Nehemiah said, “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
Powerful stuff? I was reading the daily devotions in the Transformed series today (which I must admit I’m a (good) few days behind in) and although I’ve read, or heard, this verse about a zillion times, I don’t think I ever actually even thought about it let alone actually understood it. Which is a bit shocking because the bit I’m looking at, the bit in bold, is only nine words long! But as I’ve often mentioned…I do love it how sometimes God brings to my attention something that I think I’m familiar with but never actually been familiar with.
This is what the Transformed study guide has to say about this verse:
The secret to strength is joy. It’s not your desire or your determination that are your strength. It’s your joy. This means that one of the main reasons you feel you can’t do something or don’t have the strength to face something is a lack of joy. When you have joy, then you are able to find security in the truth that God has a plan,and you have strength for that day.
I must say I never really made the connection between finding strength in God and having joy in Him before.
I found this article by John Piper on the Desiring God website (where I find I’ve been spending a bit of time lately- I’ve even subscribed to their blog so it comes up in my reader. The articles have been challenging and often exactly what I need- I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a really good blog to follow). It dates back from 1996, when he interviewed Josef Tson, a Romanian pastor who suffered under the Communist government there last century.
On joy he [Josef Tson] said that at one point in the days of oppression in Romania his house was searched by communist officials because he was a leading pastor. Almost all his books were confiscated. He said that the soldiers needed proof that they were getting his books from him. So they told him to sit at a table and write in each book that it was found in his house. Then he had to sign the book while they took pictures of him. At one point in the tense process, he took down a book whose title was Joy Unspeakable and Full of Glory with the subtitle, “Is This Your Experience NOW?”
As he read the title he asked himself that question and was filled—at that moment—by the Holy Spirit with amazing joy. The change was so profound that he told his wife to get those soldiers some coffee and he was freed from his anger and fear. Later that week he had to preach. All in his congregation knew that he had been stripped of his books and was daily questioned by the authorities so that he had no time to minister or prepare. When he preached he spoke on “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). He said that one man was so overwhelmed with the sheer force of his joy in that setting of suffering that he could not hear anything after the text and was broken in his own heart and deeply changed.
This morning Annika and I went out for ‘coffee and bikkie’ (babychino and biscuit for A, cappuccino for me) at the local church-run cafe attached to the Christian bookshop in town. A loves it and requests to go there whenever we’re anywhere in that general vicinity. I met a lady there who has 6 kids. I found it impressive that she can have six kids and can make it out of the house in the mornings, I can barely make it out with one. Then she told me her husband had passed away recently, so she was doing it all on her own. And I thought I had it tough. I know I shouldn’t be comparing my own challenges to what other people are going through…but really…everyone has a huge battle of their own to fight, which most other people won’t even know about…we all need to rest in the strength of God. We all need to be finding strength in the joy of the Lord. Even when it seems like there’s nothing to be joyful about….
Joy unspeakable and full of glory…is that my experience NOW?