For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.
10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.
Repentance is important to the LORD, but it is not the most important thing. What I mean to say is you cannot live in a state of repentance. Once you repent of the sins which have kept you from the Lord, you are in a new place, you are in the presence of the Lord, a holy place, a wonderful place. You live in a state of grace, choosing Christ over sin, life over death, the Spirit of your flesh, and rest over works. You are choosing the Kingdom of Heaven over the temporary earth.
In the days of Nehemiah and Ezra the wall of Jerusalem had fallen into a terrible state. After receiving a vision from the Lord, Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem from captivity to rebuild the wall. Ezra was a priest, scribe, and prophet of God who the Lord had given the same job as well as bringing the people back to the Lord in proper worship through observing the Torah. After the wall was rebuilt, Ezra gathered all the people of Jerusalem together and read from the Scriptures and prayed. The effect it had on those gathered was an outpouring of worship and grief over their sinfulness, of how they had neglected the Lord.
Nehemiah 8:6-12 reads,
And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 7 Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. 8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11 So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.
You see, repentance is necessary, but you don’t live there, you understand the declaration of the Lord and know you are saved and rejoice, celebrate, and live in the celebration of being in His presence. According to Nehemiah, God joyful. It is not a wavering joy which depends on how we behave or how strong we are; it is a steadfast, faithful, joy because God is unchanging and faithful (Psalm 55:19, 1 Corinthians 1:9).
What is then that gives God joy? Believer, it is you! In Luke 15:8-10, Jesus told the parable of the lost coin. As you read it, imagine yourself in the place of the woman, imagine your rent money as the lost coin.
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
That joy you feel when you have searched high and low for that missing money is only a shadow compared to the joy in Heaven over your salvation. Repentance is real, it is not one sorry thought in the mind and then we run in “grace” and keep sinning and living like the world. It is an act that begins the change in us. Acts2:38 reads,
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit is faithful to change you, He begins a great work and He completes that great work of remaking you into the image of Christ (Philippians 1:6).
We do not have to depend on our strength. I am not strong in anyway, but I depend on God. Knowing He is rejoicing over me gives me strength, it helps me continue in dogged pursuit of the excellence of Jesus Christ. I am saved. Jesus is my Lord. The Holy Spirit indwells me and makes me new. God’s love and grace and peace cover me. The joy of the Lord is my strength.
He does not want us to live in a state of mourning, though there is a time for mourning. He does want us to live in joy, even through the sorrow and suffering. Why? How? Because we have been saved through grace by faith in Christ Jesus, we have the Spirit of the Living God within us and we know that as horrible as circumstances can be, God works all things together for our good if we are called according to His purpose. He conforms us to the image of His Son and so brings more people to Him (Romans 8:28-29). Look how His joy continues and increases and so consider that ours should as well.
The joy of the Lord is our strength. That is how we can go through so many awful things, loss, persecution, temptations, and conflicts and even through weeping we can choose to rejoice. Philippians 4:4-9 says it like this,
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
We know that God has done great things. We can recall what He has done and rejoice (Exodus 18:9). The choice to rejoice is one we make and voice in prayer and praise. Isaiah chapter 12 reads,
You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
that you might comfort me.
2 “Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.”
3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4 And you will say in that day:
“Give thanks to the Lord,
call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that his name is exalted.
5 “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
let this be made known in all the earth.
6 Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”
We can rejoice because we are not alone. We choose to obey the Lord and be a part of His body rather than apart from His body. Philippians 2:1-2 says,
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind
And Colossians 2:2-3 reads,
that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
I know joy is not always easy. I know it is a choice that must be made. I also know that this broken earth, these broken hearts, and the darkness is only temporary, and we can choose joy. Psalm 30:4-5 encourages us with this,
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.