In Nehemiah, chapter 8, Nehemiah is reading the Scripture to God’s people. They have fallen out of touch with God. They haven’t heard His Word in a long time, and there are people who are helping them understand what it means. As Nehemiah and those assisting him bring understanding to the people about what God requires, the people begin to weep. They realize how badly they have missed it and how far away from God they have drifted.
In the midst of the people weeping, this is what Nehemiah says to them, in Nehemiah 8:10,
Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
The final step in taking hold of God’s strength is choosing to have joy and rejoice. You have to choose to rejoice. We read similar words in Habakkuk 3:17–19,
Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls—yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.
Think about this. This is written to people living in an agricultural society. All of their sustenance, everything they depend on to meet their needs and feed their families, it is all gone. There is devastation and emptiness. Yet, Scripture tells us to rejoice in the worst of circumstances. You and I make a choice to rejoice, because joy is not dependent on circumstances. We can have joy regardless of what is going on, and generally, if we really consider things, there is almost always something in our lives to rejoice about.
You and I make a choice to rejoice, because joy is not dependent on circumstances.
Consider Paul’s situation in the first chapter of Philippians. He is chained up in jail, and he says, “Look. There are guys out there who are preaching Christ from wrong motives. They are preaching Christ out of selfish ambition and greed, just to get something out of it.” He said, “And they are doing it just to spite me, to try to make me more miserable in my bonds.” Despite this, then Paul said, “At least Christ is being preached, and in this I will rejoice.” He is saying that even though the motives may be way wrong, at least they are talking about Jesus. He found something to rejoice about.
Right now you may have unpaid bills, wayward children, or a lingering sickness. You don’t rejoice for those things, but you can rejoice in those things. Rejoice because God has an answer, and you are not locked in. If nothing else, rejoice that your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Even on your worst day, you are still headed to heaven. When we choose to rejoice, God’s strength comes. The joy of the Lord is our strength.
When we choose to rejoice, God’s strength comes.
We read in Isaiah 64:5 that God meets “him who rejoices.” I heard a story once about an Assembly of God pastor who led his church for 23 years, and yet he never experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He had pled with God for it. He cried for it. He prayed about it. He preached it to his people because he saw it in Scripture. Yet, he never experienced it for himself.
You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways. Isaiah 64:5
Then, this pastor had the opportunity to meet evangelist Howard Carter, who seemed to have a gift for leading people in the baptism of the Holy Spirit. So this pastor approached Brother Carter and said kind of in a whiny voice, “Brother Carter, I’ve been seeking the baptism in the Holy Spirit for 23 years, and I’ve never been able to receive.” Howard Carter immediately looked at him and responded, “And you’re not going to get it that way either.”
He quoted Isaiah 64:5, that the Lord meets him who rejoices. It was like a light went on in the pastor’s face. Right there on the spot, he fell to his knees and repented to God for his unbelief, and he began to rejoice. It is said that within five minutes he had a mighty baptism in the Spirit. More was done in 5 minutes of rejoicing than in 23 years of begging and crying. You choose to rejoice.
Write down the following prayer on a card and keep it with you this week. Whenever your joy starts to waver and negative thoughts creep in, pull out your card and pray:
Heavenly Father, You said You meet him who rejoices, so help me choose joy. I realize that joy is not dependent on my circumstances. I can choose to rejoice because You know what I’m going through. You know how I’m feeling, and You desire to get involved. I trust You to do just as You have promised.
There’s one more passage of Scripture I want to share with you before I finish up.
It is Romans 5:6, For when we were still without strength, in due time [or at the appointed time] Christ died for the ungodly.
The truth is, we have no strength to bring ourselves to God. We have no strength to rescue ourselves, to clean the filth and dirt from our soul and our spirit. We are completely and utterly dependent on the grace of our Lord Jesus—and there is such peace in that vulnerability. You don’t have to do it alone; there’s no point in even trying. Salvation (and the strength it brings) is a gift that is received by faith. Then we can daily look to the Lord for strength in every area of our lives as we put these steps into action:
Admit you can’t
Get into His Word.
Choose to rejoice.
Talk to God about what you have discovered in this series. And remember, a big part of prayer is listening. Endeavor to be sensitive to His voice and His impressions.
A Prayer for Strength
Father in Heaven, I know I cannot rely on my own strength. Alone, I am insufficient. I admit that I need You. Help me trust in the power of Your Word. Help me be still and wait patiently for You. Father, make me receptive to Your guidance—and mindful of the joy that comes from You. You have given me so much to rejoice over. Help me choose Your joy—which is my strength—each day, in every situation. Amen.
I hope this series encouraged you.