Blog, Living in the Abundance of Christ

The Joy of the Lord is Our Strength

As I sat in church the other day, I listened to a woman sing a song. The song was “Shall We Gather at the River”. The music was played on an organ and her singing style was classical, reminding me of Judy Garland. A pure, sweet sound, with, at times, the purposeful wobble of her voice. I listened to the words:

“Shall we gather at the river,
where bright angel feet have trod,
with its crystal tide forever
flowing by the throne of God?
Refrain:
Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
the beautiful, the beautiful river;
gather with the saints at the river
that flows by the throne of God…
… Soon we’ll reach the shining river,
soon our pilgrimage will cease;
soon our happy hearts will quiver
with the melody of peace.”
(Read all the lyrics here)

And, as I listened to the sound of the song, I thought of this same song being sung one hundred years ago, in the very same manner. I thought of fellow believers singing this song all those years ago, and I thought to the future, one hundred years from now (if the Lord should tarry), fellow believers still singing this same song. I thought about how this song unites us, brothers and sisters in Christ, as hymns often do. How the singing of this song is a reminder of our connection to God, and to each other. How one day we will see Jesus face to face, be reunited with our fellow saints, both known and unknown, who have gone before us, and who will come after us. I considered all of these things and I thought and felt, joy.

Joy: a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. 

Joy. It is like one of those illusive things that you believe exists, but you (often) have yet to find it. Sure, you might have moments of fleeting happiness, when everything seems to be going well, or at least you could block out a time to not think of all the other things that stay mostly in the shadows, which is also where you seem to spend a majority of the time. So, how do you get joy? What is this “joy of the Lord” all about? Is it an actual thing? Is it just happy moments? Is it a facade that Christians put on to make Christianity seem more appealing? I wondered, and I wanted the “joy of the Lord”.

“Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law.Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:9-10

I find it interesting and honest that the people were distressed when hearing the words of God’s law. Do you ever feel this way? Like, God’s law is so great, that we cannot possibly keep all of it, let alone a small portion of it. God knew this, and therefore, sent Jesus to pay the penalty for our sin, of the law that we can not keep. The joy of the Lord is our strength, because our joy, the kind of joy that Christians have, is found only in the Lord.

How is the joy that Christians have different then the joy that the world has?

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9

Although the unconverted can have happiness and fleeting moments of joy, it is temporary. “The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.” (Proverbs 10:28) As Christians, we don’t always feel joy, in fact we might only have moments of it, but we always have the undercurrent of joy in our lives. It’s with us where ever we go. We have a deep, abiding, hope that carries us through every moment. To me, this is joy. This deep, abiding hope, this joy, is Christ in us. And even though we may only have the feeling of joy sporadically, it is always there, just as Christ is always there, just as His Words are always there.

Joy is more than a feeling. It is a marked difference in the lives of saints. It’s the deep, abiding, hope of Christ in us. The promise of things that have been, the things that are, and the glorious promise of things that will be. The joy of the Lord is our strength.

Do you want to have real joy? Seek Jesus with all your heart, until you find him.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

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