The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength

The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength

This incredible little phrase, one that we've quoted, one that hangs up like artwork, one that we sing, is a quote from Nehemiah 8:10. What does it mean?

Most of us emphasize the meaning with JOY and YOUR STRENGTH in the same sentence, but we miss its power. The real emphasis is the phrase OF THE LORD. This is a divine joy. The joy of the Lord is something the Lord gives us and it makes us strong.

The joy of the Lord comes from God’s grace. Only God’s children are given this grace. To maintain that grace and joy, we must put God first in all things. We love our spouse, but we love God more. We love our children, but we love God more. We love God so much that we deny ourselves, pick up a cross daily, and follow Jesus. As a result, we experience His joy.

Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

That love for God gives us a desire to read our Bible, pray, be with God's people, and get absolutely immersed in all things of God. As we do these things, we experience the joy of the Lord that comes from being intimate with Him.

The joy of the Lord isn’t a giddy feeling or a triumphant reaction to victory. That kind of joy does not give us strength, neither does it last. The joy of the Lord comes from our salvation in Christ. Through faith in Jesus, we are accepted and loved in the family of God. The Holy Spirit reminds us how far we have come and strengthens us with His joy throughout the long road of transformation we have yet to travel.

All of us arise each day with repeated sins, whether it be losing our patience or losing a battle with addiction. Some cycles of thought, habit, and sin are too ingrained in our soul to stop in our own strength. Through faith in Jesus Christ and total surrender to Him, we find His joy, grace, and strength that leads to freedom from sin and victory over temptation. By dying to self, we find life in Jesus Christ and are filled with His joy.

The joy of the Lord shifts our hearts from a focus on self to living for Jesus regardless of our current circumstance. The joy of the Lord doesn’t change based on anything we do or go through, because Jesus is a constant security, presence, and peace in our lives.

Many interpret the joy of the Lord to mean the fruit of the Spirit. It is that, but much more than that. The joy of the Lord is the joy that the Lord has. He can feel His joy—His pleasure. This grace is given to those who are intimate with Him.

So, what gives the Lord joy? I will mention a couple things.

For one, we do! His joy is having an intimate relationship with us!

Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus endured the cross because of the joy He would have from what it would accomplish! His atonement for our sin would restore His joy of having an intimate relationship with us once again. He would be in us and we would be in Him. His love for the Father and for us made Him able to endure anything, even death on the cross, in order to have us close to Him.

When we are intimate with Jesus, we can feel His joy and pleasure. The closest thing to it is how a child feels his parent’s joy and love when he is in his parent’s arms. The child feels secure and accepted regardless of what he has done or what is happening. Our total surrender and dependency on Jesus is what gives the Lord joy. It gives Him joy to comfort us and provide for us.

Other Scriptures that reflect the Lord’s joy over us are:

Isaiah 65:19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.

Luke 15:7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Secondly, it gives the Lord joy to see us loving righteousness, keeping His commandments, and abiding in Him. Jesus had this joy and He desires us to have that same joy.

John 15:10-11 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Loving righteousness and obeying the Father will lead us to experience the joy Jesus had, which then becomes our strength.

Therefore, by grace we receive the joy of the Lord as we abide in Christ and keep His commandments. As a result, Christ abides in us via the Holy Spirit and we have His strength to rejoice in the Lord when our circumstances are horrific.

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.

The apostle Paul wrote this while he was in prison. The prisons in those days were deplorable places, many times an underground bunker with little light and of course, no flushing toilets. Paul was facing uncertainty about his future and possibly death. So, how could he write: Rejoice in the Lord always? Because the joy of the Lord was his strength.

This joy comes from Jesus, not our circumstances. This joy is not dependent on our feelings, it is joy in who God is, what He loves, how He feels towards us, and what His ways are. This joy can be experienced when things go well and when things don’t go well.

2 Corinthians 8:1-2 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.

From personal difficult experiences, I know that if I have the joy of the Lord, I can still rejoice in the Lord – in who He is, what He loves, how He feels about me, and in His ways. If I turn my eyes away from my problems and focus on Jesus, the King of Kings, Creator of the Universe, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, Who is in control of all things and returning to take me home, then I gain grace to rejoice and strength to face whatever life throws at me.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.

The joy of the Lord gives a peaceful confidence about life because of the character, acts, and promises of God. We can live with the joy of the Lord and rejoice in the Lord because of all that Jesus has done.

Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

In this verse, Isaiah explains why he is able to rejoice in the Lord. The reason is because of what God has done. Using beautiful poetic language, he explains that God has given him salvation and His robe of righteousness. I ask you, “Can you rejoice in that?”

His salvation is enough reason to rejoice. In addition to that, I think about the times when God has shown me great mercy, when He has restored my soul (mind, will, and emotions), when He has delivered me from the evil one, when He has provided wisdom and direction, when he has shown a path through a difficult situation, when He has protected and provided in ways that were beyond the bare necessities.

As we meditate on the acts of God, we are encouraged and have reason to rejoice in Him. The past acts of God assure us of His love for us and give us reason to rejoice.

Furthermore, the joy of the Lord also comes from meditating on the promises of God, which cause us to look to the future with hope.

Isaiah 12:1-3 Then you will say on that day: “I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for although you were angry with me, your anger is turned away, and you comfort me. “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” Therefore, you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation.

When we lose our focus on the Lord and commit sin, we lose the joy of the Lord and become discouraged and even depressed. When we face dire circumstances and focus on them, we question the presence and care of God instead of rejoicing in the Lord.

Those are not the times to abandon God or stay away from Him. Those are the times to run to the throne of God for grace, to pray, to get in God’s Word and meditate on the acts of God and His promises. As we repent of our sin and focus on the promises of God, which are as certain as the loving character of God, we receive His forgiveness, grace, and hope in our salvation through Jesus Christ. After we abandon our self-will and are renewed with the Holy Spirit, the joy of the Lord returns.

1 Peter 1:3-9 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Do you rejoice like that? That is the joy of the Lord and it is a gift of God’s grace that comes from faith in His Son, His character, acts, and promises. To receive it, we must humble ourselves and come to His throne of grace where we find God’s forgiveness, restoration, strength, and provision.

As we bow before God with our lives in shambles, mourning over our sins, God does not say "I told you so" or "you should have known better" or "look what a mess your life is in" or "the next time you had better do better." But we are told, “You are forgiven. Go and sin no more. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Afterwards, we can proclaim Psalm 28:7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.

The joy of the Lord becomes our strength as we come to God in humility and faith in Jesus Christ, and realize God has much joy over our repentance. When we realize that we have sinned and begin to repent and follow Jesus, the grief that sin brings becomes the joy of the Lord that repentance brings.

God has deliberately led you to this moment in time. You are His joy. He rejoices when we humbly come to Him to receive grace. Therefore, turn from the sin that is robbing you of the joy of your salvation. Return home to your Father in Heaven and receive His joy.

If you don’t have a relationship with our heavenly Father, put your faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, who atoned for your sin on the cross so you can be reconciled to the Father. Then declare your faith publicly, repent of your sin, and give your life to Jesus by dying to self in baptism. There will be much rejoicing in Heaven over your decision. You will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will fill you with the joy of the Lord and give you strength to live for God.