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How is your joy today? In this message, we learn where true joy is found and what it means to let the joy of the Lord be our strength.

Alright. Hey, everybody, welcome to Valley Creek Church. We believe hope is here, everyone is welcome and Jesus changes everything. I want to take a moment before we begin and just welcome in — let’s have some fun today, shall we? Let’s welcome in all of our campuses maybe one at a time starting with our very newest campus, Online Campus, welcome in online today. I also want to welcome in, Gainesville. Hello Gainesville. And all of you that are hanging out in Denton, hey guys. Welcome Denton. How about the Lewisville Campus in Lewisville? Good to see you. Everybody that is with us in The Venue Campus today, hello Venue. And finally everybody that’s at the Flower Mound Campus, welcome guys. Come on, it is good to be together as we are in 60 Days of Rest, Joy and Relationships.

60 days of Rest, Joy and Relationships, three kingdom words and everything that goes with them, a declaration over each of our lives this summer. You see, this summer there’s an invitation to lean in in a different kind of way. It’s all about leaning into what God’s doing, not leaning out, truly checking in with God and with what He wants to do in our lives, not checking out of it to experience everything that God has for us. It has been so good, it’s been such a sweet start to the summer. So I want to encourage you continue to join us on the 60-day reading plan, that is 60 of some of the most influential chapters in all the Bible. We are reading those every single day. It has been good, there’s fresh life and revelation, people are commenting, they’re jumping in with it. There’s actually a full set of commentaries every day from a staff leader. We’d love to invite you to join with us as we experience this 60 days of rest and joy and relationship. All right. So last week we kicked it off with rest and we just simply said this, you will rest in God when God rests in you.

Really you’re going to rest in every area of life when God rests in you. So I want to start this week with really a similar question to how I started last week and it’s just this, how’s your joy? How’s your joy? Are you are you hopeful? Are you cheerful? Are you light-hearted? Maybe a better way to ask it is do the people that most frequently see you wearing pajamas say that you’re joyful? How’s your joy? Because notice I didn’t ask are you happy. You see happiness and joy are two very different words. And while they’re closely related, many times the pursuit of happiness is in direct conflict to the pursuit of Jesus. And while they’re closely related, happiness is really a state of being based on feelings and circumstances, joy is a state of being based on Jesus. Quite frankly, some of the worst decisions I’ve ever seen made start with the phrase ‘I just want to be happy’. But I’ve seen people come out of life with so much joy that’s just filling that up and overflowing in every single area.

So how’s your joy? Because I want to declare to you right now that the joy of Jesus is yours for the taking. If you’re watching this, if you’re listening to this, then right now the joy of the Lord is your strength. And even as I say the word joy, begin to feel it filling up on the inside, feel it overflowing from the inside out. You see, joy is a fruit of the Spirit and so everywhere that the Spirit of God is there is access to joy. So that means that right now even as we gather together, there is the joy of the Lord filling us up, the joy of our salvation, the joy of the Lord making us strong. How is your joy today? Because Jesus has joy that he wants to give each and every one of us. Sometimes it’s hard to experience it, sometimes it’s hard to wrap our minds around it because it’s so supernatural we don’t even really know how to describe it. Check it out in 1 Peter 1. It says, “Though you’ve not seen him you love him. And even though you do not see him now, you believe in him, and you’re filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”

It is inexpressible. Sometimes it’s hard to put words to — I actually spent time with a guy this week and I asked him to try to describe joy and he just — he couldn’t find the words but he was showing it, his countenance just revealed it. It exemplified all over him. And it’s glorious. When you know you know. You just know the glory — the glorious joy that God fills up your heart with. So sometimes it’s hard to describe. But it is inexpressible, it’s glorious. It’s those seasons that should bury you that you feel light and hopeful and cheerful. It’s the seasons that don’t make much sense and yet there’s a depth of joy that’s just covering every part of your life. And see, the reason for that is, is because if you’re in Jesus the joy of Jesus is your inheritance and your strength. I just want to declare that over everybody who walks with Jesus today. It’s your inheritance and it’s your strength, the joy of the Lord is your inheritance.

