The Joy of the Lord

Bible Book: Nehemiah  8 : 10
Subject: Suffering; Christian Joy

Introduction

Everyone desires joy in life. We know that lasting joy comes only through Jesus, but some Christians are not living in that joy. It is the task of the preacher and teacher of the Bible from time-to-time to remind believers of the joy we have in Christ.

One such pastor was teaching a class of boys about Philip and the eunuch. Anxious to impress the boys with the joy of becoming a Christian, he asked, "Why did the eunuch go on his way rejoicing?" Without hesitation one of the little boys said, "Because Philip quit preaching."

Well it takes different things, I guess, to bring joy to different people, but lasting joy can only come by appropriating the joy of the Lord. And joy can sometimes seem to be in short supply. A lot of people live in a world of disappointment and discouragement. This is not God’s will for you or for me.

Someone has written a little poem that goes like this:

“Life is a crust of bread and a corner to sleep in,
A minute to smile and an hour to weep in,
A pint of joy and peck of trouble,
And never a laugh but the moan comes double.”

The fellow who wrote that must have been going through some pretty tough times. But, actually, life is fraught with hardships. Job penned the words in Job 14:1, "Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble."

One young man was told in seminary that there never had been a bad short sermon. Since he was always a man of few words anyway, the young preacher determined to preach the most condensed sermon ever delivered. He had learned that a sermon should have three points and a poem. So, here is the full text of his first sermon.

The title: Trouble.

Outline:

1. I’ve Got ‘Em

2. You’ve Got ‘Em

3. We’ve All Got ‘Em

Poem:

Adam

Had ‘em!

Yes, life is full of trouble. One old spiritual stated, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.” Of course, that is not entirely true, since the Lord knows every trouble we face and cares about every burden we bear.

Yet, the longer we live the more we understand the truth that others cannot know the trouble we deal with individually in our hearts and lives.

Did you know that the typical child laughs 150 times daily, but the average adult chuckles only 15 times a day (Orange County Register, Dec 29, 1992). Surely, the Lord desires us to experience the joy His Son died to grant us. The Bible tells us that we are to have joy and our text today reminds us that the joy of the Lord is our strength. Paul said that we are to rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4). Is this just wishful thinking, or is their a spiritual principle at work here which must be applied to our lives? The fact is, we can never be what we could be, what we would be or what we should be for the Lord, until we master the principle of spiritual joy in our Christian lives. In fact, we can never receive all that God has for us or do all He intends for us until we come to grips with His divine joy.

Listen to Simon Peter speak on this subject, as found in 1 Peter 1:8,

“…whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory…”

Yes, joy unspeakable and full of glory. Do you have at this moment in your life an inexpressible and glorious joy? Someone is saying to yourself, “Wait a minute, how can I have this joy when I have so many problems and troubles in my life?” Well, look at the man who penned the words of our text today. Nehemiah had a load of troubles in his life. He was in slavery when he came to believe that God wanted the walls rebuilt in Jerusalem. He had no money and no power of his own. Yet, with God’s help, he went back to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. But even then his troubles were only beginning, for he faced many obstacles to completing this task. First, he had enemies who pressed their case against him legally, then he had enemies who threatened him and his followers physically, also he had enemies who insulted him mercilessly, and finally he had discouraged and frightened workers on his own team. Yet, the wall was rebuilt! It is this man who shares the secret to completing his task and keeping his sanity in the process. The secret: The Joy Of The Lord!

Nehemiah was revealing secrets to victory in God’s work:

i. The Victory of Energy
ii. The Victory of Enthusiasm
iii. The Victory of Endurance
iv. The Victory of Earnestness
v. The Victory of Effectiveness
vi. The Victory of Empowerment

Look with me at one of the most important subjects of the Christian life, the subject of the joy of the Lord.

I. The Importance of this Joy

It was so important that:

A. A King Pleaded for It

Psalm 51:12-13:

“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,

And uphold me by your generous Spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,

And sinners shall be converted to You.”

