this eternal relationship with our heavenly Father as a new creation—a “new man”—then we can also devote our lives to His Son, Jesus. This all comes through having faith to believe in Jesus, according to what He did for us when He died in our place on the Cross. Then we can be renewed in the spirit of our minds in Him.

All of us were born originally from our mother’s womb. But all true children of God have also been “born again.”

This second birth comes by the Spirit of God, through reading or hearing the truth of the Bible, which is the Word of God. Jesus Christ has always been in the world, but not always visible to man. “When the fullness of time was come…” (Galatians 4:4), then He became God made known to man in the flesh, or the human form. He is the divine representative of His heavenly Father on Earth as His only begotten Son (born of the Virgin Mary).

This unique, divine, and eternal relationship that Jesus—the Son of God—has with His ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ in the Lord is simple to understand. But the understanding of this relationship only comes to those who have been made alive in a new life—“born again”—by His Holy Spirit. They have become God’s children, so they are now considered to be the brothers and sisters of Jesus. And He has a love relationship, both intimate and eternal, with all who believe in Him by faith.

Many call themselves Christians, claiming to belong to Christ. But the heavenly Father does not know or receive all of them, because many will not let go of their sins. Nor will they acknowledge the heavenly Father’s divine authority over them.

God continues to love them. But they permit their sinful nature to continue to rule over them, which then keeps them apart from Him. What about you? Do you want to personally know God? Do you want to be saved from the power and destructive effects of sin and the sin nature? Then you need to personally know His Son, Jesus Christ, the great Savior. Listen to His voice as He says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) and respond to Him while you can. “…He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

If you want to know more about how to come to God personally, please click here.

Vengeance is Mine

There was a time early in my life when I believed I was treated very unjustly by my boss. I had not had a personal relationship with Jesus for very long at that point. I was trying to adjust to my new situation with Him and to practice responding to problems in a way that might be pleasing to Him. I felt that my boss should be held accountable for her actions and I poured my grievances out to the Lord. I wasn’t in a position where I could call this person to account on my own if I wanted to keep my job.

It wasn’t long before He directed me in my Bible reading to Romans 12, verse 19: “…it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

I did not recall seeing this verse before, but I knew He was using it to speak to me. Then I gave some serious thought to what it meant. I took it to mean, “I am the One who decides when revenge is called for, and when it is, I will be the one to deal with it.” Then I realized that I needed to take my hands and thoughts off of this matter and pass it on to Him, whose judgment is perfect, and let Him handle it. So that is what I did. I continued to have some resentment, but took no further action on my own.

Time passed and I did not see where God was doing anything about my grievance. But I remembered the verse and continued to leave the situation alone. A year or two later, my boss had to leave the company and return to her home state hundreds of miles away. I never spoke to her about the situation, but I knew in my heart God had taken care of it. He does not take it lightly when someone unjustly accuses or uses one of His children. But I have also learned over time that He does not usually act at once.

He gives the offender time to address the situation in a way that He can permit, and if the offender does nothing, he or she will accumulate transgressions until the Lord is forced to deal with it. It is always His desire that people will do His will so He will not need to punish them.

As I now write this, I can no longer recall what the grievance was about anymore! God not only dealt with it, He also made me to forget it. I no longer have resentment toward my former boss. I spoke to my girlfriend one day back then (who had also not know the Lord very long) about how God deals with people when they come against His children. She agreed and added, “And when He deals with them, it’s usually worse than what I would have done if I had handled it my way!” We laughed, but there is some truth to that. I would have liked an apology and some consideration of my point of view from my boss. I would not have made her leave the company and move back home! But the Lord knew the whole situation and how best to handle it. Perhaps she had done the same to others. Perhaps there were many grievances besides mine. I did not need to know about these things. I only needed to turn it all over to the Lord and be about my own business. Even though I don’t remember what I was upset about, I do remember that verse and it has come back to help me many times when I wanted to take matters into my own hands.

“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom. 12:19).