Don’t settle for miserable religion. No matter what your circumstances, the Bible promises that God wants you to know His joy
“This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Wherever Jesus went, he brought joy – gladness, happiness, to use more ordinary words. He Himself knew how to be “full of joy through the Holy Spirit” (Luke 10:21) and wanted his joy to be in His disciples so that “your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). He said that his Father’s kingdom was all about “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). In fact, words like “joy,” “joyful” and “rejoice” occur over 400 times in the Bible! So “miserable religion” has no place in the Christian faith (though, sadly, the church has often made it seem like it does!).
Joy is a theme that runs through Luke’s Gospel from start to finish. It begins with joy characterizing Elizabeth and Mary in their pregnancies; it runs through the joy that the disciples experienced in engaging in their ministry; it ends with their joy after the ascension as they returned to in eager expectation of what was yet to come.
But joy is not restricted to just happy feelings (though we are quite sure that God prefers us to be happy than sad!); joy is about a deep confidence in God, no matter what happens. That is why Nehemiah could tell God’s people that, “The joy of the LORD is your strength.” After all their efforts to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, they suddenly felt overwhelmed with failure as Ezra read God’s law to them and they realized how much they had failed Him. What they needed at the moment, as Nehemiah understood, was not to be weighed down with guilt, but to be lifted up through joy – the joy of knowing that God had not abandoned them and that He was still with them despite everything.
So today, don’t settle for miserable religion. No matter what your circumstances, the Bible promises that God wants you to know His joy, and through that joy to know His strength.
It was a time of happiness, joy, gladness and honor for the Jewish people. (Esther 8:16, NCV)
Copyright © 2017 Martin Manser and Mike Beaumont