Do you have joy?

Do you have joy?

Do you?  What you might have is happiness.  This comes and goes, depending on the circumstances.

When you have money, you’re happy.  But, do you panic when you don’t have enough?  If so, you may not really be living with true joy.

When you have health, you’re happy.  You can go about your day walking, sitting, standing, driving, coming and going as you please.  but, when you are confined to a bed; a room; unable to drive, or unable to eat as you please, do you still remain joyful?

When you have choices, freedoms, and options to do what you want, when you want, you’re happy.  But when circumstances deny your personal choice in a matter; when you are thwarted from you r plans; when you can’t stop a crisis, or a traumatic experience, or an unpleasant loss, do you still have the joy of the Lord as your strength?

Let us separate the feeling of happiness from the state of possessing joy.

Happiness is when we’re in control.  We get what we want.  Circumstances are to our liking.

Joy is when God’s in control.  We trust Him, and we trust that His is good…all the time.

In Nehemiah 8:10, we read, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”  But Nehemiah was not experiencing happy circumstances when he proclaimed, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”  He was under attack by an enemy army.  He was doing heavy-duty construction, rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem.  He was getting very little sleep.  He had to do his surveying by night.  He had to work with a trowel in one hand and a sword for defense in the other.  He had to put up with the fears of his fellow men and the desire of many of his people to quit.  He was the object of at least three conspirators who wanted to cause a disturbance and frustrate his plans.  There were multiple assassination attempts on his life.  In fact, ten times the Jews warned Nehemiah that their enemies were coming to kill him.  Food and water were of constant concern as well.  Yet, Nehemiah remained joyful!

What can we learn from this man of God?  In the face of some very, very unhappy circumstances, Nehemiah chose to pray…”But we prayed to our God…”  (Nehemiah 4:9).  Here’s what we learn:  Its’ the events that happen in our lives that shape us, but it’s the choices we make that define us.

Nehemiah goes on to say, basically, in my rough paraphrase, “We acted in faith, and obeyed God’s instructions anyway!”

This man is outnumbered, tired, thirst, hungry, criticized, ridiculed, and demoralized, and yet he set the example for us to be joyful.  So, joy is not dependent on your circumstances!

You can probably think of some unhappy circumstances that you have had to deal with, or are dealing with right now.  Do you know that God still wants you to have joy in spite of the situation happening around you?  Are you, like me, tempted to focus on the circumstances instead of the joy of the Lord?

Now it’s time to discover ‘how’ we can have and experience true joy.  Are you ready?  Here’s how:  Faith plus obedience.  When God says He’s going to do something, believe Him.  That’s faith. When God says He wants you to do something, do it.  That’s obedience.

Nehemiah believed God when He said, He would gather those that had been scattered and bring them home and redeem them by His great power and by His strong hand (Nehemiah 1:9-10).

Nehemiah obeyed God by overseeing the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall and the restoration of the temple, despite much opposition.

I don’t believe joy is based on circumstances.   Instead it’s based on faith plus obedience.  Believe God, and obey God.

God says it Himself when He reminds Nehemiah in a two-step plan; Return to Me and keep My commandments (Nehemiah 1:9a).  What’s the end product of placing your faith in God and obeying God?  It’s joy!

What’s the end product of looking at my circumstances?  When everything goes well, I’m happy,  When everything doesn’t look so good, I’m unhappy.

Should my joy be based on my circumstances?  No.

Should my joy be based on believing God’s promises and obeying His commands?  Yes.  Not only should joy be based on these, it is dependent upon these two things.

I must believe that God will take care of me.  And, I must obey God to do that which He tells me to do.

I would also add to this and say that difficult circumstances should not decrease our potential to know and have joy.

Jesus wants us to have everlasting joy, as promised in Isaiah 61:7…not happiness that comes and goes…not happiness based on happy circumstances…but true joy that has no end.  It starts now.  It’s part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), and it grows and grows, especially as we near heaven.

The Lord wants to turn your mourning into gladness.  He wants to replace your ashes with a garland.  He wants to replace your spirit of fainting with a mantle of praise.  He wants to turn you sorrow in to joy!  (from Isaiah 61)

Joy is the flag that flies over your home when the King is in residence.

“Count it all joy, my brethren, when you experience various trials…” (James 1:2).  Why?  Because God uses those trials to expand your capacity to know and possess true, and everlasting joy!

Do you have joy?  Believe God and obey Him; faith plus obedience equals true joy.

Pastor Gene Harris

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