Bible Reading: Nehemiah 8:1-12
I remember the first time I rode a rollercoaster. The moment before the ride was filled with anticipation, excitement and happiness. It may have been the sugar rush too, but there was just something about it that I had been looking forward to. There were all the movies that I had watched showing how much fun people seemed to have, and now I was about to be one of those people, throwing my hands in the air and screaming with joy!
We got in, strapped up and took off. You go through these initial curves, up and down slowly and then things get real. It sped up, we went so high up that my young mind was sure I could see the whole city and it was down south from there… literally. It shot down and it was as though all the excitement was left at the peak. I was terrified and could almost wet myself but I was still trying to be a ‘hard guy’ but my mind was chanting “Jesus Jesus!” Luckily, we are in Nigeria so there was no picture to show the terror in my face during the ride and then the relief as it ended.
Perhaps this year that we’re rounding off can in some way be described as a rollercoaster year for you. Maybe it started off with excitement and joy. Everybody had big plans for this year (“2022 is my year”, etc). But perhaps, one incident or the other later, it might seem that over time, you have found reason or circumstance to be less joyful than God would have you be.
As we check our joy today, have you, in all that the year has been, lost that overflow of joy that the Holy Spirit longs to work in us? (Galatians 5:22, Romans 15:13)
Can we be reminded today that joy is not first about our circumstances or about how we feel. It is definitely not about living in denial and ignoring sorrow or pain. Joy is something much deeper, richer, more stable, and more accessible. Joy is much more than external things. It’s much more than that happy, giddy feeling that may come every once in a while. Let us take an example from our saviour Jesus who ‘for the joy set before Him endured the cross’:
Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2 NKJV
The beauty of the joy that God speaks of and offers in His word is that it’s something you can count on! We don’t have to live in fear or worry, because God’s joy will always be available to us. In this world you will have trouble, Jesus says (John 16:33) But you can still take heart. You can still receive joy because you are not dependent on anyone or anything other than God to know joy.
Perhaps all that you’re waiting for is for the year to end. In fact, maybe you have already set up a countdown to 2023 because you’ve had enough of the 2022 ride. I hope that we can look to the God of hope, despite the circumstances and pressures, to fill us with all joy and peace in believing (Romans 15:13). I still believe that we can wake up every day and say “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)
Let’s remind ourselves of these 4 key things that would be really helpful in keeping our joy:
First, entrust our lives entirely to God
We have a God that is aware of our realities, our strengths and our limitations and so rather than give into fear or anxiety, let us make our requests known to God because we know that He hears us and in that we find joy. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Second, guard our hearts
Let us not be passive about all that we take into our minds and our hearts, but be careful to know what information to filter out and what to meditate on. (Philippians 4:7-8, 2 Corinthians 10:5)
Third, meditate on the truth of God’s word
As we constantly remind ourselves of who God is and His will for our lives, it will well up a joy so deep within us that the enemy would not be able to snuff out and that we ourselves would not lose sight of. (Philippians 4:8, Hebrews 13:5)
Fourth, fix our eyes on Jesus
There is a deep revelation that the scriptures show of the God type of joy that only the Holy Spirit can bring, and this is what Jesus experienced. As we are continually being transformed into His image, let us seek to discover this joy also. (Hebrews 12:2)
Something To Pray
Would you pray today asking that the Holy Spirit would help you to no longer look to people, places or circumstances to find joy, but choose to find it in our only true source, God. Pray that you will live for more than momentary happiness, but will choose the joy of the Lord.
Eniola volunteers with the Creative Team at Sycamore