One of the greatest lessons I personally learned as I wrote a book about the process of rebuilding based on Nehemiah was the need to celebrate. Nehemiah celebrated when the task was finished, but he also celebrated as they were building the wall of Jerusalem.
Many rebuild the “wall” only to find that they have crumbled! They accomplish the task only to find that they have been consumed by it. They have become so busy and possibly even successful that life is just no fun anymore. You are not meant to become an unsmiling workaholic in order to fulfill God’s plans.
Begin by embracing the truth that you are made to celebrate. Celebration is not your idea, it’s God’s idea. Some of us seem to think we can have joy without enjoying anything. Church and serving God are serious business with a holy intensity that does not allow for a smile. This makes no sense. Being in the presence of the sacred does not mean you have to be sad all the time.
You can accomplish great tasks while still being able to enjoy life. In fact, apart from celebration we lack the strength we need for life’s greatest challenges and opportunities. It is in the midst of a great day of celebration for Nehemiah and God’s people that we come across this familiar phrase in Nehemiah 8:10, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10) These words hold the key to the kind of strength we’re all looking for.
Notice that it’s the joy of the Lord. He’s not talking about joy that you somehow try to manufacture from within. He’s talking about the joy that the Lord gives. If you try to force your heart to have this strength giving joy, you’ll end up more tired than when you began.
How do you get the joy of the Lord into your life? It’s the joy of the Lord, so obviously we must look to what the Lord says about this. In John 15-17 we hear the Lord Jesus talking to his followers about the ways that he gives this joy. If you want new strength, do the things that he told us to do in these verses. He tells us that we must “abide in his love.” He commands us to “love one another.” Do these things not as a spiritual duty, but with a focus on the fact that he wants to use them to bring you joy.
If you’ve been a follower of Christ for any time, you know how easy it is to lose your focus on the joy. You find yourself grinding away at spiritual habits trying to become more powerful, when the real intent is that you become more joyful. Feeling powerful is not your strength. The joy of the Lord is your strength. This is the truth that may very well hold the secret to the life of faith that you’ve been longing for.
How to Use This Book
Crises can send us reeling, trying to figure out how we can go on in our businesses, finances, marriages, or even our sense of purpose. Tom Holladay, teaching pastor at Saddleback Church, has been through it all and offers you wisdom from the book of Nehemiah to help you rebuild and find your joy again. Tom will help you discover seven principles for putting it together again that will give you the direction you need to get rolling on that fresh start.
The task of starting again can seem impossible. Holladay understands how difficult and rewarding the business of rebuilding is. This book is your encouraging how-to guide to starting again and stepping into a better future. And once you’ve learned those steps for yourself, you can help others do the same.