As 2016 began, millions of people made “New Year’s resolutions,” which may have included resolving to lose weight, get into shape, quit smoking, go back to school, etc., which are all fine and admirable goals. However, the struggle begins the moment the resolution becomes work and our wills struggle against our “flesh man” and what the enemy and the world are saying to us. Our flesh alone will never be strong enough to overcome any obstacles that we face. Rather, we must depend upon the Lord, the guidance of His Holy Spirit, and His Word. Dwelling in God’s presence does not guarantee us a life free from struggle, but we will be better equipped to handle anything that comes our way.
God’s Word assures us that we can live a joyful life. Please keep in mind that being joyful is not being blissfully ignorant of the world around us or being in denial about the problems we face. To be joyful is to take the opportunity to rejoice and praise God for who He is in spite of what we face. If we allow ourselves to be driven by our circumstances, we will not be joyful, but we will go through life depressed and beaten down. Even when God allows circumstances, He is still worthy to be praised because we as believers in Christ can rest assured God’s hand is upon us. Even for non-believers, God is using circumstances to draw you to Him and to come to Christ.
“Shout for joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious. Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you; they sing the praises of your name. Come and see what God has done, His awesome deeds for mankind!”(Psalm 66:1-5, NIV).
Nehemiah 8:10 is a verse cited frequently for joy, as people will quote, “the joy of the Lord is your strength,” for the verse says that. However, if we look at the verse in its full context, there is even more to it.
“Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’” (Nehemiah 8:10, NIV).
During this passage of Scripture, Ezra had just read the Law of Moses to the people and the people were sorrowful because of how far they fell from God. If Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, you know that all of your sins-past, present, and future- have been forgiven. There is no need for a forgiven Christian to live in condemnation and sorrow, because the blood of Christ has restored you to God. Going back to Nehemiah, there are principles to living a joyful life that we can extract from this Scripture:
*God wants us to enjoy our lives.
*God wants us to use our blessings to help others.
*God has given us this day and He wants us to make the most of it.
*We do not need to grieve over the past or the present.
*Being joyful in God will give us the strength we need to overcome difficult times.
The cares of this world can steal our joy
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke record Jesus’ parable of the four soils, which discuss how people’s hearts respond to God’s Word. The second and third soils where the farmer threw the seed were the rocky places and among the thorns. Jesus later explained the parable to His disciples.
“The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:20-22, NIV).
Thus, if we allow our circumstances and difficulties to rule our lives, we will not be joyful in serving the Lord and we will not walk with Christ as we should walk.
To be in Christ is to be joyful
Jesus had just finished teaching on the vine and the branches when He told His disciples:
“As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:9-11, NIV).
As we seek to live a life of obedience, the joy of Christ will remain in us. Joy is also a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
To be joyful in trials is a sign of spiritual maturity
Not only is joy a by-product of being in Christ and a fruit of the Spirit, joy in the midst of a trial is also a sign of our spiritual maturation and the refinement of our faith.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4, NKJV).
The Bible, as it does with so many other subjects, is rich with illustrations and Scriptures concerning joy. I urge you to seek out the Word and find joy for yourselves. No matter what you have been through or are going through at this moment, you can have joy. If you have made a resolution, a vow, a promise, or a pledge, concerning your spiritual walk, trust in the Lord. Trade in condemnation, shame, guilt, hopelessness, and sin in for God’s joy. As we resolve to live a joyful life, we will walk in more of God’s presence in this upcoming year and in the years ahead. God bless you all.