The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. That joy is our strength.
Whether you are running full speed ahead, walking by faith one day at a time, or just doing your best to crawl to the next rest stop, the apostolic road is full of detours. To be sure, Believer’s Boulevard is a narrow path with signposts that may read, “Turn right just ahead for humbling,” or “Caution, major heart work ahead!”
If we are going to live the crucified life, then, quite simply stated, we need to be ready – and willing – to give ourselves to change. We’ll find the journey much less painful if we keep our eyes on the prize and rejoice along the road to ripeness.
Admittedly, that is sometimes easier said that done because change first requires a recognition of our failure to measure up to the fullness of the stature of Christ. That recognition can lead to self-condemnation before we make our way to repentance if we forget to rejoice in the Lord of our salvation. The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost (Romans 14:17). That joy is our strength.
Remember when Ezra the priest brought the Book of the Law before the assembly? (Nehemiah 8) Like our church services today, Ezra’s meeting started off with a little radical praise and worship. The Bible says the people stood up, lifted up their hands, bowed their heads and worshipped the Lord.
Then Ezra read from the Book of the Law from early morning until noon. The people were paying close attention when suddenly something unexpected happened: They got a revelation of how badly they were missing the will of God and began to mourn. Thoroughly convicted of their sin, the people began weeping in the face of their transgression.
But Nehemiah, the set man, didn’t exclaim, “That’s right, you wicked sinners. You should be crying after the way you’ve behaved!” No, the apostolic leader instead gave quite different instructions. Nehemiah told them not to mourn or weep. And Ezra told them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet drink, and send portions to him for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. And be not grieved and depressed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold” (Nehemiah 8:10 AMP).
The leaders understood that without the joy of the Lord, the people would not stand a chance of living up to the high standards of God’s Law. Without the joy of the Lord the people would wallow in guilt and grief that would ultimately hinder God’s purposes. Sure, soon afterward the people gathered with fasting and sackcloth and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers (Nehemiah 9). But they did not abandon the joy of their salvation in the process.
Kingdom Success Strategies Kit
Radical rejoicing and deep repentance are worlds away and living the crucified life will require us to do plenty of both as we change and grow. But quick repentance – a change in thoughts that leads to a change in action – allows us to quickly return the rejoicing that will give us the strength to maintain the change that we wept about in the first place.
Rejoice and once again I say rejoice! We can’t regret and we can’t fear. Regret is an insult to the Lord because it implies that the blood of Jesus is not good enough to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Fear of failing again is just as bad because it insinuates that His grace is not sufficient. Rejoicing brings Him glory because it demonstrates faith and trust.
How do we keep our joy in the face of failure? By believing and obeying the Word of God. Who wouldn’t be consumed with joy after reading of His magnificent promises? How could one grieve with the knowledge that a blessing is in store for those who obey His Word? Jesus promises if we keep His commandments, then we live in His perfect love. God is love and in His presence is fullness of joy.
Yes, the devil comes to steal our joy because without joy we don’t have the strength to stand in faith. Without joy we don’t have the foundation to fight the good fight. Without joy we will stay out in the wilderness longer than we have to. Without joy we cannot spread the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, without joy we won’t endure to the end.
Regardless of whether the path is smooth, slippery or rocky in whatever season we find ourselves in, we must decide to be overwhelmed with joy instead of getting overwhelmed with our need to change, with circumstances or with anything else. We must take the trouble with joy and take joy in the trouble and watch the fruit of the Spirit erupt in our lives.
No matter if you are traveling to a foreign country on a mission trip or to the grocery store to pick up some canned beans, determine to have joy in the journey and know that God will back you up in your decision with abundant grace to be transformed into His image.
“The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together. The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road. The life maps of God are right, showing the way to joy…” (Psalm 19:7-8 MSG).