10 And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”
— Nehemiah 8:10 NLT
After the work on the walls of Jerusalem had been completed and the gates were hung in place, Ezra gathered all the people together and took a census. Then he sent them all home. They reassembled in Jerusalem and asked Ezra to read to them all of the Book of the Laws of Moses. As Ezra and the scribes read the laws, the people wept remembering their disobedience. They realized how much God had forgiven them and how he had brought them safely back to Jerusalem. They had seen how God had provided everything they needed to rebuild the walls. Though the enemy came close shouting insults and discouragement, God had protected them while they finished the work. Ezra and the priests explained to the people that this was not a day for weeping but a day for rejoicing and celebration. There are times in our lives, when some things need to be rebuilt. When some unexpected event has shaken our faith, we need time to rest and heal. Perhaps a close friend has broken our trust or one of our spiritual leaders has fallen from grace. The enemy will come close whispering discouraging words in our hear. God will protect us through the storm and when the skies are clear, it will be a time for rejoicing and celebration for us just as it was for the Israelis in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Psalm 30:1-5 NLT
23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. — John 13:23 NKJV
In a society where “real” men don’t show this kind of affection for each other, this verse can cause some confusion. We must remember that this occurred in a time and place where men greeted each other with a holy kiss. So, get past the first impression and see the picture as it is really meant to be seen. See it as pure love with no lust involved. Try to put yourself in John’s place and feel the comfort and joy that he must have felt right then. Remember the times in your early years when you would be frightened about something and your Dad would pick you and hold you against his bosom. Do you remember the safety, and in a few minutes, the peace and the joy that you felt? Or maybe, you were ailing and your Mom would hold you against her bosom to comfort you. Isn’t wonderful that we can still have that kind of relationship with Jesus? We can run to Him, sit in His lap and He will wrap His arms around us to comfort and cheer us. Get this picture in your mind and focus on it until it becomes real to you. Then, in those trying, difficult, scary times, run to Him with your arms wide open and simply say “Abba”, I love you! He will be thrilled and you will have a time of peace that passes understanding and joy that overflows your heart.
15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” — Romans 8:15 NKJV
7 And though you started with little, you will end with much.. Job 8:7 NLT
Bildad also wrongly assumes that Job has committed some transgression and God is disciplining Job for that sin. But Bildad is correct in the statement that he makes. “But if you pray to God and seek the favor of the Almighty, and if you are pure and live with integrity, He will surely rise up and restore your happy home”. And his statement in verse 7 above turns out to be a prophecy for Job. Job definitely ends up with twice as much as he had in the beginning. If we faithfully persevere in the times of testing, we will be blessed here on earth. The greatest of these blessings is not material possessions or anything that money can buy. It is the peace and the joy that comes from knowing that we are pleasing our heavenly Father. From my own personal experience, I can testify that there is a peace that each of us can access that is different from what the world knows as peace. It is a peace that will guard our hearts and our minds. It is a peace that keeps from thinking those thoughts that satan would use to destroy us. It is a peace that assures us that we are not alone now and we will never be alone. Although the peace you have now may be little, focus on Jesus and you will have abundant peace and joy that is truly unspeakable.
11 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
12 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!– Psalm 30:11, 12 NLT
God is so good to us all the time. He is always working for us, turning evil into good and our times of mourning into times of joy and praise. It is His heart’s desire for us to live lives full of joy. Not happiness and pleasures, which are fleshly and temporary, but abiding joy deep down in our hearts. Joy that no one can take from us.
Joy, that is not pretended or unrealistic, but joy that is the fulfillment of the promise that Jesus made to His disciples and to us. It isn’t because we deserve it or have earned it in some way. It is simply because He loves us and wants us to love Him. He gives us His peace and joy so that we can be free to praise Him in every situation. So, that we can sing praises to Him and not be silent. It is true that there are roaring lions out there and one.in particular, that is trying to destroy our joy and us physically. It is hard to ignore a roaring lion, but as Spurgeon points out, Samson’s roaring lion yielded honey. God can produce joy and sweetness from the worst of situations.
10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. — John 10:10 NKJV
When we hear the term abundant, our minds quickly turn to material possessions, postion, and money. Those things have little to do with abundant living in the Biblical sense. The list of millionaires, actors, and other famous people that have committed suicide in the prime of their lives proves this to be true. Perhaps, we need to rethink what brings true joy in this present time and in the future. It needs to be someone or something that is steadfast, true and unchangeable. It must be someone or something we can have with us all the time. It must be someone or something that we have instant access to whether we are having a “good” day or a “bad” day. It must be someone or something that is affordable whether we are rich or poor. God knows that we need money, food and things to make the journey but He also knows that dependence on those things will not bring us joy or peace. We need friends but they can’t be with us every second of every day. What we really, really need is to learn to access the shalom kind of peace that Jesus bought for us at Calvary. If we can’t trust Him for our daily bread, how can we trust Him with our souls for eternity? Abundant living is an attitude of the heart. You can’t buy it with all the money in the world, a friend can’t give it to you, a doctor might prescirbe it but the pharmacy can’t fulfill the prescription. It only comes when we learn the lesson that Paul learned, “not that I was ever in need”.
11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. — Phil. 4:11-13 NLT
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill.30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. — Acts 17:29, 30 NIV
When we read scriptures about idol worship, we tend to think of those that worship statues or symbols of dead men or useless religions. While we may not have an image of the dollar setting on the mantle of the fireplace, we can still be worshiping all the things that money can buy. While we may not have statues of anyone in our homes or churches, we can still hold others in higher esteem than we hold Jesus. If someone asks you to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or violates your beliefs and you go ahead and do it, you have placed that person above Jesus. Our work here is to do the will of the Father, not the will of those around us.
