Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 8:10
‘Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our LORD: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.’
This morning I want to dwell on a very important topic called Joy.
Scientists have been studying the effect of joy on human beings and have found, among other things, that joy has a profound and instantaneous effect on virtually every important organ in the human body. Joy reduces health-sapping tensions, and relaxes the tissues as well as exercising the most vital organs. It is said that laughter even when forced, results in beneficial effect on us, both mentally and physically.
Dr. Kataria, in her school of Laughter gives the ideal place and time for laughter. In one of her session she says, ‘Ideally, a laughing session must take place in the morning. There are many reasons for this. It is always better to start the day with laughter. It keeps you in good spirits and in a good mood throughout the day. It energizes you and 15-20 minutes of laughter is carried throughout the day till you retire to bed. Though it is beneficial even if you laugh in the evenings, according to our experience, mornings are ideal. Because in the evening, everybody has his own time to come home and has other engagements. In western countries, during winter it is not possible to laugh in the morning. Health clubs, sports groups, work places like factories and offices are the right places when people can gather first thing in the morning and laugh in a group.
In organizations, the laughter session starts according to the time of commencement of office hours. We recommend that people laugh before starting their work. Many factories begin with prayers and then laughter. The total duration of one session should not be more than 20 minutes, including laughter, deep breathing and stretching exercises. See picture. In the Rodney Howard Browne Revival and the Toronto Blessings, one of the key manifestations is Laughter. Have you ever wondered why? Or is it because we Christians have stopped laughing for such a long time that God has to send laughter to cause a revival?
Nehemiah 8:10 says, ‘for the joy of the LORD is your strength’.
To understand this passage of scripture, we need to know the background. The Word of God has been read to the people. It is similar to our setting when you guys heard the Word of God in the Sunday Service. There was genuine sorrow over their apathy and noncompliance and nonperformance on the Word of God. The word for ‘sorrow’ is translated as grief or pained. When the people heard the Word, they were in grief and in pain because they were not obeying the Word. They were living in sins. To put it correctly they were stunned at their disobedience and the disobedience of their fathers and mothers. As a Christian many times you are amazed at your sin, rebellion, stubbornness and disobedience towards the Word of God when it was delivered to you. I felt that way and I believe you felt that way many a times. This is where the Word of God comes in. Nehemiah 8:10 says, ‘for the Joy of the LORD is your strength.’ I speak to those that are amazed at their own sins and disobedience. Our knowledge of our sin should never be bigger than our knowledge of Jesus as our savior. We are great sinners, but He is a greater Savior. What I am trying to say is Be joyful and praise Him even you have failed. Why? Because the Joy of the LORD is your strength. When we are convicted by sin, we know that God is doing a work in us, so we can be glad and take joy. The people felt sad because they were aware of their own sin. But they could walk in joy because God was doing a great work. Our emotions are not beyond our control; we can do God’s will even when we don’t feel like it.
Firstly, here both Joy and Strength are seen as stronghold. Joy is your rock, your fortress, your deliverer, your salvation, your savior and your refuge. The description of God is one of Joy and Strength. We always think of God to be like us. We are easily troubled by crisis in the world, in the family and individually. We think God is like us feeling not in control and panicking and trying to solve one problem after another. That is not true at all. God is one of Joy and Strength. Also, the second meaning is that the believers’ joy and strength are in YHWH not in themselves. Understanding God’s word unlock the confusion dwelling among us.
Many of us seldom has joy in our lives. I am a very serious person and honestly it is very difficult for me to be a joyful person. I don’t smile often. So, Joy is not something that comes naturally but I have to make effort to exercise it. How about you? Many of us have lost the joy of serving the Lord. Why do people lose the joy of serving the Lord? Charles Spurgeon was emphasizing to his class the importance of making the facial expression to harmonize with the speech. ‘When you speak of Heaven,’ he said, ‘let your face light up, let it be irradiated with a heavenly gleam, let your eyes shine with reflected glory. But when you speak of Hell – well then your ordinary face will do’. This illustration by Spurgeon only confirms that many of the people do not have joy. Many of us have a face that reflect that life is a hell on earth.