You’re born into Jesus but his joy is your rebirth right. It’s for you. It’s accessible today, your inheritance. This is how it says it in Romans 14, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy.” So here’s a question for you. Is Jesus the king of the kingdom? Yes or no. And if you believe in Jesus, are you a child of that kingdom? Yes or no. Great. So then joy is your inheritance. It’s what he’s given to you. It is through his blood and his sacrifice, it was paid for with a price, it’s your inheritance and no one can take that from you. It’s your inheritance, an inheritance of righteousness and peace and joy. Righteousness is just right standing. When I know that I’m right with God, that it’s my new identity then I have this peace that passes understanding, that flows all through my life and this outflow of joy that comes with it.

So when I know I’m right with God I got peace that passes understanding and joy is the natural outflow of my life. But what you have to see is that an inheritance is a legally bound obligation. It says even if someone were to try to come and steal my inheritance from me, they would have no right to. Imagine if you had a family farm, it was on the — it was in the family for years and years and years and somebody came and tried to come onto the farm and say, “Oh well, this is my farm.” You’d be like, “No, it’s not. Get off my land. You have no right to squat on the place that I’ve inherited from generations of my family.” So the joy of the Lord is your inheritance. And sometimes you’ve got to say to Satan, “Get off my land,” because Satan wants to steal, kill and destroy. He wants to steal your identity, he wants to kill your peace, he wants to destroy your joy. But he has no right to because it’s yours, it was given to you by Jesus and so the joy of the Lord is your inheritance.

Whenever Satan comes and tries to destroy your joy, you tell him, ‘No you can’t, get off my land.’ So that means then that that situation you’re facing right now can’t destroy your joy, that that problem with your health that you’re facing can’t destroy your joy. Your situation in your in your home right now that you don’t know how it’s going to work itself, it can’t destroy your joy. When you’re on social media and somebody says something dumb it can’t destroy your joy. When your vacation that you planned last year that you re-planned this year got canceled again, oh, it still can’t destroy my joy because the joy of the Lord is your inheritance. And so one more time, when anything in life happens outside of your control that you didn’t see coming, it can’t destroy your joy. Come on somebody, the joy of Jesus is your inheritance. It was given to you through his blood, through his sacrifice, through his life. And the joy of the Lord is your strength. See, many of us don’t know where that phrase comes from. That’s a really famous phrase in the Scriptures, but maybe you’re familiar with the phrase the joy of the Lord is my strength but you don’t know the backstory to it.

The backstory to that is profound. It comes out of the book of Nehemiah. And Nehemiah is trying to re-lead the people of God back to the city of God. You see, they’ve been in exile in Babylon. They went away for a while, everything is changed, everything is different than it was before. And so he leads the people back and all of the things that they once knew, their comforts, their conveniences were just different. Everything looked different than it did before. And so they’ve come back to the city and they realized, man, like way less of us came back than who was actually here before and they realized, man, this is going to be really hard work in front of us. And they realize, this is like a really tough scenario. And they begin to feel this weight inside their heart, this this kind of heaviness and this grief overtakes them. And so Nehemiah and Ezra the priest begin to read and declare over the people the joy of the Lord is their inheritance and it is their strength.

Check it out in Nehemiah 8, “This day is to be holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn, do not weep for all the people have been weeping as they listen to the words of the law.” Pause. So one of the things that this shows us is it’s possible to mourn and have joy at the same time. It’s possible to have a really difficult season and situation and feel a heaviness and have joy begin to rise up inside of you. That’s what the people were about to experience. Nehemiah said, go and enjoy some choice food and some sweet drinks and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord, do not grieve for the joy of the Lord is your strength. The joy of the Lord is your strength. You know how I read this section when it says, go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks? I read that as it’s time to experience 60 days of rest, joy relationship.