38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.– John 6:38 NIV
We are not in a popularity contest. Our goal should be to please our Father. If we do that, He will take care of us. If we are obedient and seek Jesus and His righteousness, He will handle all of the issues that satan puts in our way.
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. — Matt. 6:33 NIV
“All these things” is everything that we need to live a Godly lifestyle. Everything means every thing. Don’t stress out. Repent, Relax, Remember, Repeat.
19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called,because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. — 1 Peter 2:19-21 NIV
As we look back and honestly assess the hard times in our lives, we can attribute most of them to bad decisions that we have made. Those decisions may have involved unkind words that we spoke causing ill feelings and anger between us and others. The decisions may have been based on our fleshly desires and caused us to commit acts that we should not have committed. The decisions could have been bad financial decisions we made because we did not want to wait until we were able to afford certain things. We get no credit or praise for enduring those times that were brought on by our own wrong doing. I cannot recall one time in my life when I had to suffer because of a good deed that I had done. I read the horror stories of our brothers and sisters being abused and persecuted for the good deeds they have done and are doing and I pray for them. Those events seem so far away and foreign to me. And I wonder what my reaction to that kind of treatment would be. Would I stay faithful to God and endure the pain? We are called to and warned to be ready for such acts. We have the examples of those in the Bible and in our daily news of those who do endure. They are the ones who make up the “cloud of witnesses” that surround us. I shed tears of grief as I listen to their stories and I feel so small and unworthy knowing that the tears they are shedding as they tell their stories are tears of joy, the joy of sharing in suffering with our Savior.
It should break our hearts to think about what pain Mary felt as she gazed upon the cross and saw her Son in such agony. What anguish she must have felt as she remembered that this was the little baby that she had held in her lap on the first Christmas day! It must have been hard for her to believe that it took that kind of suffering to redeem a fallen world. As we celebrate the season this year and every year. let us remember that there is no gift that can match the one He gave on the cross. He gave His all for us, so let us commit to living lifestyles that reflect His love for us. Let us rejoice because the cross is empty! Let us sing with gladness of heart, “Joy to the World, the Lord has come” and He has risen in our hearts!
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. — 1 Peter 2:9 NIV
Think back to a time in your life when there was a particular group that you wanted to be chosen to be a part of. Do you remember the joy and exhiliration that you felt when you saw your name on the list or heard it called out? Multiply that feeling by a zillion zillions and you won’t even be close to the joy that we should feel every day because God has chosen us. Knowing that we are God’s special possession should fill our hearts to overflowing and cause us to shout praises from the mountaintops or in the deepest valleys. In the best and the worst of times, we, the chosen, can proclaim:
31 If God is for us, who can be against us? — Romans 8:31b
Think back to the time when you were a child and you were afraid of the darkness and how great it felt when Mom or Dad walked into the room, turned on a night light and took time to comfort and encourage you. Or as they stayed, held you and you drifted peacefully off to sleep. Multiply that feeling and that peace by a zillion zillions and you won’t even be close to the feeling of peace and the brightness of the light that comes when we answer the call of Jesus to come out of the darkness into His wonderful light. And think of this, they left the room when you drifted off to sleep, but we have the added assurance that God will never leave us nor forsake us. He is here to comfort and protect us all day and night, every day and night.
8 The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” — Deut. 31:8 NIV
No matter what circumstances are surrounding us or what situation we find oursleves in, we should be filled with joy because we serve a God who has been there, is there now, and will always be there.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. — Phil. 4:4,5 NIV
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. — Colossians 2:6 7 NIV
The most important thing to be thankful for is salvation. So, from the very moment we are saved, our hearts should begin to be filled with gratitude. From that point on, all the blessings that we receive daily should continue to fill our hearts with thanksgiving and praise for our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. To the extent that we follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit, our evil thoughts and desires are changing to good thoughts and desires. There has/will come a day when we should be overflowing with joy and gratitude because of the goodness and greatness of the God that we serve. Each day should bring less complaining and more reason to give God praise and thanksgiving. The praise and gratitude that fills our hearts will be reflected in the words that we speak.
45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. — Luke 6:45 NKJV
Every time we bring our petitions before the Lord, we need to remember to bring with them an offering of thanksgiving and praise!
4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
5 For the Lord is good;His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations. — Psalm 100:4, 5 NKJV
This is for now and all generations, not just the future when we enter into the gates of heaven and the courts of God. Every time, we speak His Name, we are entering into His gates and His courts. Let our hearts and our mouths overflow with praise for His goodness and mercy!
12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.—Romans 12:12 NIV
Too often, we confuse pleasure and happiness with joy. Pleasure and happiness are temporary. They are based on feelings, external situations and how others treat us. Joy is internal and is a fruit of the Spirit. It is a gift from God and once we have received His joy, no one can take it from us. We can fail to access it, but it is always there. In those times of affliction, it strengthens us to carry on.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.—Psalm 94:19 NIV
We must be faithful in prayer. As Paul says, “pray without ceasing”. We are able to do that because prayer is dependent on our thought patterns and our attitude. We can pray all the time, in any situation. A prayer can be a thought that goes through your mind, It does not have to be spoken.
10 “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind,to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”—Jeremiah 17:10 NIV
A prayerful attitude keeps us focused on God and not on our problems or our situation. When we are focused on God, we are filled with joy because of the hope we have in Him.