Do you remember that old song in Vacation Bible School that said, "I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart? Well, I do agree that humanity is searching as hard as they can to find contentment and desperately longs to discover peace, but rebellion and the lack of knowledge is preventing them from having it.
What type of knowledge are you talking about? Spiritual understanding and holy wisdom about God and his instructions. In the first part of Hosea 4:6, the Lord declares, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge," and he continues to talk about how the masses reject his truth.
We notice God uses the word "destroyed" because without knowing about the divine realities of absolute truth, we will not comprehend the danger of living and dying without spiritual security. Oh sure, people can be moral and even somewhat religious, but many have never experienced a real encounter with the one that created them. On the outside they might seem to be normal, but spiritually they are not building from the blueprint that God has planned for them to become.
One reason why people are not filled with joy is because they do not understand God's plan for them, and when left to controlling their own destiny, they become dirty on the inside. Another reason is that since their spiritual eyes have not been opened, they cannot understand how happy they would be if they would surrender their old life and accept God's new way of living.
This passage actually reveals how much he loves all people and wants them to realize what the meaning of life really is. He is waiting for someone to ask him for this knowledge, and he will graciously give them all they want. There is no limit to how far we can go with God or how close we can be to him.
When we begin to have a vision of this revelation, we realize how crucially important joy is within the life of the believer. It's not an option where we can pass on it or try to struggle through life without it. If being filled with God's joy makes our spirit strong and fills our mind with confidence, then we must conclude that being empty of joy causes us to be spiritually weak, lukewarm and generally miserable.
Let us observe three important steps toward becoming filled with joy: Joy is spiritual strength, joy is easily accessible and joy is our responsibility to maintain.
Let us look at the first one in Nehemiah 8:10: "Then he said unto them, go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength." Scholars agree this verse is probably Nehemiah telling the people to enjoy themselves on this day and be happy as they celebrate the abundance of God's blessings. He also reminds them that sharing and blessing others is a vital part of our Christian demonstration of love.
The last part of this verse refers to joy being associated with our ability to stand strong in our faith. There are also several commentaries that reveal the original language to be, "Delight in Jehovah as a strong refuge or stronghold," which makes wonderful sense and continues to bring an emphasis to having confidence in God's Word and to know that he desires for us to be filled with His Spirit.
But how does joy transform into strength? Well, this is an excellent question. I think we could sum it up by saying that we cannot be saturated with joy and sin at the same time. Joy and purity go hand in hand, and it goes all the way to back to when we were innocent children. When we were young, we did not have evil motives or hidden secrets and, generally speaking, we were happy.
Good news! We can have this clear conscience again as an adult if living holy is at the top of our priority list. A consistent prayer life will make sure that we are on the right path, as it keeps us in constant communication with God and the awareness of his presence. It is possible to live with a clear conscience, and wouldn't be wonderful if we could sing that old song again?
William F. Holland Jr. is a minister and chaplain based in Nicholasville, Kentucky. Read more at billyhollandministries.com.