I read that as a declaration over each one of us in our lives, that it is time to enjoy what God has for us. The joy of the Lord is your strength. I love that. I love the declaration that he makes over the people. So that declaration, the joy of the Lord is your strength is not just for them, it’s not just for Nehemiah and the people of God, it’s for us. It’s for the season we’re in, it’s for the time that we are experiencing in the Holy Spirit. Right now, the joy of the Lord is our strength. Look at this one. “Those that sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy.” Come on, those are so in tears. Has that been you? Have you cried so many tears you ain’t got no more to cry? Then you, you by declaration of Jesus, can reap with shouts of joy. You see I would guess that there’s two different people that are listening to this right now. There’s those that are experiencing a lot of joy and then that there there’s those that are not. There’s those that are living with a sense of Jesus being you know at the forefront of life and overflowing through them and there’s those that just aren’t.

And so what you’re probably expecting me to say is, oh great, how do I start to do that? How do I get that joy? Like, oh, it’ll just be better later and you’ll make it through and it’ll be okay like buck up, buck up kiddo like — but it doesn’t — it doesn’t work like that. It’s bigger than that. It’s more than that. It’s not just like a set of things you have to do. You see Nehemiah, in the passage of Nehemiah, gives us insight into how we start to reap shouts of joy. It’s really subtle when he says to the people, enjoy the food and the drinks, the next things that he says is take some to those who need it. Did you catch that? Take some of those that need it. That is it wasn’t just all about them, there was a mission to it, there was — there was a movement to it. It wasn’t just about them. And that’s important because I think that’s an invitation for us also, it’s not just all about us.

You see, when you focus on kingdom movement you’ll be filled with kingdom joy. When you focus on mission and kingdom movement you’ll be filled with kingdom joy. Nehemiah is a genius. He actually says, take some of the food to those that need it. He got the people moving and then he started to see them filled with the joy of the Lord that was their strength. And by the way, you see that all through Scripture. Have you ever noticed that every place that it talks about joy it also talks about movement? Have you ever noticed every place that talks about joy there seems to be this movement, this verb that goes with it? For example in Luke 10, “The 72 returned with joy.” Movement. How about this one? Psalm 105, “He brought out his people with joy.” Movement. Here’s another one. The 72 — oh, that’s the same one. “And they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” Movement. One last one. You know this one from the Christmas story, “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Movement.
So when you focus on kingdom movement you’ll experience kingdom joy. There is emotion to it, there’s movement, there’s mission in mind. Because it really works like this, you focus on kingdom movement you’ll be filled with kingdom joy and that joy will become your strength. Kingdom movement leads to kingdom joy, leads to kingdom strength. So if you’re asking yourself how do I begin to find joy, how do I how do I get back into it, how do I experience it, well, that is I move forward by faith then I experience joy, then I begin to feel strong. Now remember, this isn’t just any movement, this is kingdom movement. Like if I move forward in the world to try to pursue happiness that’ll ultimately lead me to feel weak. So any place in my life that I feel weak is probably a place that I don’t have joy, that I’m probably not moving forward by faith. And you know what the craziest thing is? Jesus says, “The kingdom belongs to little children.”

Now think about this for a second. What do little children do all the time when you’re talking to them? You have this conversation with them. I have my conversations with a 10-year-old, “Hey Naomi, how’s it going today?” “Good.” “Uh, what you doing?” “Nothing.” “Really?” And so they’ll just keep on moving. And so who has more movement than anybody you know? Little children. Who usually lives with more joy than anybody you know? Little children. And who has this like abounding energy, this strength in their personhood? Little children. So could it be that Jesus was trying to leave us a breadcrumb of how to experience the joy of the kingdom? And so what does he say? “The kingdom belongs to little children.” Those that move, that experience joy, that then have this strength that wells up inside of them? He gave us how it works. Jesus actually said, “If you obey my commands then my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete.” My commands like actually move forward and make disciples. My commands like advance the kingdom of God. My commands like go out and tell people about the good news of the gospel. Those kinds of commands.

