Romans 8:31-39 Nehemiah 8:9-10 Give me a “J” — J! Give me a “E” — E! Give me an “S” — S! Give me a “U” — U! Give me an “S” — S!
Who do we got? JESUS! What do we got? JOY! Cheer leading pom poms make me smile with memories of
Pep rallies and Friday night football games;
Cheerleaders and team mascots;
The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
That’s the way life goes. There are winners and losers; the ones who come home with a trophy and a title and those who come home empty-handed.
There are the conquerors and the vanquished.
In the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah, we read the story of the return from captivity of the Jews. When they returned to their homeland as a vanquished people still under the rule of the Persian Empire with permission of the King of Persia to rebuild the temple of God and found the city of Jerusalem and the Temple had been completely trashed, reduced to rubble and ruin.
Their new neighbors were not happy with their return. They sabotaged the rebuilding efforts and complained to the King of Persia. The results were work delays and finally a royal edict to stop all reconstruction efforts. Under Ezra and later Nehemiah, they got back on track. After Nehemiah arrived, the people asked for a day of celebration where the word of God from the scroll of Moses (the first five books of the new testament in our bible). Knowledgeable people were scattered among the crowd to help people understand what they were hearing. When the reading ended, the people gathered there wept.
Common understanding of this is that they were confronted with how far they had wandered away from God’s Law of love and living as the people of God, and so they mourned. I wonder if some cried because they realized the glory of the past would not return or if some were overwhelmed and maybe a bit frightened by the work that still lay ahead.
Ezra responded to them: “Go home and prepare a feast, holiday food and drink; and share it with those who don’t have anything: This day is holy to God. Don’t feel bad. The joy of God is your strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10)
The joy of the Lord is ourstrength.
Joy is that feeling deep, deep down in the very core of our being that is our spirit’s witness to the truth that God is on our side. It is that affirmation that Jesus is not just on the sidelines couching us through everything that is thrown at us, but he is also out on the field of life right beside us.
God’s word from Romans 8:37 tells us that we are more than conquerors through God’s unconditional, never give up on us, just because he wants to love we experience as members of Team Jesus.
More than conquerors!
Conquerors do not remain conquerors. Someone comes along who is bigger and more powerful to defeat them. And no matter how mighty they may be, they cannot triumph over death. Eventually the earthly kingdoms they fought so hard to acquire and dominate will fall into ruins and their wealth and their tombs will be plundered. All that will be left will be dust and rubble, a few legends, and a brief footnote in the history of the world.
We who have the joy of the Lord will overcome and not be overcomed by anything, for the witness of Christ’s joy in our deepest most core of our being is our strength and our salvation. For I am convinced and I am more than confident that nothing, absolutely nothing in life or death can ever separate us from the love of Christ. Not hardship, distress, danger or financial problems. Not angels, government leaders or world politics. Not the burdens of the past or the unknown of the future. Whether we’re at the top of our game or find ourselves in a deep, dark pit, Jesus and the love of God is right there with us. (based on Romans 8:35-39)
Joy is the strength of enduring grace. It gives us hope and helps to persevere. It gets us through to see that the light at the end of the tunnel is the result of God working for good in our lives and not just another train to run us down.
Is there something that is blocking that joy? Give it to Jesus and open your heart and mind to the feast of joy God has prepared for you. Taste of it, and you’ll find it is rich and sweet.
Then go, and share it with those that haven’t found it yet.
In all things, celebrate! The joy of the Lord is our strength, and on team Jesus, we got the joy!