“The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10b, NIV).
“I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart!” Do you remember the words to the song? Joy was exquisite when you first gave your heart to Jesus, and praise just flowed from your heart! Is your joy just as real now? Do you still praise the Lord in personal worship or have the trials of life tarnished its luster? The Lord desires your praise. King David understood this when he wrote, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music. Make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn–shout for joy before the Lord, the King” (Psalm 98:4-6, NIV)!
No matter what his circumstance David realized his strength came from trust in the Lord’s provision. David knew how to release his attempt at any control. The very thought of the Lord’s faithfulness erupted from him in joyful praise! “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song” (Psalm 28:7. NLT). David understood that strength and joy were reciprocal. “Through Jesus, therefore,” the writer to the Hebrews imparted, “let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (Hebrew 13:15, NIV). David understood that he needed to relinquish more than control of his own heart. He understood that in praising God no matter what his circumstance he would be strengthened with the joy of the Lord's power and provision. “I will declare your name to my people,” David declared. “In the assembly I will praise you. From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you, I will fulfill my vows” (Psalm 22:22,25, NIV). David knew that praise was his vow.
Centuries following David’s reign, Ezra, the priest, stood before what had once been an exiled and abandoned nation, but now a people who had been restored. He read the sacred law. “Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, ‘Amen! Amen!’ Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground” (Nehemiah 8:6, NIV). Each Hebrew then wept because of God’s redeeming love in spite of their sin! They had been saved from Babylon and destruction. “Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, ‘this day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep. Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord’” (Nehemiah 8:9a, 10a, NIV).
When we are forgiven, we are not meant to mourn over past sins. We are not meant to mourn over circumstances or troubles in life. He has restored us! “Consider it pure joy, my brothers,” James wrote, “whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2-3, NIV). Trials are meant to produce the purest spiritual joy. Not diminish it. Strength grows from perseverance. Spiritual joy carries you through times of deepest despair and brings God’s strength to a troubled heart. Each day is a new day in Christ. Get up from your weeping and praise Jesus for saving you and taking care of you. Nehemiah reiterated what David had known to be true with the words, “‘Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength’” (Nehemiah 8:10b). Without joy we have no strength, and without God’s strength we have no joy.
“O for a thousand tongues to sing,” Charles Wesley wrote,” my great redeemer’s praise! The glories of my God and King! The triumphs of His grace!” Give thanks to God for handling your problems, and never take the burden back for Him. Spiritual joy will blossom through faith, and His strength shall sustain you. The fire of the Holy Spirit will draw your praise! Yield yourself to His leading! When you have truly experienced your great redeemer’s love, and have known the glories of your God and King, and have savored His victories, praise will be more that a result. It will be your highest act of worship.