The Word of God tells us that “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). The word that is translated strength means: a place or means of safety; protection; refuge; stronghold; harbour. That’s powerful! That’s a lot more than just a good feeling!
Are you going through any storms in your life? Me too. Know that in the midst of the storms, the joy of the Lord is your safe harbour. In the inevitable storms of life, the enemy would like the church to be blown around by every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14) but if we would use our rudder rightly (our tongue) (James 3:4-5) we would direct our life into the harbour called “joy” and we would be safe. And with hope as our anchor (Heb. 6:18-19) we would not be moved!
God expects us to be good stewards of every gift He’s given us. Everything we’ve received is by grace, meaning we did nothing to earn it. And if we’ve received it freely, that makes it a gift! And one of the greatest gifts He’s given us is faith. The disciples said in Luke 17:5, “Increase our faith.” But Jesus said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.” What the disciples needed wasn’t more faith, but to be good stewards of the faith they’d received. And good stewardship of faith is called obedience.
Our Lord is a God of multiplication. In fact, He expects it in His kingdom. Faith always brings multiplication. He may give you a mustard seed and expect a mountain (Matt. 17:20); but God is not unjust, is He? May it never be! He Himself is the author and finisher of our faith! He is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega, even of our faith. He is the one who supplies us with faith, and then He is the one who brings it to completion. So then, what is our part? Our part comes in the middle, and it’s called obedience.
In the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30), the master returned expecting to receive from his servants more than what he’d given them. To the ones who had doubled his money, he said, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” To the one who said, “Master, I knew you expected to receive back more than what you’d given me and I was afraid so I hid it in the ground, and now here it is,” the master replied, “You wicked servant, by your own confession you knew what I expected of you and you didn’t do it.” And because of his disobedience, he was cast into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. But listen what the master said to the two obedient servants: “…enter into the joy of your lord.”
So, we see the principle that obedience brings joy. Recorded in John 15:1-11, just before He went to the cross, Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches. If you abide in Me, and I in you, you will bear fruit.” (Note, in Galatians 5:22, joy, among others, is identified as fruit of us abiding in Jesus and His Spirit abiding in us). “And,” He said, “the way to abide in Me is through obedience; I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete (full).”
So, we see again Jesus teaching that joy comes from obedience. This was one of the last things Jesus told his disciples before going to the cross – to abide in Him so that they would have His joy. Joy was obviously very important to Him (“…who for the joy that was His, endured the cross…” Heb. 12:2). If it is that important to God then it should be important to us also.
One of the worst lies the enemy has got us to believe is that doing what we want to do – getting our own way – will bring us joy. We’ve thought we’ve known what will make us joyful. But we don’t. In my life before Christ, all I did was do everything I wanted to do. And I was miserable. I had no joy. But when I came to Christ, John 15:11 became a reality for me. I experienced a joy that I had never known. And it is worth far more than the life I gave up to follow Jesus my Lord. But somewhere along my journey I began to lose some of that joy. Why? It was because of disobedience. I’m not talking about outright rebellion, but in every small decision when I chose to do my will rather than His – when I failed to abide in Him – my heart became a little harder. The wicked servant said, “Master…I was afraid...”. It was fear that stopped him from operating in faith; fear kept him from obedience. Every time you let fear stop you from obeying God, you lose some of the joy of your Lord. And that puts you in a dangerous place. If the joy of the Lord is your protection and place of safety, then it is surely dangerous to be apart from it.
But we thank God for another gift He’s given us – the gift of repentance. It’s through repentance we are brought back into the joy of our Lord. Isaiah 53:6 says, “All of us like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way” (disobedience). “But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” Acts 3:19 says, “Therefore, repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (from you abiding in Him, and Him abiding in you). Choose to enter into the joy of your Lord this day, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
- Luke McLellan