“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
It’s certainly no secret that one of the best defenses a Christian has against the attacks and troubles of this world is the tremendous joy that comes from the righteousness and salvation granted by Christ Jesus.
And yet…too often we recklessly venture forth stripped of our joy, weak and vulnerable to the Devil’s lies and the wearisome burdens of everyday life.
There isn’t anything wrong with the armor, that’s for sure. Ask Paul and Silas, who – armed with the joy of the Lord – turned a seeming defeat at the prison in Philippi into a smashing victory for the Gospel through their joyous prayers and praises. Ask any of the noble martyrs, whose joy in the Lord enabled them to face even death boldly, witnessing and testifying to the love of God even as they received the fulfillment of their hope. Yes, joy is the best defense – and it seems that it can serve as a very effective offense as well.
So what’s my problem? Maybe I’m not strapping it on tight enough; I tend to forget the incredible reality of all the riches Christ has delivered unto me through His death, and without the “belt of truth” my joy and my armor crashes around my feet. Maybe I just carelessly venture forth without bothering with armor at all, figuring I’ll wait until “things get really bad” to arm myself with the hope and joy of my salvation – then get so wrapped up in winning the battle through my own strength that I don’t find an opportunity later to don my protective gear. Maybe the flimsy enticements of this world seem to offer more joy than the adamantine Good News of the Gospel, and I stupidly look to shallow, empty worldly pursuits for my strength, joy, and defense against Satan.
I think sometimes we Christians look at our salvation as something far off in the distant future, so we miss out on the joy that it brings for us today. Like Marty McFly in Back to the Future, we’re “not thinking fourth-dimensionally!” We forget that the salvation Christ has won for us through the cross is already a reality for us today, here, now! – despite how things appear to us in our present situation.
It’s sad how we can find strength and consolation in the midst of a difficult work week by eagerly anticipating the weekend to come, and yet fail to find the real joy of Jesus’ triumph over every problem in this life. When compared to the joy we have through the Gospel, all of our troubles and difficulties seem utterly insignificant – even pain and death. By clinging steadfastly to this joy, we can trust God and avoid the temptations of seeking worldly “happiness” through the transitory pleasures and false securities of this fleeting life. And as others watch us laugh as the Devil’s attacks bounce harmlessly off our impenetrable armor, they too can see the strength and power of the Gospel and find refuge in the joy of the Lord.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9)
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, guard and protect me through the sure knowledge and joy of Your salvation. Let my joy be evident to all, that they may see the fruit of Your Spirit within me and come to know the joy I have in the hope of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, my Lord. Amen.