“And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” — Nehemiah 8:10
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” — John 15:11
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance…” — Romans 5:3
“Rejoice always” — 1 Thessalonians 5:16
“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord.” — Philippians 3:1
The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” The next three verses on the list of shortest verses are 1 Thessalonians 5:16; 5:17; and 5:20. Paul had a lot to say, and wanted to stress his point with short, concise, emphatic statements. He gives fifteen imperatives in ten verses. “Rejoice always!” is the shortest verse, but not in any way the least in importance. He doesn’t tell the Church to be happy. He says, “rejoice always.” This is a choice that we make regardless of the circumstances: to find joy—the joy of the Lord—in the moment.
The Joy of the Lord is your strength. It is the Lord’s joy. And He wants to pour that joy into us. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” This joy that we are being exhorted to embrace is a two way experience. We are commanded to rejoice and to live the immediate moments of our lives in the joy of the Lord; but the Lord also experiences joy in our relationship with Him. When God looks at us, He rejoices. We are the Bride of Christ. We are loved! And the Scripture promises that He rejoices over us as a bridegroom rejoices at the sight of his bride. The prophet Isaiah said, “…as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (62:5). We want the current suffering to end, but joy is not dependent upon temporal happiness. Joy is not the absence of suffering. Joy is the presence of Christ in our lives. When we have the risen Christ in our lives we have assurance of God’s redeeming love. Mother Teresa said, “A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love. Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the Christ risen.”
We cannot conjure up this type of joy. We cannot do this in our own power. We rely on God’s grace to carry us when temporal events conspire to discourage us. This is why Paul tells the Church at Rome during a time of persecution that, “Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings…” And why is all of this possible? “Because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (5:2-5).
There is an old house just off of Dryman Mountain Road. Over the past fifteen years I have watched this abandoned home slowly collapse on itself. It is uncared for and as I described it to someone one day, it is “a sad old house”. As I meditated on joy and the walls of Jerusalem, the Lord reminded me of this home and of how I described it to my friend. The Lord does not want a sad old house for His Temple. He wants walls filled with joy. The joy of the Lord is our strength. A temple built in joy will be strong. “Rejoice in the Lord”. And may His joy be in us.