 David pleaded for the joy of the Lord to be returned to his life. David lost that joy because of his awful sin with Bathsheba and the man-slaughter of her husband that he committed as a result of her pregnancy. David hid that sin in his heart, but it was not hidden from God, and in fact it is almost certain that the population of Jerusalem knew of his transgressions. Finally, when faced with his sin through the prophet Nathan, David ‘fessed up – he dealt with his sin before God. In his prayer, David cried out for some important things as he repented of his sin. One of those requests involved the return of the joy of the Lord. Did you notice what David knew would occur once that joy was restored? David said, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners shall be converted to you.” Perhaps once of the reasons people are not coming to the Lord in our churches these days is the fact that we don’t have the joy of the Lord. Yes, and that may be because we have become proud and don’t repent of the sins that have crept into our lives.

B. The King Prayed for It

Jesus, not just a king but the King, prayed to the Father that you and I might have the joy in us that filled Him. Look at John 17:13-16, “But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 1I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”

In this passage Jesus is praying to the Father. He is just before being arrested, falsely tried, beaten, mocked and crucified, yet He is talking about His joy being in us. Wow! Jesus had a joy in Him that was not of this world and He wanted us to have that joy as well. This is not “a” king praying this prayer, but it is “the“ King praying for us to have His joy!

Look at John 15:11 and note that Jesus said this to His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” Jesus desired that we have His joy and that it might REMAIN in us. Jesus was not talking about the giggly moments that come to all people in life, but was speaking of a joy that transcends the events of life and the world – a heavenly, divine joy!

Lest you think that Jesus was just speaking words that sound churchy, I want you to look at another passage with me. I think this is one of the most amazing passages in the Bible in regard to the life of Christ. Look at Hebrews 12:2: “…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Now, here is a passage describing Jesus that ought to take your breath away. We are told, as we seek to run with patience Christian race, to look to Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross. Jesus had a deep, abiding joy even when He was facing and enduring the cross. His joy was no syrupy, silly joy based on circumstances. He had a joy that eclipsed the pain He was enduring! And, we are told that we can have that joy as well.

Look at John 16:22, “Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” Jesus told His disciples, just before going to Gethsemane to pray, that they were going to experience sorrow, but that He would come to them and give them a joy that no one could take from them. Surely Jesus was speaking of His resurrection and the subsequent sending of the Holy Spirit to live in their hearts. Jesus promised them a joy that nothing could remove or rob from them. Wow! That is exactly what God intends for us, for we too are His disciples!

Now, before we move on to something else regarding this joy, let me share one other thought on the importance of this joy. Look at Luke 10:20, which reads, “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” The disciples were excited because of a spiritual victory over the powers of Satan. Jesus told them that their joy had to be deeper than that. He told them to rejoice in the fact that their names were written down in heaven. Now, why would Jesus say that to them? I’ll tell you why, there are times that you will not experience total victory over the enemy in ever circumstance of life. The Christian suffers in this world in a multitude of ways. The Christian marriage sometimes ends because one of the members of the marriage refuses to follow God’s will. A Christian’s child is murdered because an evil person acts in rebellion to all that is holy. The Christian gets cheated in a business deal because a worldly person loves money more than God. You can’t wait to have joy only when everything is going your way, and Jesus knew that. He wanted us to know that it is important to have a joy so deep in us that the world, the devil and circumstances can’t touch it.

Okay, now that we know how very important joy is, let us look at another aspect of this subject.

II. The Improvement of this Joy

Your life will be enhanced, enriched and advanced through the joy of the Lord, so let’s look at some ways this is true. It will…

A. Improve our Work

Nehemiah was showing the people that joy was essential to the continuation of the work that was to be done in Jerusalem for the Lord.

Listen to what Paul said in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him (Christ) who strengthens me.” That verse comes shortly after Paul wrote Jesus completed His work on earth through the, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, rejoice (Philippians 4:4)!” We cannot work for Christ as we ought to work unless we have His joy in us. When Paul wrote the verses we just read, he was in prison in Rome. He did not write his letter with a note of sorrow and foreboding, but with joy and gladness. How did he do that? He learned to experience and express the joy of the Lord in all circumstances. No work for the Lord can be fully effective when God’s people fail to experience and express His joy in us.

