Fruit #2: Joy

by Carolyn Hope

Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! (Nehemiah 8:10)

Nehemiah was a cupbearer for King Artaxerxes during the Babylonian captivity of the Israelites. Some of the Jews had been allowed to return to Jerusalem, but the city was in disarray and broken down. The walls and gates were diminished to rubble. When Nehemiah received reports of the city’s deteriorated state, he wept at the news. He spent much time mourning and praying to God for Jerusalem. Then he developed a plan, and with the king’s permission and a determined heart, he set out to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. In just 52 days, the walls and gates were restored.

Nehemiah shares the secret to his success when he told the Israelites in Jerusalem, “the joy of the Lord is your strength!” We frequently quote this phrase to loved ones who are down or weary. In order to truly understand this sentence, however, we must first realize the context of what Nehemiah went through. When he heard of Jerusalem’s condition, he was not ‘joyful’; rather, his heart was broken, and he cried for his city. Then, Nehemiah rose up, and throughout the rest of the story, he walked with confidence and encouragement. What caused the transformation? From his declaration mentioned above, it can only be one thing: a joy that comes from the Lord Himself.

Joy is not the same as happiness. Read the book of Nehemiah, and you’ll see that the journey to rebuilding Jerusalem wasn’t an easy or pleasant one. There were many opportunities for Nehemiah to experience all sorts of negative emotions; and most likely, he did. He never let his circumstances or feelings deter him from his work. That is what joy is. It’s the power to overcome the negative emotions you experience and to press forward to do what you know God has called you to do. It is the choice to keep going as if everything is as it should be, so that everything will be what it needs to be. It’s the refusal to be hindered by what other people say, what you think, or how you feel.

Whether or not you feel ‘happy’ is not what determines your joy. You must choose joy, regardless of how you feel. Your joy isn’t based in emotions or circumstances, but in the love of your Father, a love that is always steady. You can have joy in every season, test, or trial, because Jesus is with you, and He will give you His joy.

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Are You a Nehemiah?

If you read through the book of Nehemiah you will find stunning similarities between where we are at as a nation and where Jerusalem was in 423B.C. Nehemiah was serving as a cupbearer for King Artaxerxes in Persia when word reached him that the wall of Jerusalem was broken down and its gates were burned with fire. This was a problem because God’s temple in Jerusalem was beginning to be rebuilt but, without walls surrounding Jerusalem, it was still open for attack from Israel’s enemies.

Now, before you get too scared, I have to say that the Ammonites, Samarians or Babylonians are not attacking America! Nonetheless, we are up against our own foes- abortion, gay marriage and sex trafficking to name a few- that are breaking down the walls of your city, your state and even this nation. Now God is sovereign…He knows what is going on. At the same time, He is calling a Nehemiah generation to stand up and declare, “Let’s rise up and build.” He is calling a generation to know Him and live by His truths and principles in the middle of a world full of sin, immorality and corruption. Like Nehemiah, when you stand up for God’s truth, you will be mocked, laughed at and despised.  But do not fear, for Jesus tells us “in the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:32).

 

What did Nehemiah do in the midst of his troubles and afflictions that we can implement in our daily lives?

 

  1.  Nehemiah fasted and prayed (Prayer) (Nehemiah 1:4).
  2.  He acted on his faith in God (Action) (Nehemiah 2:20, Nehemiah 4:17).
  3.  Nehemiah looked to see if his plan was working (Evaluation) (Nehemiah 6:15).

 

The keys to Nehemiah’s success were his fear of God and his relationship with God. God is looking for Nehemiah’s that will rebuild the walls of Business, Government, Education, Family, Religion, Media and the Arts- the structures that our society is built upon.

 

Are you a Nehemiah? Decide to pray, take action and evaluate your efforts and do not forget, “your God will fight for you.”

 

-by Brendan Hewitt

Brendan Hewitt is a student at Christ for the Nations Institute in the Youth Major Program. He enjoys being outdoors and especially hunting, fishing and camping. 

 

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