Lu 8:13 says, They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. Luke makes mention of new and younger Christian who enjoy listening to sermons, but somehow the message never really get through to them and doesn’t take root and grow. They know the message is true, and sort of believe for a while, but when the hot winds of persecution blows, they lost interest. Then there are others who lose the joy of being a Christian because their lives are choked away by worry, riches and responsibility and the pleasures of life. Testing comes to all these Christians to prove their faith and persecution can deepens their roots but instead they lose interest and joy. I have seen many young Christian who can be sincere in the beginning but subsequently fall away because of temptations and lose interest.
The Older Christians and the committed ones can also lose the joy of a Christian. You worked hard for the ministry and you expected a certain returns or rewards but when the returns or reward is not forthcoming you easily lose your joy. Maybe you felt it even more when you have overworked and became tired because of the ministry.
A good example is Elijah. In 1 King 19:4 we see Elijah literally asking God to take his life. He was overcome by exhaustion, discouragement and grief and he prayed that God let go of him from his ministry of heavy prophetic burden and let him depart to his heavenly rest. Elijah’s feelings were not unlike that of Paul and also not unlike many a child of God when he spoke of a desire to depart and be with Christ. Elijah was overcome by profound discouragement because of a seemingly apparent failure. Actually, personally I feel that a very good example for the topic on Depression is on the life of Elijah. He was definitely depressed. He had expected the conversion of all the people of God, yet it did not happen and he is losing ground instead. The hope, the labor, the struggle of his life appeared to be fruitless and ending in failure and it took a toil on him. He suddenly felt an overwhelming loneliness where he seems alone in the battle for God’s work.
All of us can identify with the newer and younger Christians that I have mentioned and even more so with Elijah because many a times we are in their shoes. We are like what Number 21:4 says ‘the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way’. We have grown weary because of the way. In our terminology, we are saying ‘What’s the use? What good is it to work so hard at pleasing God and doing right when it doesn’t seem to pay off? Why sacrifice, fast and pray? Why be so rigid and religious? We are being too righteous. It is useless. Nothing changes. My prayers aren’t answered. I’m flooded with problems. To make matter worse things starts to become monotonous. How rarely we do smile anymore. Some of us used to be very cheerful but because of the ministry we have stop smiling for a long time. This morning I want to share with you the need to have joy in our life.
(1) The Importance of Joy
Lately I have been receiving multiple download on the importance of praise. A person can never praise God when there is no joy in his life. This Rhema I received from God is a weapon that God has been impressing me to use. To be very honest, it is very difficult to use. Because things have not been going as I wanted it to be. But then God says, ‘Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.’ (Hab 3:17-18). YHWH was telling me that as a faithful follower I must wait and trust in YHWH’s promises and provisions. Things may be very bad but I will live by my faithfulness to YHWH. My trust will be expressed by:
a. I must wait patiently in the day of distress
b. I will exult in the LORD
c. I will rejoice in the God of my salvation
d. YHWH ELOHIM is my strength. He provides sure footing to me his follower.
Now this is easier said than done. As I say, I am a serious person. I live by my senses. When things are fine, I am joyful. When things are bad, I have a hellish face like what Charles Spurgeon describes. It is so wrong. YHWH is constantly teaching me these past few months to rejoice in the LORD.
