Is living the Christian life a joy-stealer for you? If so, something is wrong! As Christians we should experience enjoyment in our relationship with God as we walk through both the valleys and mountain top experiences of life. We can also have joy whether we are suffering as a result from our own failures and sins or as a result of sins done against us.
Joy means delight. In Nehemiah 8:20 we read that the joy of the Lord is our strength. The narrative surrounding this verse tells us that the people were convicted of their sin while hearing the law read. They began to mourn and weep. Nehemiah tells them to stop weeping and to celebrate what the Lord has done for them, for within the law was the provision for their sin. He encouraged them to celebrate the provision God made for their sins, through sacrifices, and to be joyful about their redemption.
How many times do Christians today focus on their sin and their sorrow for it and its consequences instead of Christ and His provision? I am not suggesting that we don’t call our sin, sin. But once we have done that, we must turn our focus immediately to the provision God has made for it. Continued focus on one’s sin and keeping one’s mind in a state of sorrow for it only leads to feelings of guilt, depression, and hopelessness. And, it prevents that person from changing.
Just as Nehemiah told the Israelites to change their focus from the words of God concerning their sin to God’s provision for their sin, even more we as Christians are to do the same. It is by focusing on the Lord’s Glory that we are changed, not by thinking about our sin (2 Corinthians 3:18). Focusing on sin and sorrow, only keeps one in it. Scripture tells us to refocus and celebrate what Jesus has done for us! So, be joyful about your redemption! Not only has Jesus paid the legal debt required by God in order for you to receive forgiveness, but He made provision for your sin on a continual basis (1 John 1:9). As we stay our focus on Christ, He works in us breaking us free from the strangleholds that bind us. As we celebrate the Lord’s sacrifice for our sins, rejoicing and delighting in it, we are strengthened to live in the holy liberty Christ makes available to us. We have peace because we are forgiven and have a sure redemption in Christ and we are able to stop striving to be good, instead rest in Christ and allow Him to change us.
In addition to the joy we possess due to our clear conscience and celebration of Christ as our Savior and Lord, we are able to maintain joy in the midst of suffering. You see, the joy of the Lord that was set before Christ and gave Him strength to endure the suffering of the cross, was you and me, and our joy. Now we receive strength for our trials as we find our joy in Christ who is set before us and who Himself is our reward for any suffering we may endure, suffering that many times comes to us on our journey as Christians simply because we belong to Christ. Philippians 3:10-11 tells us that we can rejoice in our sufferings knowing that we are sharing in His sufferings, and as we share in His sufferings on earth, we will also share in His glory in eternity. We must remind ourselves that this life is temporary – like smoke, it vanishes away. But those who belong to Christ live with the eternal hope they have in Him – the promise of a glorious future without pain or suffering or end. Luke 10:20: …rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
We have reason to celebrate God no matter what we experience in this life. And, as we rejoice in Him, recognizing Him as our forgiveness for sins – our salvation and our hope for all eternity, we are strengthened to overcome sin, and we are strengthened to persevere through suffering! It is our rejoicing, our delight, our joy and focus being on Christ as our provision for sin and hope for the future that strengthens us to walk through this life. So get your mind off of your sin and your circumstances and onto Christ and His provision and eternal hope. This focus is what brings to pass the reality of Nehemiah 8:20, the joy of the Lord is our strength.