The joy of the Lord is your strength

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This week's devotional is from Pastor Jeff.

ENCOUNTER:  Read Nehemiah 8:1-17

“... for the joy of the Lord is your strength."

But NOBODY was feeling that joy.  That is the surprising thing about the context of this verse as we find it in Nehemiah.  People were weeping and mourning.  They weren’t feeling joy.  Nor strength.  What they were feeling was grief that life had not turned out the way that they now understood it was to be lived.  They mourned their brokenness.  They wept over their sin.  They grieved over that fact that their relationship with God had been so distant.  They regretted that their forefathers had not been faithful to God and had not passed down a legacy of spiritual health and vitality.  

In this context, Nehemiah says to them, essentially, “Yes, this may all be true, but it does not require you to stay in your mourning... because you do not need to stay in your weakness.  Strength will come to you from the Lord.  And it will come in the form of joy over what God is doing and can do!”

BE REFLECTIVE:

This is a common spiritual principle revealed in many places in the Bible:  Understanding and meditating on the TRUTH about who God is - and the salvation he provides - brings us great joy and strengthens us.  Thus the joy of the Lord is our strength.

It may also mean that what makes the Lord joyful results in our strength.  In other words, since it delights God to meet us and rescue us from our weakness, it’s his joy to give us strength.  This makes so much sense to me especially in the context of Nehemiah.  The people were wailing, “Oh, we have not lived life as we were designed to live; we are such a broken people; is there no hope for us in our weakness?!?”  And Nehemiah responds, “There IS hope for you in your weakness!  It brings God joy to provide a rescue to the broken and sinful and weak.  He is delighted to do it.  The joy of the Lord is your strength!”

Take a moment to reread the paraphrase above and reflect on it along with Hebrews 12:2 which says of Jesus, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Are you able to get your head and heart around the reality that it gave Jesus so much joy to rescue you from your sin and separation from God that he was willing to go to the cross to reconcile you to God?  Have you ever considered that he died for you because what makes him joyful is coming to the rescue and making the weak strong?  May you find encouragement in this truth!

BE A BLESSING:

As Christ-followers we have the distinct privilege of sharing this message to those who are keenly aware of their need for healing, forgiveness, and rescue in their weakness.  If God is the God of giving strength to the weak, is there someone he has put in your life you can love as an agent of this God who delights in meeting their needs? What is one practical act of love you can do that could be part of God’s strengthening someone?

BE TOGETHER:

The body of Christ builds one another up as each part does its work.  As you gather with your small group this week, and/or as you gather in worship on Sunday, how might you be more receptive to the strengthening ministry of God’s Spirit at work among you?  Try and notice how the gifts of those around you are strengthening you.  And how do you see that you are being used by God to bring strength to others?  Don’t miss this incredible miracle of the way God meets his people in His Church!

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“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” – Jesus in John 15:11