Bible Reading: Nehemiah 8:1-18

“Be not grieved and depressed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold.” [Nehemiah 8:10 Amp. Bible]

What a word for people who are feeling weak – “the joy of the Lord is your strength”. There is a lovely comment on this verse in the Life Application Bible. It reads,

“The people wept openly when they heard God’s laws, and realised how far they were from obeying them. But Ezra told them that they should be filled with joy because the day was holy. It was time to celebrate and to give gifts to those in need…. Often when we celebrate and give to others (even when we don’t feel like it), we are strengthened spiritually and filled with joy.”

How can a person who feels spiritually weak become strong? Firstly, by reaching out to others and as you do so letting God’s joy fill you. His joy is a key to becoming strong [Nehemiah 8:10]

Secondly, by waiting on the Lord. Literally spending time in God’s presence.

Isaiah says that those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength [Isaiah 40:31]. Spending time alone with God and His word strengthens us.

Thirdly, we become strong by recognising our own weakness and being increasingly dependent on the Lord. Paul said, “When I am weak, then I am strong” [2 Corinthians 12:10]. When we are strong in our own abilities or resources the temptation is to do God’s work on our own, and that can lead to pride. In his book, “The Emotionally Healthy Church” Pete Scazzero makes the point that Paul became increasing aware of his own weakness. He says that when Paul wrote to the Galatians in AD 49 he said, “As for those who were held in high esteem – whatever they were makes no difference to me [Gal. 2:6] and seemed quite proud. Six years later, he writes to the Corinthians in a more humble manner: “I am the least of the apostles” [1 Cor. 15:9]. Five years later in AD 60 Paul proclaims, “I am the less than the least of all the Lord’s people” [Ephesians 3:8], and two years before his death in about AD 65 he writes, “I am the worst of all sinners” [1 Timothy 1:15]. Scazzero adds, “Paul had grown in his understanding of the love of God in the gospel. He had become stronger in Christ by becoming weaker.”

Finally, take hold of God’s promise, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” [Philippians 4:13]. When my wife, Esther, was so depressed and felt that she could never be a missionary, God gave her this promise and day-by-day she drew strength from Him in each situation that she faced.

A Question:

Why do you think that it takes many of us so long to recognise our spiritual weakness and to learn the lessons that we considered today?

Why is it that Christians who do not have the joy of the Lord in their hearts are often weak in their Christian faith?