Don't be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!
- Nehemiah 8:10 NLT
When I was going through a very difficult time recently and praying for strength, the Lord showed me the above verse. I had read it countless times before, but this time it shed new light on a simple truth for me. In order for us to be truly strong in spirit, the way God wants us to be, we must be filled with His joy. If you don't believe this is true, the next time you begin to feel weak or weary, check your joy level. Chances are that it will be way down. The kind of joy I'm speaking about is not the worldly "feel good" kind, but it's a deep, abiding joy born of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that joy is a fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22) All believers have the "seed" of joy planted in our spirits, and it's up to us to cooperate with God to develop it and help it grow. One way we can do that is by praying for joy. Once I began reading the Scriptures and discovering that I had a God-given right to be filled with His joy, I began praying for it confidently, based on 1 John 5:14-15, which says that when we pray according to the will of God, we will receive what we ask for. David confirms that praying for joy is scriptural when he writes: "Bring joy to Your servant, for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul." (Psalm 86:4 NIV)
Jesus said that answered prayer can be a source of joy. He tells us: "Ask, using My name, and you will receive, and your cup of joy will overflow." (John 16:24 NIV) I have found that the more I pray, the more blessings I receive, and the more my joy abounds. Another way to cultivate the seed of joy in us is to encourage ourselves with God's truth and promises. Psalm 119:162 NIV says, "I rejoice in Your promise like one who finds great spoil." Some translations say "great treasure." If you've ever gone through a trial and had nothing to hang on to but a promise from God, like I have, you know how precious His Word can be, and how much joy it can bring to a troubled heart. Spending time in God's presence is another way of increasing our joy. David wrote, "You will fill me with joy in Your presence." (Psalm 16:11 NIV) There's simply no substitute for spending time with God in prayer, praise, and Bible reading. That's when He imparts to us His wisdom, peace, joy and strength. When we neglect to spend quality time with God, our burdens become unbearable, and our joy diminishes.
Jesus made it clear that joy was God's will for us. He said that He wanted the "full measure" of His joy to be in us. (John 17:13 NIV) And He said that He desired that our joy would be "complete." (John 15:11 NIV) The Savior wasn't talking about a fleeting sense of happiness here, but one that would endure in the face of adversity. That's why He told us: "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 TLB) The Amplified Bible goes on to say, "I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you." He also said, "No one will take away your joy." (John 16:22 NIV) Jesus has made a way for us to have the joy of the Lord in a trouble-filled world. But it's up to us to do our part by nurturing our joy, and by refusing to surrender it to the enemy. Satan works overtime trying to steal our joy because he knows that it makes us strong and difficult to defeat. He also knows that he can seriously damage our witness and our effectiveness as believers if he can keep us sad, sour, and sullen.
Maybe you've heard the old saying, "Laughter is the best medicine." There's actually a scriptural basis for this truth. Proverbs 17:22 NASB says, "A joyful heart is good medicine." Even much of today's scientific and medical community will acknowledge that there is a direct connection between our joy level and our health and well-being. The Bible says that we should be "filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy" as the result of our faith in Jesus and our love for Him. (1 Peter 1:8 NIV) God deserves cheerful servants, and it should be our goal to worship and serve Him with joy. (Psalm 100:2) Finally, nothing brings more joy to our hearts than placing our wholehearted trust in God, especially in times of trouble. (Romans 15:13) If you are facing challenging circumstances today and have lost your joy in the Lord, you may be handing your blessings and your well-being over to the enemy on a silver platter. Don't do it. Hang on to your joy till the victory comes, trusting that the Lord's strength will be there for you every step of the way!
Prayer: Lord, fill me with Your joy to give me strength. Show me how to have the kind of joy that draws others to You. When the enemy comes against me and I'm tempted to lose my joy, remind me of what it can cost me. Thank You that Your joy shall remain in me and overflow!
- J. M. Farro