The book of Nehemiah says that "the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Neh. 8:10, NIV). Do you wonder how that can be true when you find it hard to maintain your joy for five full minutes? Do you think this is a biblical truth that applies to everyone but you? Think again.
The joy of the Lord is our strength. It is God's will for our lives. And what He wills, He is able to accomplish in us--even in the midst of a bustling holiday season when we feel pulled in every direction.
If the joy of the Lord is our strength, then it stands to reason that joy would be a major focus of attack by the enemy. He wants to weaken us in whatever way he can. In order to fend off his attack, we have to be aware of the joybusters and strength-zappers he uses against us. Here are seven of them:
Resentment. Resentment is nothing new; it was evident even in Moses' family. His sister Miriam and his brother Aaron envied him and began grumbling against him. They resented his leadership, his wife and his relationship with God.
The Lord heard their grumbling, and He called them into His presence. "[Moses] is faithful in all My house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses?' The anger of the Lord burned against them, and He left them" (Num. 12:7-9).
In essence, Miriam and Aaron were questioning God's call on Moses' life--much as some of us do with our own or others' calls. We must realize that we have been called to our particular ministry for a purpose. No single ministry is better, more important or more valuable than another.
Still, some believers grumble about their places in the body: "Why can't I be like that person? Why have You given me this ministry? Why am I stuck at home with the kids when so-and-so gets to go out there and be on TV?"
If there's something you resent, take a moment right now to repent before God and say, "God, I'm sorry I got my focus off You. I give up my resentment." Keep in mind that God does care about our words and the condition of our hearts. There is no joy in resentment. Get rid of it.
Bitterness. Bitterness also will zap your joy in a heartbeat. But it doesn't affect only you. In Hebrews 12:15, the Lord says, "See to it that...no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many."
Bitterness doesn't zap just your energy and strength, steal just your joy, and defile just you--it defiles many, those around you. Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who has allowed bitterness to grab her joy and tear it down? It's almost impossible to feel joy in that person's presence.
We do not live--or worship God--in a vacuum. When we allow the enemy to come in and steal our joy, our loss is contagious.
But the opposite is also true. If you breed joy and thanksgiving, your attitude will be infectious. Make it a point not to let bitterness creep in. Put an axe to the root as soon as you see it growing.
The longer you allow resentment to lodge in your thoughts, the more energy and power it acquires, giving rise to bitterness. Remember what James wrote regarding the tongue: "How great a fire is set by such a small flame!" (See James 3:5.) The flame of resentment can lead to a forest fire of bitterness--and eventually anger.
Anger. That's another joybuster--anger. The Word tells us, "Do not let the sun go down on your anger" (Eph. 4:26, NASB). Like bitterness, anger can "defile many."
There is such a thing as righteous anger. Jesus got angry. God the Father got angry. But such anger does not lead to sin.
If you hear someone curse God or notice him working against God's plan, you have reason to get angry--with a holy, righteous anger. But you can't allow the anger to breed.You have to act on it and get over it.
Matt. 5:22 reads, "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell" (NIV).
Jesus obviously sees anger as a very big deal. He says that any person who speaks ill of his brother deserves the fire of hell. We may feel we have a reason to be angry, resentful and bitter toward another person, but when we allow these wrong attitudes to take up residence in our hearts, we are liable to judgment.
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