“The Joy of the Lord is your Strength”
Shadowlands is one of my favourite films. It looks at the life of Clive Staples Lewis. It is a very moving film, looking at different aspects of his life. C. S. Lewis was originally an atheist, and then he turned to theism, which is a belief in God or gods. It was in 1931 that he was converted to Christianity and since he has written many books like Mere Christianity as well as the Narnia series of books. He wrote a book entitled “Surprised by Joy,” and philosophically seeks to explain his understanding of Joy.
How would you define joy? The Meriam-Webster dictionary defines joy as a feeling of great happiness, the emotion evoked by well-being, success, good fortune, or by the prospect of possessing what one desires. When you define joy, a variety of different things may come to mind. Many people may cite examples of people, places, memories, or other such things which have brought joy into their lives. Certainly, for everyone, something different has brought joy into our lives.
C.S. Lewis describes joy as “the serious business of heaven”, being distinctly different than the similar feelings of happiness, or pleasure. Lewis describes joy as having one characteristic in common with the feelings of happiness, or pleasure, in which he claims that anyone who has experienced the feeling of true joy will want to experience that feeling again. Lewis continues his description, claiming that once you experience a taste of true joy, you would exchange all the pleasures of the world for another taste. Unfortunately, joy is never within our own power to gain, while various forms of pleasure are often easily attainable.
Joy is a longing for something beyond this world. We only get stabs of joy in this life. The Holy Spirit uses this restlessness or longing to awaken spiritual hunger. When little moments of life ─ like the way the light falls on a summer evening ─ stir you with a deep longing that’s hard to define, don’t look to earthly pursuits to fill the void. Instead, allow the ache to push you deeper into your relationship with God. Pursue Him. Allow that longing for Him to become the hottest fire in your heart.
Joy is something that is deep in our heart. It is different from happiness and pleasure. It is more like a deep peace and contentment in God, rooted deeply in the eternal. This joy is evident when Zacchaeus encounters Jesus. Zacchaeus is surprised by joy. We know that he was a tax collector who worked for the Romans and the Jews hated paying taxes to the Romans. The Jews did not like being under the control of the Romans. However, what made Zacchaeus so unpopular was he charged much more than he should have for the taxes and he pocketed the profit. As you can imagine, he was not only unpopular but despised.
Zacchaeus, I suspect was a very lonely, sad, ostracised and needy man. He is interested in Jesus- he wants to see who Jesus is. This is more than a desire for a simple sighting. He wants to grasp what Jesus is about, to know where he is coming from.
Read Luke 19:1-10 and see what words and phrases speak to you.
Zacchaeus the Tax Collector
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So, he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
It is Jesus who invites himself to Zacchaeus’s house and it symbolises that Jesus wants to enter Zac consciousness and transform him. Jesus wants to dwell within him. I wonder what emotions are going through Zacchaeus mind when he hears his name uttered by Jesus mind.
Jesus knows us personally… pause to reflect on this marvellous truth.
The inner state of Zacchaeus is in chaos…what about us?
Remember a meal is an intimate meeting in the Middle East.
Visualise / imagine Jesus inviting himself to your house. What kind of conversation would take place between you?
The conversation and encounter with Jesus led to a radical conversion in Zacchaeus. He was surprised by joy. This joy is seen in his lavish reparations to the local people.
This joy has a sustaining quality about it, unlike happiness it does not evaporate. As it says in Nehemiah, the joy of the Lord is your strength.
In what ways is the Joy of the Lord your strength?
Father, I pray that you will fill me with the joy of the Lord, that overwhelming joy. Your joy is unlike anything this world has to offer. It brings peace, trust and hope and with that a rest because I know that you are in control. Amen
Listen if you wish to the contemporary song – The joy of the Lord is my strength.