Now this is profound, look at this — look at this in Psalm 126 again knowing what we just picked up on. “Those that sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping carrying seeds to sow will return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with them.” You’ve got to catch this. Okay, those that sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. How? By going out with kingdom seeds to sow and giving those seeds away. The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, it’s the smallest of all the seeds and it becomes this giant tree. A farmer sows the word, seeds given out to other people so then it’s stuff like this, hey, can I just tell you what Jesus has been doing in my life recently? It’s been awesome. It’s been so — can I tell you what I’ve been reading in the reading plan? It’s like blowing my mind, it’s amazing revelation, I’d just love to share that with you.

Hey, can I just tell you I got an encouragement for you. I feel like the Lord wants to speak to you today. He’s got encouragement for your heart. Can I just — can I tell you that? Seeds to sow. We start giving out those seeds, we start moving forward by faith and movement leads to joy. Joy leads to strength. So could it be that many of us feel weak because we’ve been standing still? Could it be that many of us feel weak in this season because we’ve been waiting to move until we feel strong? But in reality that’s not how it works. Can I just ask you, have you been waiting for some breakthrough before you move forward? Like are you waiting to read the reading plan? Is it hard just to gather with the people of God and come, you know, on weekends and experience His presence? Have you dropped out of a circle? Have you dropped off a serve team? Do you come to Tuesday nights of prayer? Do you do serve the city? Do you join us for that? Because you have to understand you can’t wait until you feel strong to move forward by faith.

You move forward by faith then you have joy, then you will feel strong. Then you will come back and you will return with songs of joy. And even more than that you will carry sheaves, literal giant harvests of righteousness in your life, giant harvests of the people that you’ve poured into and given seeds to and seed those seeds, you know, start to grow and take root. That’s the sheaves that go with them. That’s what the Lord offers each one of us and that is awesome. So that’s the invitation for each one to begin to sow, to be able to just serve and lead and take the joy of the Lord and give it to everyone we meet. So honestly, don’t press pause on your journey with Jesus, step into it, lean back into it, go forward by faith. Check out this verse in Psalm 16, “You’ll make known to me the path of life. In your presence there’s fullness of joy.” We know the second half of the verse, “In your presence there’s fullness of joy.”

Did you notice the path of life? The path we have to start walking on, moving forward by faith to experience the presence of God, to experience the fullness of joy? I’ve been thinking a lot about this path of life, what it looks like, what it is, how we walk it out. Well, simply put, when you start moving forward walking down that path you’ll experience more of the presence of God and you’ll have more of the fullness of joy. That’s the invitation for each one of us. So think about this, if you had somebody in your life who was lacking in joy, who was hurting, who had a heavy heart and just needed to be encouraged and just needed to be kind of buoyed in the season, what would you do? How would you help them start to walk the path of life to experience the presence of the Lord so that they’d have joy, so they feels strong? Well, here’s what you do. You’d invite them to join you in kingdom movement. You’d say, hey, do you want to come serve with me? You’d say something like, hey, will you pray for me? You pray — yeah, you pray for me. Why?

Because when they pray for you, some movement’s going to break through and they’ll experience the joy from that and then they’ll feel strong. You’d say things like, hey, will you take this mom that just had this baby a meal on this meal train? Because when they do that, when they start to serve in the kingdom, they’ll experience joy and then they’ll be able to feel strong. So do you love somebody in your life? Do you have somebody that you want to see breakthrough? Okay, begin to help them move forward by faith so then they can experience the joy of the Lord, help them carry those seeds and walk the path of life, then they will feel strong again. In my life, I have somebody I really look up to, it’s my great Aunt Faye. She is 94 years old. And she walks the path of life. For her life, she just continues to move forward by faith. I don’t know anybody more joyful. I don’t know anybody who’s stronger at her age than her. She uses emojis. She knows how to use FaceTime. She knows how to text like little like, you know, memes and stuff. I don’t even know how to do some of that stuff.

