In Nehemiah 8, the children of Israel had just returned to Jerusalem from exile. Here they were listening to the law being read and taught by Ezra and the Levites, overcome with condemnation, and weeping in shame and guilt. They were facing the harsh reality that their lives and behavior were not in alignment with the law despite all that God had done for them. Instead of leaving them in a downtrodden state, they were instructed to celebrate and let “the joy of the Lord” be their strength (Nehemiah 8:10). How could God expect this of them, seeing as though they were being put on blast for their sinful lifestyles? It is simple. The children of Israel were God’s people. He loved them. Love covers a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8). They had been separated from Him in exile for years and were finally reunited to Him. God rejoiced because He had His beloved people back. He wanted them to do the same.
So, how does one muster up the strength to choose joy when everything about their existence and/or environment exudes otherwise? The answer is God’s grace. God provides His grace to choose joy to those that belong to Him (Ephesians 1:6 and 2 Corinthians 12:9). The joy of the Lord becomes our strength when we accept His provision of righteousness through Christ by grace which reunites us so we can enjoy His presence. Romans 5:17 explains it best, “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” (NKJV) It is only by God’s grace that we are able to choose joy when it is challenging to find it in our world.
The joy of the Lord is underpinned by nothing else but the truism that THE infinite God, Creator of all, loves and wants us despite our finite, imperfect existence. This must be always the source of our joy in life. Not what our emotions are telling us we should feel. Not what our circumstances look like. And certainly not what others say we ought to feel. God-given joy, which is one of the Fruit of the Spirit, must be cultivated in us by God’s Word and the help of Holy Spirit. Only then will we be equipped and empowered to choose and mature in our joy.
Let us look at what the joy maturation process looks like in the life of a Christ follower:
1. Joy of Salvation – This is the beginning of our joy as believers the moment we accept Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior and are adopted into the Kingdom of God through His Atonement. It is rooted in us coming into the awareness that we were once sinners doomed for eternal destruction and death. But by God and Jesus’s love coupled with the Holy Spirit’s power, we received revelation of and accepted Salvation through Christ to be fully restored into right relationship with Him (John 1:1,14,18; John 16:28; Luke 3:22; Hebrews 2:17). NO MORE separation, unknowing, or unbelonging. Simply put, it is knowing you escaped what you deserved only by the love, mercy, and grace of God (1 Peter 1:7-9; Habakkuk 3:18; Psalm 13:5).
2. Joy in the Salvation of Others – Ripened joy now causes us to shift focus from ourselves to others. When you have a true revelation of just how blessed you are to be redeemed from sin and destruction, you naturally and spiritually grow in joy when you see others enter that same revelation. Additionally, God develops a desire in you to see others who do not know Him come into the fold (Mark 16:15). This elevation of joy brings with it a newness of hope and reminder of how good it is to be among God’s own (Acts 15:3).
3. Joy in the Lord –When God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit are more than enough (Habakkuk 3:18; Philippians 4:4; Isaiah 35:10). In this stage of the joy maturation process, you become wholly and purely content with God’s plan, God’s portion and God’s pace for your life. Your life and faith are no longer affected by what is going on in the natural realm but solely on God’s Word, God’s will and God’s ways. This is the perfect state of spiritual existence and the place God desires for us to remain.
Before you pray, take some time to truthfully ask yourself and answer the following questions:
In what stage of the joy maturation process am I?
What work needs to be done on my part to cultivate the Fruit of Joy in my life?
Who and/or what do I need to hold me accountable to uphold my commitment of allowing the Holy Spirit to cultivate the Fruit of Joy in my life?
Prayer for the Joy of the Lord to be Cultivated in You
Father God, in the Name of Jesus, thank you for Salvation and the privilege to be in right relationship with you. Thank you never leaving nor forsaking me. Lord, help me to cultivate the Fruit of Joy in my daily living. I no longer want my joy to be attached to how I feel, what I see, or what others say/do to me. Only from you. Equip me with your Word and empower me by your Spirit to be strengthened in this area so that others may see and desire to come to know you through Christ Jesus. Use my life as you will to bring joy to others. Holy Spirit, I ask you to help me to be disciplined in seeking God through prayer, reading, studying and applying God’s Word to my life daily. Holy Spirit, empower me to not just be a hearer of the Word but a doer also so I will not be deceived. I declare that I am right now putting off the old man/woman’s ways and picking up my newness of life in Christ Jesus. By faith, I receive and praise you for what I have prayed for in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Today, I am challenging you to respond with action in the following ways:
1. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to show you any joy stealers (i.e., unGodly mindsets, habits, people, etc.) in your life.
2. Find and read aloud three Scriptures that speak to that/those area(s), confess them over your life, write them down and meditate on them throughout the day. To Get You Started: Read, meditate on and pray Galatians 5:16-25 and John 15:1-11.
3. Keep a journal with you throughout the day and take note of any revelations the Holy Spirit gifts you as you meditate on these Scriptures.
4. Before you go to bed, write down one action step you are going to take to align this area to God’s Word. Find and share with your accountability partner.
5. Comment below what the Holy Spirit revealed to you and how you are going to partner with God to become more like Christ in this area.