Have you had a good laugh lately?
Don’t worry I’m not about to tell you my latest joke – that would gain a groan not a laugh! But it is a serious question though because we spend time asking how is your family life, your church life, your prayer life and forget about the joy life.
I for one, know that ministry can lead to many emotions: sadness, encouragement, frustration, hope, disappointment, but what about joy?
In Nehemiah chapter 8 we join the people after the walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt and the exiles returned to the city. Ezra stood on a high wooden platform especially built to read the law beginning with praise to God and the people responding, Amen. Then something amazing happened, as the people heard the words of the law they wept - Ezra’s response was “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
Now, these are familiar words and if you are anything like me, that is the problem. We know the words, we preach them to our congregations but do we apply them to ourselves? I wonder if we sometimes think that joy is a weakness, a sign that we are not serious about our ministry, worried lest our congregations see us enjoying God, yet that was the message from Ezra.
The people in Nehemiah 8:10 heard the word of God and that evoked a response of sadness. It is true that there are times when we read the word; consider the word of God and our own inadequacies that tears well up in our eyes in an appropriate response. But there should be many times when we rejoice.
The word ‘rejoice’ appears over 60 times in the bible. In Philippians 4:4 Paul writes “Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS, I will say it again: Rejoice!”
Why should we rejoice always? There are many reasons, here are just a few:
Rejoice in your work for God - Deuteronomy 12:7 "There also you and your households shall eat before the LORD your God, and rejoice in all your undertakings in which the LORD your God has blessed you.”
Rejoice in the protection of God - Psalm 5:11 “But let all who take refuge in You be glad, Let them ever sing for joy; And may You shelter them, That those who love Your name may exult in You.”
Rejoice in the word of God Psalm 119:162 “I rejoice at Your word, As one who finds great spoil.”
Rejoice in the works of God - Psalm 92:4 “For You, O LORD, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands.”
Rejoice in times of trial - Matthew 5:12 "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Rejoice in the knowledge of eternity - Luke 10:20 "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven."
True rejoicing is not flippancy but seeing things as God sees the end result and this idea of context is seen in Romans 12:12 “rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer.”
If joy only occurs at good times we miss the point of rejoicing in the Lord ALWAYS.
So go on, have a laugh after all, the Joy of the Lord is your STRENGTH!