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The great leader Nehemiah, told the people of his day the secret of spiritual strength.  He was governor of Jerusalem in the fraught days after the Israelites returned from exile in Babylon.  They were listening to Ezra the priest read the words of God’s law and weeping in despair as their failure to obey it was exposed.

We might expect Nehemiah to seize the opportunity their tears presented to motivate them for spiritual renewal with stern words: “See what a mess we’re in!  We have to knuckle down and obey or things will be worse”.  Instead, he urged them not to weep.  “Do not grieve”, he reassured them, “for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

That instinctively surprises me.  It feels to me that when things are hard, real strength comes from gritting our teeth and toughing it out.  Nehemiah takes a different approach.  He knew that strength would come as the people paused to celebrate God’s love and goodness.  Then strength and resolve would return.

If there is this link between joy in the Lord and strength, perhaps we often weaken ourselves by the very attitudes we think will make us strong.  This is a very busy time of year for many of us.  When busyness seems unrelenting, prayer and Bible reading can be the first activities to go out of the window.  Church attendance falls by the wayside sometimes too.  We think that the extra effort channelled into our activities will lead to a place of strength.  Nehemiah disagrees!

We are celebrating joyful events throughout December.  Jesus’ birth is news of the greatest joy.  So let’s deliberately pause every day and take in the news again – even if many other demands are pressing in on us.  That joy will make us strong, focused, creative and effective. 

 

 

 

 

 


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