Here’s the thing, why is she so joyful? Why is she so strong at 94 years old? Because she never hung it up. She kept moving forward by faith. I will call her sometimes — I’ll call her on the phone and she’ll have to stop the phone call because she has to go to her discipleship group but not like a discipleship group, like the third one she did that day. And that’s what she’s about and that’s what her life reflects. And so she’s moved forward by faith, she’s full of joy and she’s so strong. I think literally God has strengthened her in her body and in her frame because she’s moved forward by faith for so many years and she has so much joy and she just keeps experiencing that in herself. That is awesome. So check it, if you don’t go on mission, if you don’t advance God’s kingdom then there’s a depth of the kingdom that you won’t experience and a joy you just won’t walk in. But then flip it for the good, if you do walk that path of life, if you do go on mission with God then there is a joy you’ll know, a fresh power you’ll experience and a purpose you will discover by walking with Jesus.

I speak it over our church family, a joy that we’re going to know, a power that we’re going to experience and a fresh purpose to discover as we walk the path of life as we move forward by faith. Come on, that’s how our joy will be made complete. Check this out in 3 John 4. This reminds me of my Aunt Faye. It says, “I have no greater joy than to hear my children are walking in the truth.” What’s fascinating about this verse is we actually don’t think that John had biological children. We’re not totally sure that he had biological children, but what is he talking about? He’s talking about generations of spiritual children walking in the faith. Generations of seeing his spiritual children move forward. At the end of his life, John got it. After all that time, he said to himself, I have no greater joy — this is it, it’s the pinnacle of my joy and my experience, moving forward in the kingdom, making disciples and seeing those disciples that I’ve made begin to walk in the truth.

It’s fascinating, John could have said, I have no greater joy than to see them rest in Jesus or to see him have peace in their hearts. He said walking in the truth. So even for him, his joy was connected to their movement because he knew their movement would lead to joy and the joy would lead to a strengthening in their self. That’s John’s joy. That’s what he experienced. So how about you? Does your life reflect 3 John 4? Do all your plans reflect kingdom thought or kingdom movement or honestly, are a lot of your plans about you and about your summer? Is all your summer about family time or maybe serving as a family time? Is all of your calendar about filling it in with your time or thinking about other people you can invite into the calendar? Come on, parents, is there a student that hangs out with your student whose family doesn’t look like your family that you can invite to be part of the kingdom in your family, that you can invite to be part of the activities that your family experiences? You see we think we find joy in all the stuff we do and when we try to pursue happiness but in reality that will only make us feel weak.

That will only make us feel weak in our mind, in our spirit, in our inner personhood. So here you go, this is the invitation for each one of us, 60 Days of Rest, Joy and Relationship is an invitation to move forward by faith, begin to experience that joy and the joy will be made complete in us. For example, if you join in the reading plan, then you know the very words of God taste good and they fill you up and they fill you with joy. Check it out, “When your words came I ate them and they were my joy and my heart’s delight.” So that is every word that Jesus has spoken is spirit and it’s life and when you eat them up they become joy inside of you. Why? Because just reading them is movement. Because just taking in his words into your life is movement and then it becomes joy and then you’ll feel strong inside. There’s all kinds of ways you can do this.

You can move by walking across the street to your neighbor and let them know that you’re thinking about them and here’s a pie or, hey, walk across the street to your neighbor and say, I just was praying for you today, man. I just — I want you to know that. And they’re like, I don’t — nobody prays for me. Great. Well, I’d love to. In fact I’ll do it right now. You can move by just inviting somebody to be part of your activities that you otherwise wouldn’t have invited. We think that the summer should be all about us and reality should be all about moving outside of us. And so my question is, are you willing to let all of your summer plans kind of go on hold and put them in front of Jesus and say, okay, I’m going to lay all this out. I got some I got some things in the calendar, we got a vacation we’re planning but we’re just going to take it to the Lord and ask him where the movement is so we can experience his joy and then we’ll feel strong throughout the summer. You see, your whole summer can just totally fall apart. It can rain all summer. In North Texas, it has been raining all summer. Your vacation plans can, you know, can fall apart and you can still feel a joy that comes from the Lord.

