Summary: This sermon examines God’s desire to trade His joy for our guilt, sadness, and discouragement.

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In the mid 80’s I had the opportunity to make a mission trip to Brazil. We went to Manaus, in the upper Amazon basin. We met a little boy named Pablo. He followed us around most of the week. On our final day, Pablo came to see us off. As we were preparing to board our bus and start the trip home an interesting thing occurred. One of our trip members offered Pablo a generous financial trade; however, he turned it down. The man wanted to trade Pablo two American dollars for one Brazilian coin. The coin was the equivalent of a quarter. Someone intervened and helped Pablo understand his misfortune. Sometimes we do God the same way. He offers us a wonderful trade but we decline His invitation.

A song writer named Darrell Evans wrote a song, several years ago, entitled “I’m trading my sorrow. We sang that song a few minutes ago. Let me repeat the words for you.

I’m trading my sorrow

I’m trading my shame

I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord

I’m trading my sickness

I’m trading my pain

I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord

I’m pressed but not crushed persecuted not abandoned

Struck down but not destroyed

I’m blessed beyond the curse for his promise will endure

And his joy’s gonna be my strength

Though the sorrow may last for the night

His joy comes with the morning

I think Darrell Evans was describing a beneficial trade. Trading sorrow, shame, sickness, and pain for God’s joy is a wonderful opportunity. God wants to make the same trade with us today. Will we make the trade? Let me show you a text that teaches this principle. “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Neh. 8:10 NKJV) This is the context. The book of Nehemiah records a time when Israel is coming back into their homeland after spending 70 years in exile. They began to rebuild their land. Israel was regaining her status as a nation and rebuilding their relationship with God. During that time the book of the law was discovered. The people had lost contact with their spiritual roots. Nehemiah called the people together and Ezra conducted a public reading of God’s word. This reading occurred at a place called the “Watergate.” I would imagine that Richard Nixon would have preferred to be at this Watergate rather than the one he visited. As the people heard the reading of God’s word they were overwhelmed by their short-comings and failures. They looked in the mirror and saw what God saw in them. They were saddened when they realized how they had failed the Lord. Repentance, sorrow, and grief are worthy when we face our sin. However, there comes a point when we lay it aside and celebrate God’s forgiveness. In this text we read where Nehemiah encouraged them to move beyond sorrow and allow the “joy of the Lord” to be their strength.

Several weeks ago we put together a little devotional book containing the stories of seventeen of our members. Many of those stories reveal a trade that took place. Our members traded a lesser life for a better life. Some of them traded sadness for singing. Some of them traded pain for praise. Some of them traded emptiness for fullness. Some of them traded darkness for light. I want to turn to our text and discover the secret of this wonderful trade. There are two phrases in this text. Those two phrases outline the truth I want you to see.

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