When I read through Matthew 25 today several things stuck out to me but the thought that I can’t shake is the popular phrase taken from Nehemiah 8:10, “The Joy of the Lord is my Strength.” I think that phrase sometimes gets tossed around without a whole lot of thought given to the context of what was happening. The Israelites had been reconnected to the Law of Moses, an understanding of God and what He both expected from them and what He created them for. At the time it overwhelmed them, the people started crying as the Law was read to them because they were made aware of how far off they were and how far they had to go. But Nehemiah challenges them to put their mourning and crying to the side so that they can celebrate because they now have clear direction as to what following God really looks like. They have now gained a clear understanding of what pleases God and pleasing God, or being His joy, is where the people gain their sense of strength from. After all, being God’s joy, His official representatives on Earth, is what they were created for.
Flash forward to Jesus and His parable of the talents. In describing the reward for the servants who faithfully served their master, honored their master with what they were given, Jesus said they were invited to “enter the joy of your Lord.”
23 His Lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.’
I know that some translations make that statement about enjoying a celebration with their master but I can’t shake this thought from my mind. Isn’t the master making a statement about them fulfilling their purpose? Isn’t he saying, “You have become my source of joy because you are doing exactly what I expected of you, you are living up to my expectations.” And in doing so his servant takes on a sense of pride in what he has done, the way he has lived, because he knows his master is honored by the work he has done. He has nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing to cry over. He hasn’t fallen short in doing what it is that his master expects of him. So he can be proud of who he is and what he has done. Does that make sense?
For us, in my opinion, there isn’t a better place to be in in our relationship with God than when we understand fully what God has created us for and what He expects of us and we are leveraging every ounce of who we are and what we have toward fulfilling that purpose. It’s in that place that we can take an appropriate amount of pride in the way we spend our money, time and energy because our lives are fulfilling God our creator and master’s expectations. In doing so we become God’s joy, His cause or occasion for joy which is the meaning of the word, and at the same time we gain a sense of strength from being God’s joy.
If you are trying to figure out what it is that God created you specifically to do I would strongly recommend picking up a copy of Max Lucado’s book Cure for the Common Life. It’s a good read and has lots of practical help for finding your “sweet spot”, that place where you leverage the gifts God has specifically given to you for His purpose. Becoming God’s joy and finding strength in it.
When you read Matthew 25, what sticks out to you?