Last Sunday Joel shared an anointed message. And it was exactly the message I receive from God that very week and I thought of preaching it on one of the Sundays. It was also exactly what Nehemiah 8:10 was describing. I look at the World. It is turning upside down. I look at the church. It is a defeated Church. I look at my life. It is not that promising. We are fighting a losing battle against sins as a church and even individually. The Word of God was read. We are amazed at the rebellion, stubbornness, disobedience of us as a whole and even individually. We are stunned by our disobedience. We are surprised at the resiliency of our own sins. This is exactly my mindset. Then YHWH came in and told me a few things. Firstly, He came in and say, ‘Hallelujah! O servants of Jehovah, praise his name. Praise him forever and ever. Praise him from sunrise to sunset. This is exactly what Kataria says in his Laughter Session; to laugh from morning to evening. Secondly, I have to look at his acts. For example, he lifts the poor from the dirt and the hungry from the garbage dump. Thirdly, by rejoicing I show my trust in Him. This call is not just to the priest but also to His people. Lastly, He is constantly thinking of me. Wow. YHWH is constantly thinking of me. He will surely bless me. He will surely bless my people, the priests of Aaron and all, both great and small who feared God. All this is found in the book of Psalms 113. Note it down and read it.
A pastor gave this story. During the last twelve years of my pastorate we had a form of service in which the children came with their parents to the morning worship period. Just before the sermon they marched to their classrooms, singing a recessional hymn. They all marched past the pulpit. For me as their pastor, one of the high points of the service was the privilege of catching a smile from each child and giving one in return. I tried never to miss a single one, but one day apparently, I failed. A little curly headed four-year-old ran out of the procession and threw herself into the arms of her mother, sobbing as though her heart was broken. After the service I sought out the mother. She said that when she had quieted the little one and asked why she had cried, she received this pathetic answer, ‘I smiled at God, but he didn’t smile back at me!’ For her I stood for God. I had failed with my smile, and the world went dark.
The phrase ‘the joy of the Lord is my strength’ is found in Nehemiah. Led by Nehemiah a group of people wanted to build the work of God. They completed so much in so short a space of time. But coupled with the pile of rubbish everywhere, the stubbornness and sin of the people of God, they became physically exhausted and are losing the joy of the Lord. Nehemiah is an example of people, committed Christian working hard for the ministry and as a result loses the joy of the Lord. Many of us are like that.
The Holy Spirit yearns to bring God’s people back to serving the Lord with joy and gladness. How sad God must be to see despair and sadness instead on our face. Nehemiah 8:10 says ‘Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strengthen’. Joy is happiness. It is excitement caused by hope. It is delight. God wants his children to be excited, exhilarated, intensely glad, fully contented, experiencing joy in the highest degree. This joy of the Lord is based on reconciliation with God and the presence of the Spirit in our lives. This joy is maintained by the assurance that we are forgiven and restored to fellowship with God and that we now live in harmony with his will.
Such joy acts as a fortress to guard us from the troubles and temptations of each day. Such joy also gives us the power and the motivation to preserve in faith until the end. When I was preparing this Message, God was telling me on the need to serve Him with joy and gladness. I wondered how important joy could be compared to the heartbreaking problems in the world today, such as drug, alcohol, immorality, divorce, violence, and corruption. But God takes the matter of serving Him with joy and gladness, excitement and exhilaration most seriously. So many of God’s people are sad and defeated because they have lost the joy of the Lord. Why is Joy so Important? Because there is divinity to it. There is something divine about joy. Also when there is joy you will become boundless oceans. Only when we have the joy of the Lord that God can deal bountifully with you. Look at the effects of joy on you. Your joy will be your strength. Spiritual joy strengthens a man for duty. Spiritual joy strengthens a man for suffering. Then you will go from strength to strength. Fear chills, despondency unnerves, sorrow depresses. But strength is hope and hope is encouragement, joy inspires, excites and elevates. A joyless Christian has become a disgraceful testimony to the world and the church.
(2) Joy from the Spirit of the Lord
The Christians are supernaturally joyful. II Corinthians 3:17 says ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty’. Today many of us are not in liberty but in bondage to sadness, hopelessness. Liberty means freedom or release from slavery. It means God can give us liberty, power to be free from the oppressive power of sadness. In Isaiah we read that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Christ ‘proclaiming liberty to all captives’… liberty to all who are bruised. God is the author of this joy. He creates it and establishes it in the heart of his people. The joy of true believers is not a natural feeling, but a spiritual gift. We need to receive the anointing of joy in our lives today.
