Egypt celebrates Christmas on 7th January. About 15% of the 80 Million are Coptic Christians in this difficult Muslim country. The many attacks against Christians has actually brought renewal in the Coptic Church and evangelicals are growing by an astounding 4.6% per year. Pray that the active forgiveness displayed by Christians after each of these numerous attacks and the Christians joy and boldness at their festivals may shake the Muslim population to seek Jesus.
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You hear it among Christians: “…the joy of the LORD is your strength.” But what on earth does that mean?
In the darkness of trouble, when life seems devoid of answers; the better we engage with God’s Word, the more we attempt to understand it, the more comfort from God we will find. God’s word to us is not just reading but understanding. Read with prayer. It will at times rebuke us. It will at times encourage us. But in the end, it will always bring us joy because the source of joy and the secret for obtaining strength is from Jesus.
The expression “joy of the LORD” is a joy that can only be experienced through fellowship with God. And that fellowship brings about a God-induced gladness as we communicate with our Creator. God is a Person of incredible love, beauty and gladness. He is not a morose God. The Father’s heart is one of restoration from darkness and joy when we return to Him.
So what is the connection between joy and strength? In our everyday life, when we experience something that brings us joy it is exhilarating. It is just the opposite when experiencing pain. It is depressing. I am not talking about self-indulgent pleasure. Solomon clearly advises us that self-indulgent pleasure is nothing more that “chasing after the wind,” or as the KJV states: “vanities of vanities.” The Divine joy that gives strength is that joy that is found side by side with chronic pain or even at the point of a martyr’s death. The joy is not the end to itself but the way to being strong in the face of intense adversity. Divine joy is not self-indulgent but is looking to “send some [needed provisions] to those who have nothing.” Divine joy finds expression in giving to the widows, fatherless and the strangers. Joy is God’s strength in action.
“The joy of the Lord is our strength when following after holiness. It is the want of this which makes many of us so slow in our progress in spiritual things. Let us ask God for more joy—joy to give us strength to do and to suffer for Him, strength to follow after and be made like Him, strength to trust Him at all times and look to Him in all circumstances, as Nehemiah did.” [Bishop Maclagan, Penny Pulpit, No. 597]