Strength & Joy

A few weeks ago, I led a devotional for the student leadership team at my school.  We had been going (almost) non-stop for about two weeks when my devotional was set to happen, so we were all pretty tired, and it was on my heart to encourage my peers with God's Word.  Being this is my third consecutive year on leadership, I have some experience with the "process" of what it means to be a servant leader.  It's not really a title or a job that you slip in and out of - it's an everyday job that has no timestamp.  I'd like to adapt that message and share it with you...

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It's no accident that you are exactly where you are right now.  I believe that the Lord has divinely orchestrated for each of us to be living, loving, and serving where we are for a purpose greater than we imagine, and with that comes a lot of responsibility.  As a believer in Jesus Christ, woman or man, you have been called and have been set apart (Romans 12:2; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 Peter 1:16) to be a representative of the manifestation of Christ on earth.  This is no small matter.  It is everything, and if you're anything like me, you probably find yourself serving in many roles in many places.  You may be a student, a friend, a sibling, an employee, a boss, a parent, a child, a spouse... or all of the above!  and if you are committed all of those things, you will probably be giving a lot of yourself to those roles, responsibilities, and relationships.  The inevitable here is that you will most likely experience feeling overwhelmed, over-extended, and burned out at some point.  Here is my encouragement to you: do not rely on your own strength to get you through this day, or this week, or this year.  Rather, make it a point to find your ultimate strength in the Lord!

In Nehemiah 8:10, Nehemiah states, "Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength".  To back up, the context of this verse is that Nehemiah and the Israelites have just completed building the walls of Jerusalem.  They were excited at this accomplishment, which happened despite some complications along the way.  In the midst of their celebration, there was still something lacking in their lives.  Many felt overwhelmed and stressed, but why?  I mean, they had every reason to rejoice at their accomplishment!  So why couldn't they fully rejoice?  Because they had forgotten God through the process!  They were burned out because they did not remember that only in His joy could they find the true strength that they needed!

With that, my encouragement to you (as well as myself) is this: do not be like the Israelites who forgot God.  If we rely on our own strength to get us through, we will struggle greatly.  But if we remember to allow God to pour into us - through spending time in His Word, in His presence, and in prayer - the strength that we will receive as a result will far exceed our own, and we'll be able to do far more for His glory!  Self-care is necessary, so allow yourself to be filled up by setting your heart above (Colossians 3:1-4) and by pouring out of the overflow!

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So, let's talk a little bit about the man named Nehemiah.  Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king of Persia - the same king that he asked permission from the rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (which was quite a courageous thing to ask of the king).  Though he faced opposition from all sides, he and the Israelites managed to build the wall quickly.  Nehemiah also worked fervently to purify the Jewish community.  He was a man of God who was placed where he was and when he was by no accident.  The Lord placed him there on purpose and for a purpose.

So take heart!  Know that you are where you are on purpose and for a purpose.  So in that place, allow His joy to be your joy, and find your strength in Him!