But if you make the summer all about you, and your plans, and the things that you want, and the perfect selfie in the beach and all the things in front of you, what you’re going to see is by the time you get to the end of that you’re actually going to feel weakened. You’re going to feel like just like not all the way there, not full because movement leads to joy and joy leads to strength. So truly, how do we live this summer with the joy of Jesus? Just one more thought for you, how to live the summer with the joy of Jesus? Well, actually I got two verses. One is this, no one will take your joy from you if you live your summer focused and full of the joy of Jesus. And here’s the other one, we do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross and disregarded its shame. We do this. We do everything we do.

We move forward by faith by keeping our eyes on Jesus. And when we do he will perfect, he’ll transform, he’ll move in our life. And so Jesus experienced a joy awaiting him. I got to thinking about that specifically. What was the joy awaiting him? I used to think about it like, yeah, he gets like — he gets a crown and then Jesus is on his throne and you know he gets exalted. And that’s true but honestly he had those things in ages past. What was the joy awaiting him? What was the only thing that he didn’t have access to in the whole universe? The pearl of great price for Jesus, the only thing because of sin that he didn’t have, the joy awaiting him, the reason he moved? It was you. It was me. We were Jesus’s joy. We were the thing that he moved for. We were the reason that he came down in the first place.

You see, here’s what you see with Jesus. His movement, he moved from heaven to earth, from earth to the cross, from the cross to the grave, all the way to his resurrection. His movement led him to his joy, access to us, which led him to then be mighty to save, high and lifted up, stronger than anyone and anything else in the universe. His movement led to joy, led to strength. We were Jesus’s joy. You are Jesus’s joy. The only question is, will you let him be yours? Will you let him be your joy? Will you let him fill you with his strength this summer? You are Jesus’s joy, the pearl of great price, the only thing in the universe that he didn’t have access to because of sin and he did something about it. He moved, he made a way to get his joy back and now he is strong and lifted up, mighty to save.

So this summer, will you let Jesus be your joy? Well, you realize that the joy of the Lord is your inheritance, it is your strength. And when you move — kingdom movement leads to kingdom of joy. When you move and then you experience that joy, you will feel strong again in Jesus’ name. So come on, will you close your eyes with me? I just wanted to clear this over our whole church family right now. Maybe — in fact, maybe even just put up your hands like this. Maybe you could just open up your hands just as a sign of faith as I declare joy over each one of us. Even this little movement, just opening your hands, that’s movement, it’s willingness. And so joy right now — Jesus I just declare joy over our church family right now. I declare that your joy is our strength and as we move forward by faith we will feel the strengthening of our personhood, of our frame.

We will feel you in every area of our life. For those that have been sowing in tears, I declare that they will reap with songs of joy. For those that have felt weighted down and like everything in their life is just bearing them under, may they rise up with a confidence that as they move forward by faith they’re going to experience even more of your kingdom joy, more of the fruit of your Spirit, more access to who you are and what you’re about. Jesus, I pray that we would be the most joyful group of people that’s ever gathered as the church. I pray that we would be a church that’s so full of life and joy and hope that people would have to take notice. We are a movement of hope for the city and beyond and I pray that we would move with joy. I pray that we would move by faith and that as we do so, we will experience this inexpressible — this glorious joy that comes through.

That we’re receiving truly the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls, the reminder of who you are and what you’ve done every single day. Jesus, may your joy be our strength. Thank you Lord for 60 days of rest, joy and relationship. Thank you joy that you’re filling us up right now with the fullness of life, the fullness of your life, your joy, in Jesus’ name, amen.

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