Many years ago when the great missionary Adoniram Judson was home on furlough, he passed through the city of Stonington, Connecticut. A young boy playing about the wharves at the time of Judson’s arrival was struck by the man’s appearance. Never before had he seen such a light on any human face. He ran up the street to a minister to ask if he knew who the stranger was. The minister hurried back with him, but became so absorbed in conversation with Judson that he forgot all about the impatient youngster standing near him. Many years afterward that boy- who could never get away from the influence of that wonderful face – became the famous preacher Henry Clay Trumball. In a book of memoirs, he penned a chapter entitled: What a boy saw in the Face of Adoniram Judson.’ That lighted countenance had changed his life. Even as flowers thrive when they bend to the light, so shining, radiant faces come to those who constantly turn toward Christ!
The spirit of God wants to put anointing into our life by joy. George Muller would not preach until his heart was happy in the grace of God; Jan Ruybroeck would not write while his feelings were low, but would retire to a quiet place and wait on God till he felt the spirit of inspiration. John Wesley was on board a ship bound for the Georgia colony in early 1736 when a ferocious storm shredded the main sail and flooded the decks. Many of the English passengers aboard scream in terror that they would soon be swallowed by the deep. But a group of Moravian missionaries from Germany calmly sang throughout the squall. They were unafraid of death and John Wesley himself was terrified as well. The elevated spirits of this group of Moravians convinced John Wesley of the reality of their religions, and helped to bring him a short time later to a state of true conversion. The Christian owes it to the world to be supernaturally joyful. But somehow for me personally, I felt that God was telling me continually in the past few months that my Joy has a relationship with my future victories, promises answered and spiritual breakthrough even for this church.
(3) Dare to Believe the Incredibly Good Things the Holy Spirit is Going to Tell you.
There are great and wonderful things in store for us. So be joyful. Isa 6:4 says ‘Since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, neither had the eye see, O God, besides thee, what he hath prepared for him that waited for him.
Lately YHWH has be telling me about his promises for me. Psalms 119:38 says, ‘Reassure me that your promises are for me, for I trust and revere you.’ Psalms 119:49 says, ‘Never forget your promises to me your servants, for they are my only hope. They give me strength in all my troubles; how they refresh and revive me. YHWH even challenged me to ask God to remember His promises. Psalms 119:58 says, ‘With all my heart I want your blessings. Be merciful just as you promised. Finally Psalms 119:82 says, ‘My eyes are straining to see your promises come true.’
I Cor 2:9-10 says ‘As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things, which God had prepared for them that love him. But God had revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God’. Satan can attack you, flooding you with lies and discouraging words. But if you’ll simply wait on the Lord, his spirit of joy will come to you in the midst of the attack and drive out all the devil’s lies. How? He’ll give you a revelation of all the good things God has prepared for you because you love him. And joy will return.
Our Lord has a wonderful plan for every single child who loves him. And no Satanic attack against his children can ever alter those plans. God knows the sorrows, struggles and pain we may be facing today. But he also knows the glorious things he has laid out ahead of us. He knows the revelation we’ll receive, the usefulness we’ll enjoy, the fruit we’ll see, the joy and peace we’ll possess. He has a ‘good word’ for all who love him.
Listen to these wonderful words from Isaiah.
“Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary: but they that waiteth on the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. This is the word of the Holy Spirit to encourage us. You are not going to faint. You are going to come out of your trials more victorious, joyful because your faith has been tested and tried as gold. And you’ll see the Lord fulfill every promises he made to you.
I conclude with this story. One Sunday evening, David Livingstone sat in the Aberdeen Music Hall listening to a service rendered by a deputation from the London Missionary Society. When the service was over, Livingstone looked wistfully after the team as they filed out the door. The look on his face so attracted the attention of a congregational minister who was standing nearby, that he stepped quietly to the boy’s side and with a smile asked, ‘My boy, would you like to be a missionary?’ Livingstone later said that it was that smile, questioning and tender, which led him to make his final decision to serve his Savior as a foreign missionary.