The Joy of the Lord is My Strength
As we enter into a time of thanksgiving, a time of celebration, the holidays can be anything but joyful. Our trials and tribulations can bring us nothing but sorrow. Yet Paul tells us in Philippians 4:4 to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” We may say, “I am only human, this is asking too much.” So how do we learn to put our trust in God so that we can have that joy, that peace that comes from knowing Him, so that we can trust Him in our times that seem like the only way is for us to help ourselves?
We are going to look at Luke 12 for the answers to this question beginning at verse 14b. Yeshua/Jesus tells the crowd of people, “‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’ And he told them this parable: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.’”
We must have the right priorities. We must put God first. Life is not in our possessions but in God. Anything other than that is greed and lust. 1 John 2:16 tells us this: “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” So you have two options, God or the World!
Luke 12:22-26 goes on to tell us, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life ? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” Yes, we are valuable to God and when we come to know God, we begin to see that we are His children and so we belong to Him and He cares about us and will not forsake us. He is not like an earthly father who may let us down from time to time. God knows what is best for us because He created us.
We also see that worry gets us nowhere. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6-7, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Messiah Yeshua.” Luke continues to say in verses 32-34, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Fear is not of God, nor is worry. “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry” (Psalm 34:15). When we are facing life’s darkest hours and we cannot find joy, we must ask ourselves a few simple questions. Is this happening because I am trying to build bigger barns? Is it because I have replaced God with the lust of the eyes or the flesh or the pride of life? Maybe my worry is about the fact that my treasure is here on earth and not in heaven? Paul tells us in Philippians 3:7-14, “I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Messiah has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Messiah Yeshua my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Messiah and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Messiah. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Messiah and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Messiah Yeshua first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Messiah Yeshua, is calling us.”
During these holidays we must hear the words of Ezra and Nehemiah. When Ezra began to read from the book of the Law the people heard God’s Word and after being in bondage for so many years they began to weep. “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God.” For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” (Nehemiah 8:9-10). Today and everyday, no matter what is happening in your life, remember this: the Lord loves you and you are His. “The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving” (Psalm 28:7).