James, chapters 1 & 2

“But the one who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and continues in it has become, not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work; and he will be happy in what he does.”
~James 1:25

What is the “perfect law that belongs to freedom?”
It is the “Law of Christ,” which “encompasses everything that Jehovah requires of us.” (Gal. 6:2; Watchtower 7-15-2012, p. 8, parr. 4)
It frees us from being slaves to our fleshly desires and habits. (Rom. 8:5,6; 2 Pet. 2:19)
When we learn to act in unison with God’s holy spirit, displaying qualities such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and self-control, there is no divine law that limits those qualities. We are free to display them without limits. (2 Cor. 3:17; Gal. 5:18,22,23)
If we observe Christ’s law, under God’s kingdom, we will also be free of sin and death. (Rom. 8:20,21)
We peer into the law when we study God’s way of thinking to try to make it our own. (John 8:31,32; 1 Tim. 4:15; Jas. 2:12)

Romans, chapters 9-11

“Israel, although pursuing a law of righteousness, did not attain to that law. For what reason? Because they pursued it, not by faith, but as by works.”
~Romans 9:31,32

Once we have established a good spiritual routine that includes regular prayer and Bible reading, as well as participating at Christian meetings and the public ministry, we should be careful not to do things mechanically. (Ps. 1:1-3; 22:22; Ro. 10:14,15; 1 Th. 5:17)
The nation of Israel had received a rich spiritual heritage which should have led them to clearly identify God’s messiah.
But they concentrated so much on preserving traditions that they missed the point of what it meant to be dedicated to God. (Matt. 23:23,24)
When serving God is our way of life for a long period of time, we can begin to take some aspects of our worship for granted.
Perhaps we stop looking up Scriptures that we think we know by heart. Or our prayers gradually become more repetitive in choice of words. Maybe we don’t prepare for a Bible study if we already went over the material with a previous student. Or we wait till the last minute to prepare a meeting assignment we received weeks in advance.
If we don’t take the time to meditate on the unique value of our relationship with God and his people, our faith may become strained. Then we could lose our joy and start to forget why we dedicated our lives to Jehovah. (1 John 5:3)

Romans, chapters 4-6

“Happy is the man whose sin Jehovah will by no means take into account.”
~Romans 4:8

The verse the Apostle Paul is quoting in this passage is a Psalm which continues: “In whose spirit there is no deceit.” (Ps. 32:2)
In order to benefit from the joy of being granted true forgiveness, we must first turn around from our evil course. (Eze. 33:11; Acts 3:19; Ep. 4:22-24)
This implies being humble enough to recognize the error of our ways and a willingness to put in the effort to change.
Once we have demonstrated our repentance, we are able to feel the joy that comes from being reconciled to God through Jesus. (Rom. 5:11)
The knowledge that God loves us and assumes the best in us when we try to please him can carry us joyfully through difficult times. (Rom. 5:2-6)

Jeremiah, chapters 12-16

“Jehovah said: ‘I will surely minister to you for good;
I will surely intercede for you in the time of calamity,
In the time of distress against the enemy.'”
~Jeremiah 15:11

Have you ever had the experience of setting forth to do good and not finding any support from those around you?
The prophet Jeremiah should have been supported by the people of Judah because they were God’s chosen People, but they violently opposed his work.
He began to fear for his life.
He confided his feelings to God in prayer. (Jer. 15:15)
He sought comfort in God’s Word and was able to experience joy in his ministry once more. (Jer. 15:16)
When we put our faith in Jehovah God that he is in fact collaborating with us in our ministry, we can endure apathy and even violent persecution with a joyful heart, knowing that God has our back. (Jer. 15:19-21; 1 Cor. 3:9)

Nehemiah, chapters 5-8

“Do not feel sad, for the joy of Jehovah is your stronghold.”
~Nehemiah 8:10

This verse has personally been one of the cornerstones of my faith.
But why did the audience feel sad to begin with?
“All the people were weeping as they heard the words of the Law,” (Neh. 8:9).
It was the month of Ethanim (mid-September to mid-October), the start of the Jewish agricultural year, a month that marks many biblical historically relevant events.
It was a month of festivals.
This day started out with special trumpet blasts announcing a holy convention (Lev. 23:24).
The Jews in Jerusalem had but a few days earlier, against all odds, completed rebuilding the city walls (Neh. 6:15).
True worship was finally and officially ready to go fully back into effect.
When the scribe Ezra read the book of the law, and the Levites explained it, the people took it to heart (Neh. 8:2,3,7,8).
They understood what Jehovah was trying to tell them.
They were compelled to tears of sadness because of the errors of their ways.
But understanding God’s word was reason to rejoice, not cry.
The Levites helped them to correct their attitude, “so all the people went away to eat and to drink and to send out portions of food and to carry on a great rejoicing, for they understood the words that had been made known to them,” (Neh. 8:12).
When I personally experience sadness, do I make Jehovah’s joy my stronghold?
Understanding his word and serving him are not small reasons to rejoice in.
It is a beautiful privilege to form part of God’s people.
There is no better place to seek refuge than in the stronghold of the “happy God,” (1 Tim. 1:11; Ps. 16:11).