The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength
By Pastor Tim Klassen

Joy is an amazing and wonderful thing. It’s been said that the average kid laughs 300 times a day, while the average 40 year old laughs only 4 times a day. While I recognize we are all unique individuals who may break away from the “average” statistics, the point suggested here is sobering none-the-less: kids seem to have far more joy than the rest of us! What should we do with this information? Most have utilized this statistic to encourage us to laugh more; to make the most of every enjoyable moment in life. I don’t disagree with that thought. We could all stand for more joy and laugher in our lives. Amen to that! Yet, I can’t help but wonder if there is something more powerful, more necessary and more helpful than joy for us to discover as we live this life.

Whether you have read much of the Bible or not, you have likely heard Nehemiah 8:10, “the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Many hear this verse and focus on the joy factor.

 “I really ought to have more joy.” They tell themselves.

All of us have a tendency to chase after joy as if it is the solution to all of life’s problems. We pursue joy in our relationships, our jobs and our material possessions.

“Once I get married, then I’ll be happy.”
“Once I get that promotion, then I’ll feel fulfilled.”
“Once we buy that house, then we will be satisfied.”

But our metaphorical cup reserved for joy never stays full. As soon as we attain whatever we are pursuing, we long for more of whatever we don’t have. This is our reality. The good news is this: God’s Word offers us the solution! Joy ought not be our aim and our primary desire, but rather strength to live life well.
Nehemiah’s word of encouragement to the Jewish people who had just rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem was not about THEIR joy, it was about GOD’S joy. The point was not for them to chase after and acquire joy, but rather, to be reminded that it was God’s joy that gave them what they really need—strength!

I would like to propose to you that what we all need to live a good life is not joy, but strength.

The Apostle Paul wrote this to the early church,
“Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” (Ephesians 6:10)

While joy is a great blessing in every area of our lives, strength is that which will carry us through those times when joy is nowhere to be found. Strength will enable us to remain committed and loving in our marriage; strength will empower us to work hard whether we get the promotion or not; strength will embolden us to make the most of our homes, no matter the square-footage or finishing touches.

“Where can we find such strength?” you might ask. Nehemiah tells us that our strength is actually found in the joy of the Lord.

When Nehemiah first made this declaration, the Jewish people were in the midst of crying in distress, as they were confronted with the reality of their sin. The priest, Ezra, had just stood before them to read the law of God and they were convicted because of how far they fell short of God’s glorious standards. In the midst of their tears, Nehemiah interrupted them, told them to stop their crying, to eat and drink and enjoy the day before them because, “this day is holy to our Lord.” He then continued, “…for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” What does all this mean? Even though they were not filled with joy in that moment and on that occasion, Nehemiah was reminding them that God had enough joy for all of them. They could be strengthened in their hearts simply by becoming aware of the sufficiency of God’s joy.

In a similar way, we will experience days and seasons where we do not feel like we are filled with great joy or overwhelming happiness. That’s okay! We can find strength to make it through in those moments—not by looking inward at ourselves—but by looking upward towards God and being reminded that He has enough joy for us all. God’s joy is not based on our hard works or our stellar performance, but in the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. He died and rose again so that we could be forgiven of our sins and enter into a personal relationship with Him.

May God’s great joy strengthen you today.