Look at Jesus once again, as he is spoken of in Romans 2: “…for the joy set before Him…” Jesus had joy on the cross. I know! It seems impossible, doesn’t it? But, it is true! His joy was not based on the pain, sorrow and suffering He was going through, but on the victory He knew He was winning though His redeeming work on the cross.

Look at Romans 14:17-18, “…for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.” The kingdom of God is about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. We are to have this joy so that we might do the work God has given us to do. If we lack this joy, we will become sidetracked and will do the wrong work in the wrong strength for the wrong purpose with heartbreaking results!

Not only will His joy improve our work, but it will…

B. Improve your Worship

It is difficult to imagine a person a person truly worshipping God without a measure of divine joy, yet I have seen some people during worship who look like they were baptized in pickle juice! Psalm 100 is a perfect example of what worship ought to be and can be. Here is a call to worship God. Look at what the passages commands:

“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth./Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs./Know that the LORD is God./ It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture./ Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name./ For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Notice that we are told to “shout” for “joy” to the “Lord.” You can’t shout, unless you are faking your worship, without the joy of the Lord. True joy in Christ abandons thoughts of the world and its sorrow and focuses on God’s love, power, grace and promises.

It goes without saying that worship without joy is like a meal without food, like a car without fuel, or scabbard without a sword. In other words, it is useless and powerless.

Think of yet another thing improved with joy…it will…

C. Improve your Witness

A young girl became a Christian in an exciting revival at her church and was baptized the closing Sunday morning. That afternoon she ran through the house singing and dancing. Her sour grandfather rebuked her with these words, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself! Just joined the church and singing and dancing on the Lord's Day!” Crushed by her grandfather's attitude, the little girl went out to the barn, climbed up on the corral fence, and observed an old mule standing there with a sad, droopy face and bleary eyes. As she reached over and patted the mule sympathetically, she said, “Don't cry, old mule. I guess you've just got the same kind of religion that grandpa has!”

When we are without joy, we are without an effective witness. A religion that wears grave clothes ought to be buried, but a person with a risen Savior has an overflowing joy! The world should not find more joy outside of Christ than we do in Christ.

A man in a small church with just a few people present was praying, “O God bless us and watch over us; there are not many of us here but, Lord, you just watch over this faithful few while most of our members are out there somewhere having a good time.” What a sad prayer! We ought to be IN HERE having a good time. Christians with God’s joy coursing through their veins are never jealous of those people who seek their joy in the world.

How can we expect to bring people to Christ if they cannot see our joy in Him? Joy in the Lord will do more to bring people to faith in our Savior than anything else we might attempt.

Now, just one more thing that joy can do…it will…

D. Improve your Wellbeing

Most everyone here is familiar with Proverbs 17:22, which reads,

“A cheerful heart is good medicine,

but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Brown, Driver and Briggs states that the word used for cheerful or merry in this passage means “joyful”. It is good for you to be cheerful, merry, and filled with joy because it improves your health. When we read about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians we note that Joy is the second characteristic of those filled with the Spirit of God. Your health will be better when you are filled with the joy of the Lord.

Someone has said, “There is no cosmetic for the face which can do as much good as a joyful heart and a right disposition.” You want to look better, discover the joy of the Lord and plant that on your face every day!

Face it, without His joy pulsing through us, we cannot have the strength needed to work, worship, witness or experience the wellbeing that God has for us.

Finally, think of …

III. The Imparting of this Joy

We’ve looked at the importance of this joy and the improvement made to us when we practice this joy, but now let’s consider the imparting of this joy to our souls.

I know that your greatest concern must be regarding this subject: How do I obtain this joy? How is this joy imparted to the believer? How may I know this joy? There are three requirements to this joy.

