“… The Joy of the Lord makes you strong.” (Nehemiah 8:10 NIRV)
1. When you hear the word “Joy,” what comes to mind?
Most people define joy as a feeling of happiness when you are smiling and laughing a lot. And, they think that happiness comes from “good happenings.” Good happenings mean everything is going your way, turning out right. You have lots of money and are healthy and are very successful in work or school. Right?
But, what happens if things are not so good? Your family is stressed financially. You may be struggling in work or school. Your relationships are fraying. You or someone close to you is very sick. Can you really have joy then?
In the Bible, joy is a deep inner gladness regardless of circumstances going on around you. That means whether you are rich or poor, sick or healthy, successful or struggling, you can still have a feeling of gladness or pleasure deep down inside. Now, you may not feel like smiling on the outside, but you can still smile on the inside. Have you ever felt that way?
This kind of joy that I am describing is supernatural. It is part of the character of God and comes to us only from a relationship with Him through knowing Jesus Christ.
2. Read 1 Timothy 1:11. How does Paul describe God?
The word “blessed” used here by Paul can also be translated “happy.” So you can read the verse as “glorious good news of the happy God.” The glorious good news is the gospel—how we can trust in Jesus and receive God’s grace and forgiveness for our sins. God is happy, you could say He is joyful, to offer this good news to people. Our God is a joyful God.
In the lesson about God’s grace (Lesson 5), you saw Jesus teaching that our Father God was like the father of the prodigal son when he returned home. Do you remember how that father acted? He was happy to see his son, filled with love, running toward him, hugging and kissing him. He called for a great celebration. That’s joy.
3. Read Luke 15:1-7. Who is rejoicing and when?
4. Read Luke 15:8-10. Who is rejoicing and when?
God has joy whenever anyone comes to Him to have his or her sins forgiven. The Bible describes lots of rejoicing in heaven at that time (verses 7, 10).
The Bible also teaches that God finds great pleasure in His creation. Do you remember what God said about His creation at the end of each of the creation days? He said it was good. After day 6, He said it was very good. God wasn’t only giving His approval but was also revealing His pleasure. The Father God has joy in what His hands have made, especially His creatures. That includes you. You are one of His creatures.
Does that make you want to smile inside to think that God finds pleasure in you?
5. Read Zephaniah 3:17.
- For God’s people who are trusting in Him, what is revealed about God’s joy?
- Have you ever thought about God rejoicing over you through singing?
God’s joy finds great pleasure in His creation and His creatures, especially people who trust in Him.
Joy is something that God has. But, it’s also something that God gives. He is the source of joy, just as He is the source of love and grace as we have already studied. Jesus told His disciples they would have great joy coming from Him.
6. Read John 15:11. What does Jesus want for those who trust in Him?
Jesus, who was God, had God’s joy in Him. And, He promised to give His joy to His disciples so that it would be in them, also. Jesus didn’t promise this to just those who knew Him when He was on earth.
7. Read 1 Peter 1:8.
- What does Peter write to all of us?
- How does Peter describe the joy God gives to us?
Though you have not seen Him, the moment you believe in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of you. And, He gives you God’s glorious, uncontainable joy.
There’s a song you may have sung that says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” That phrase comes from the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament.
8. Read Nehemiah 8:10. What does God’s joy do for us?
9. If God’s joy is the ability to smile on the inside even if things are going wrong on the outside, how could having that make you strong?
I have had a sign on my wall for over 40 years that reads, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.” During those miserable, painful times, God’s joy inside of you assures you of His presence with you. Don’t you love that assurance?!
The joy of the Lord is God’s joy. He has it, and when He gives it to His people, it makes them strong. God’s joy in us gives us the courage to face tough times. God's joy finds great pleasure in His creation and His creatures, especially people who trust in Him. His joy in us makes us strong.
10. Having God's joy in us, we should delight in the things that God delights in. We can ask ourselves: “what pleases God, what gives Him joy?” How would you answer that?
When you have His joy, then you should take pleasure or delight in those same things. When you have the joy of the Lord, you rejoice in justice. You find pleasure in God and knowing Him, not in personal and selfish pleasures. You also find delight in studying His Word the Bible, in doing what pleases Him, and in praising God.
Some people think that when you are a Christian, you give up anything that gives you pleasure. That is not what the Bible says. It is not wrong for a Christian to have pleasure or to seek pleasure; it is only wrong to seek pleasure in the things that are selfish.
Christians filled with God’s joy should find many reasons to laugh and delight in life. We can serve God with delight. We can praise God and sing worship songs with delight. We can love our families and friends with delight.
And, our joy will be even greater in heaven when we are with Jesus and can have the delight of seeing Him with our own eyes.
Trusting Your Father God
1) Bible verse to learn:
“… The joy of the Lord makes you strong.” (Nehemiah 8:10 NIRV)
2) Response in prayer & praise:
Praise your Father God for who He is and for being a joyful God. Thank Him for finding pleasure in His creation and in His children, including you. Ask Him to help you find pleasure in knowing Him. Ask your Father God to reveal to you that which brings Him delight (such as love, loyalty, justice, obedience, His Word, and praising Him) so you can delight in that also. Your Father God gives you freedom to enjoy life whether or not everything is going your way
3) Discover God the Father:
Spend a few minutes each day reading these prayers and reflecting on how each prayer reveals someone’s understanding of and trust in God. Get to know Him well—this One who loves you dearly.