Monday, March 4, 2013
Journey into Joy - Nehemiah's dream
He had to go to the king, ask permission to go and do this work...this other work that had nothing to do with his own position as cup bearer. Nehemiah took his fear in hand, and went before the king - but not without praying before he went, as well as right there in the presence of the king! And, he was granted permission.
Was it an easy job? No. Nehemiah met opposition many times along the way. He had to stand up to the naysayers, organize the workers, teach the them how to work with one hand and protect themselves with the other...on and on. He could have given in to despair and fear. He could have given up when enemies attacked, trying to impede the progress. He could have said "I am a cup bearer. I don't have the skills for this. I give up!" But he kept at it...with his eyes focused on the dream, the goal of a Jerusalem whole and sturdy.
And when the walls were rebuilt, he set up for the city leaders and teachers. They spoke the law of the Lord, read the sacred Word to the people. And when the people realized how far they had wandered from God, they cried out...and Nehemiah, Ezra and the Levites reminded them of God's love. He reminded them that God was always faithful. He told them not to grieve, but to celebrate the goodness of our Lord...our God of second chances and forgiveness. He reminded them that God stands before us with arms outstretched, offering joy and strength... "the joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10)
The joy of the Lord is your strength. These words are true for you and I, as well. Yes, we've done things that grieve the heart of our God. Yes, we have done things for which we must repent and turn away, turn back to God. Yes, we've allowed the walls of Jerusalem to lie crumbled around us. But, we can rebuild that city in our own hearts. We can dream and do the work the Lord sets before us. We can, because we have the joy of the Lord and it gives us strength to stand against the evil one. The joy of the Lord gives us hope to look into the future and see past our current sufferings to the growth that will surely come. The joy of the Lord is our strength. He holds us up. He stands next to us in all things. He is faithful...even when we are not.
"I can do all things through Him who gives me strength." (Phil. 4:13) Yes. I can. You can. He gives us strength. And joy. Choose it. Accept it. God-given joy and strength for every day, every trial, every tear, every suffering, every moment of growth, every step taken forward in faith, every success. You may choose to give in to despair...or to take the hand of the Lord that is held out to you and choose strength...and joy.