A. The Presence of the Lord

Look at Psalm 16:11: “In thy presence is fullness of joy, at thy right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Joy is found in the presence of the Lord and we see this again and again in the Scriptures. If we desire to be filled with His joy, we must abide in His presence - we must practice the presence of Jesus. He is with us – let us live in the awareness of that presence.

1 Chronicles 16:27 reads, “Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy in his dwelling place.” Note that there is joy in the presence of God. The nearer we are to Him, the more filled with joy we will be.

Now, never forget this:
When our joy is waning, it is a sign that we are wandering.

Note also that strength is mentioned in direct relationship to joy. Strength and joy are in His presence. The two go together like peaches and cream, like a violin and a bow, or like mom and apple pie.

This does not mean that we will live without any hardships. No, it means that He will give us joy in the midst of hardships. As Jesus was preparing to go the cross, He spoke to His disciples these words found in John 16:20-22, “I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” We looked at part of this passage a moment ago, but I am reminding you because this passage speaks of the resurrection of Jesus. He was telling His disciples that He had a joy to dispense with His resurrection which no one could take from them. If I am not living in full joy today it is no one’s fault but mine! The risen Christ is with me. He is alive. He is here. He wants me to have this joy. He prayed I would know this joy.

Jesus has the ability to turn:

1. Every hurt into a hallelujah,
2. Every pain into a pearl
3. Every trial into a triumph,
4. Every Calvary into an Easter!

 In 2 Corinthians 7:4, Paul writes, “In all my troubles, my joy knows no bounds.”

In 1 Thessalonians 1:6 Paul wrote concerning the Thessalonian Christians, “You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”

Yes, in spite of the circumstances Jesus can give you joy. In fact, He can work through the difficulties to bring you greater joy than you would know without them. That is the miracle of His grace.

B. The Spirit of the Lord

Note in the passage we just read in Thessalonians that the Christians there knew joy through the Holy Spirit. The Lord desires to fill us with joy by filling us with His Holy Spirit. Listen to what the Scripture says about Jesus.

Look at Psalm 45:7:

“You love righteousness and hate wickedness;

Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You

With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”

This anointing, spoken of in Psalm 45:7, speaks of the Holy Spirit given to Jesus in greater measure than any other. This Spirit is the Spirit of Joy! The Holy Spirit thrills the heart and lifts the soul. When we are filled His Spirit, we have a spring in our step, a song in our heart and a smile on our face. Even hardships cannot steal this joy.

C. The Word of the Lord

Note where we began today. Nehemiah 8 tells us of Ezra reading the Word of God to the people for hours at a time. The people were brought to repentance through the experience of hearing God’s Word. The people began to weep and sob because of their sins, but Nehemiah told them to dry their tears and rejoice. The Word of God brings joy. Any Christian who neglects this Book, the Bible, will never have full joy. You must have a time to read the Word of God daily and allow God speak to you out of His Word. He will fill you with wonder and joy, and sometimes you will feel conviction, but it will be with joy. Sometimes when you read the Word of God, you will catch a glimpse of the heavenly home He has for you and you will be overcome with joy. Sometimes you will be reminded of what He has done for you, and you will be filled with joy. Sometimes you will read a promise that you need for that day or time in your life, and you will be flooded with joy. Get in the Word of God, let the Word of God get in you, and joy will be the fruit of your experience!

Conclusion

God does not promise us nights without sorrow, pain and hardship; however, He does promise us songs in the night. He promises never to leave without His presence, His Spirit and His Word. Lift up your hearts, be filled with His joy. Let your weeping be turned into laughter, and your heavy heart be filled with heavenly joy this morning. That is the will of God for you and for me!

The songwriter penned:

“Love divine, all loves excelling,
JOY of heaven, to earth come down;
Fix in us Thy humble dwelling,
All Thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation,
Enter every trembling heart.”

Allow the Lord to enter your heart today and to bring with His presence the joy of heaven. And if you are already a Christian, allow Him to fill you with His Spirit, to embrace you with His presence and make a new commitment to get more deeply into His Word.