The word “fight” is what caught my attention.
Fight Back with Joy is Margaret Feinberg’s latest book.[i] As you may know, I am passionate about fighting on our knees for our marriages and families, and I am convinced that worship is a powerful weapon in spiritual battle. When I saw Fight Back with Joy, I was eager to consider joy as another important weapon.
But is joy really a spiritual weapon? As I pondered that question, I focused on Nehemiah 8:10: “The joy of the LORD is my strength.” My thinking followed these successive steps:
1. The word used here in Nehemiah for “strength” is maowz, which means “place or means of safety, protection, refuge, stronghold” (Strong’s H4581). Maowz is sometimes translated as “fortress.” The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “LORD, you are my strength and fortress [maowz], my refuge in the day of trouble!” (16:19, NLT)
2. This means that the joy of the LORD is our refuge; it is a place of protection. In fact, the HCSB translates Nehemiah 8:10 like this: “Do not grieve, because the joy of the Lord is your stronghold.”
When we let go of joy, we make ourselves vulnerable to the enemy.
3. So … if joy is a weapon, then perhaps it is a shield, which offers protection. Roman soldiers had shields which would completely cover them, protecting them from attacks above or from the side.
4. The apostle Paul said that our faith functions as a spiritual shield. Could joy be a part of our faith? It is! It is a core piece, just as metal was sometimes the core piece of a Roman shield.
Joy is the faith that God loves us passionately and personally, intensely and intimately. Joy is the faith that God will keep His covenant promises to us without fail. Our conviction that we can trust God implicitly is what protects us from the schemes of the enemy.
Joy is not an emotion, although it can be expressed as an emotion. Joy is something we do: joy is choosing to believe that God loves us.
Perhaps we can say that joy is like the inner layer of metal within an ancient shield, adding strength to the wood and leather.
5. If joy is a weapon, then it is a shield of defense. We can choose to keep ourselves within the refuge of joy, keeping our thoughts and spirits deeply sheltered within the love of Christ—a love that is so wide and long and high and deep that it covers us fully and endlessly (Ephesians 3:18).
6. In researching Roman shields, I learned that the ancient shield was not only defensive but also offensive. How interesting! In fact, some claim that the Roman shield was primarily offensive. It was actually used to punch the enemy. It was the Roman soldier’s “main weapon.”[ii]
So … if joy is a shield, then it is also offensive. I love that! We do not only protect ourselves through joy, but we also advance through joy. We come against the enemy—we overcome the enemy–when we practice tenacious joy.
Here is how we “punch the enemy” with a shield of joy:
We will believe that God loves us. (Pow!) We will believe that God is actively loving us right now in this situation. (Crash!) We will believe that God’s love in unfailing. (Wham!) We will believe that God’s love for us is perfect, wise, and powerful. (Boom!) We will believe that God withholds no good thing from those who belong to Him. (Smash!)
7. So … yes, I think that joy is a weapon. Our shield of faith, strengthened with a core of joy, is a powerful spiritual weapon. As we believe truth, including the truths of love which strengthen us with joy, we are well equipped for victorious battle.
Ann Voskamp puts it this way:
The joy of the Lord is your strength and the person of Christ is your unassailable joy – and the battle for joy is nothing less than fighting the good fight of faith.[iii]
Take up your shield of faith, with its strong core of joy, and watch God win!
[i] Worthy Publishing. 2015.
[ii] http://web.utk.edu/~cohprima/scutum.html. Accessed 6-6-15.
(Shield) Image courtesy of vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net