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Joy: the Fuel for Godliness

What motivates you to be a man or woman of God?  What keeps you going on, even on the difficult and trying days?  What’s the fuel for your godliness?

There’s an amazing passage in Nehemiah 8 were Ezra, Nehemiah, and all the recently returned exiles of Israel gathered together in the newly restored Jerusalem.  The leaders opened the book of the Law and began to read it.  Many had forgotten the Hebrew language while in Babylon.  Therefore, they also translated the Law as they read it so that everybody would have understanding.

That’s when the Word of God began to do what the Word of God does:  expose and convict sinners.  The people began to weep upon hearing the Law.  They began to see how far they and their families had drifted away from God while in exile.  Heavy conviction and grief fell on them.

But, the leadership in the wisdom of God knew that conviction and grief would not carry them very far to godliness.  It never has.  It still doesn’t.  That spiritual fuel runs out quickly.  So, they offered a different route to godliness.  They said to the people, This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.  Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength (Nehemiah 8:9-10)

That’s it!  There’s the fuel that will sustain us to ever-increasing godliness!  Joy.  The joy of the Lord.  Joy in the Lord.  That’s where true strength toward godliness and holy living comes from.  The joy of the Lord is your strength!

Sadly though, we in our sinfulness are motivated by the wrong things toward godliness.  Here are some common temptations:

  1. Being a man or woman of God to earn salvation (ie, putting forth your own godliness)
  2. Being a man or woman of God to get glory for yourself (ie, using godliness to grow your name)
  3. Being a man or woman of God to pay God back (ie, borrowing grace until you can get your godliness in order)
  4. Being a man or woman of God out of guilt (ie, trying to do godly things even though you don’t really want to)
  5. Being a man or woman of God to fulfill a duty (ie, grinning and bearing it to godliness)
  6. Being a man or woman of God to please others (ie, focusing mainly on others’ opinions of your godliness)

Friend, these will get you nowhere.  I take that back.  Some of these will get you somewhere, namely Hell.  The others will get you to spiritual meagerness and futility.  These are not God’s plan for your godliness.  The joy of the Lord is your strength.

So, be a man or woman of God out of joy.  Moses recognized the centrality of joy as to leading to godliness:

  • Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in the lack of all things; and He will put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you (Deuteronomy 28:47-48).

David recognized it:

  • Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing (Psalm 100:2).
  • Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).
  • You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever (Psalm 16:11).

Jesus certainly knew this truth:

  • These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full (John 15:11).
  • Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).
  • Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master (Matthew 25:21).

Paul also knew that joy in the Lord leads to godliness:

  • Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy; for in your faith you are standing firm (2 Corinthians 1:24).
  • Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:4).

Peter saw it too:

  • And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8)

The joy of the Lord is your strength!

Okay, so maybe you’re convinced now that joy should be our great motivation, but why should you have joy?  In other words, what is the source of your joy?  Where should our joy come from?  There are at least two places.

First, our joy springs forth from the reality of God himself.  He is the very personification of joy and desires to be in relationship with you.  In Him there’s joy unspeakable, pleasures unceasing.  As the old hymn says:

Who can cheer the heart like Jesus
By His presence all divine
True and tender, pure and precious
O, how blest to call Him mine

All that thrills my soul is Jesus
He is more than life to me
And the fairest of ten thousand
In my blessed Lord I see

His presence itself is joy.  We were made to be thrilled in God, and God has certainly not withheld himself from us.  Rather, God has sought us and made a way for us to enjoy Him forever.  He is the highest and the holiest—everything our souls truly desire.  Delight yourself in the Lord because the joy of the Lord is your strength!

Second, our joy comes from what God has done in our lives.  Look at what all He done for you , especially if you are a Christian:

  1. He has made you (Psalm 139:13).
  2. He is sustaining you (Psalm 54:4).
  3. He has saved you (1 Peter 1:3-5).
  4. He has adopted you (Ephesians 1:3-6).
  5. He has set His love on you, planned to completely sanctify you, effectually called you to salvation, justified you, and will glorify you (Romans 8:29-30).

There’s so much more that could be said, but isn’t that plenty enough reason for joy?  Oh yeah, more than enough!  He has dealt bountifully with you.

God has called you to be a man or woman of God, and you’re to pursue that calling out of joy and with joy.  May the joy of the Lord be your strength unto godliness!

One Comment

  1. You’ve made an important point, and very much relevant at that. How many poor souls put on a face of “godliness” but the lack of joy emanating from their souls speaks otherwise? And I’m not talking about self-produced joy in the case of some Charismatic-types or those seeking to cover up their lack of joy. I’m talking about the Holy Spirit production of godly joy emanating from (as you said) our knowledge of God Himself and all that God has done in our lives. Thanks for putting this article together and encouraging us with it.

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