The Joy of the Lord (4)
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Psalm 51.12
An elusive condition
Because we make our journey in life through a valley of tears, joy can be an elusive commodity. And not only elusive, but brief.
C. S. Lewis described his experience of joy as something that suddenly enveloped him with a sense of overall happiness and wellbeing, but which, when he began to reflect on it and analyze it, just as suddenly was gone (Surprised by Joy). Try to re-enter the experience of joy, and it’s hard to make it happen.
Besides, being yet sinners, it’s too easy for us to fall into the idolatry of thinking that joy can be found somewhere other than in the Lord. Thus, we fix our hopes for joy on transient, material things or circumstances, only to discover that such false “joys” are merely fleeting, and never as satisfying as we’d hoped.
The Lord knows how hard it can be for us to experience joy the way He does – continuously, completely, and increasingly. He also knows we need to be reminded that true joy can only be known in Him, as He draws us into His joy and shares it with us by His Spirit.
This being so, God graciously surrounds us each day with reminders, glimpses, brushes with, and refractions of Himself, prompting us to enter His joy via the many avenues and portals with which He surrounds us each day. God is continuously prompting us to see Him and His glory in the everyday things and situations of our lives. By staying alert to the prompts and responding in faith, we can know the joy of the Lord more continuously.
What might some of these prompts be?
First, of course, is the salvation we have by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The writer of Hebrews comments on how great our salvation is, and warns us that it’s easy to drift from that strong and blessed mooring (Heb. 2.1-4). God, knowing our tendency to this, is always bearing witness to Himself, beginning with our salvation, so that we might cling to, and increase in, the joy we have in Him.
David understood this, and he prayed that the Lord might restore to him the joy of His salvation (Ps. 51.12), that wonderful, combined sense of being forgiven, accepted, loved, and secure in the Presence of God, now and forever, together with the potential of growing in His grace and serving Him more effectively. Hope for renewed joy followed confession of sin and repentance in David’s case, and this is an excellent reminder for us. For sin, harbored in our hearts, cuts us off from the Lord, and from the joy we earnestly seek (Ps. 6.18; Is. 59.1, 2).
If to you salvation means only going to heaven when you die and having a nice church while you’re still alive here and now, then your view of salvation is not as great as it should be. Certainly, it’s not great enough to buoy you above the trials and travails you can expect to meet in the normal course of your daily life, or to keep you from dallying in sin. We need to follow the advice of the psalmist, who in response to receiving the salvation of the Lord, resolved to be drunk with it, to hoist the cup of salvation and drink it fully down with joy (Ps. 116.12-14). Rather than fill our minds, hearts, and days with the fleeting things of this life, let us be filled with the Spirit, submitting to Him for the teaching and convicting we need, so that we might grow in our great salvation, and all the joy that comes with it (Eph. 5.18-21).
The Lord is with us always, beckoning us into joy through a wide variety of what might seem to us unlikely witnesses.
Here are just a few, together with some Scripture to meditate on, to help you become more aware of and sensitive to these refractors of the joy of the Lord. The Lord beckons us into His joy through:
- the Treasury of His Word (Pss. 97.8; 119.162)
- the example of saints from the past, of their lives, trials, and works (Lk. 6.22, 23)
- the Voice of the Lord, as He speaks in the works of creation (Ps. 19.1-4)
- reports of unbelievers who have come to faith in Jesus Christ (Lk. 15.7, 10)
- reports of answered prayers (Jn. 16.24)
- the infectious joy of other believers (2 Cor. 2.3; 7.13; Philem. 1.7, 10)
- the joy that comes from praying for and serving others (Phil. 2.2; 4.1; 1 Thess. 2.9, 10)
- sharing the sufferings of the Lord, because of the Name of Jesus (1 Pet. 4.15; Acts 5.41)
- the joy that comes from being a peacemaker (Prov. 12.20)
- and the joy of seeing your church fulfill its calling to bring joy to its local community (Ps. 48.2)
As should be obvious, we’re never very far from many of these witnesses to the joy of the Lord, which can renew us in the joy of the Spirit, by returning our focus to the Lord and His works, so that we seek Him in all our ways.
We are never separated from the joy of the Lord because the Lord Himself, Who is our joy, is ever with us. The problem is we’re so easily distracted by many things and much to do, that we fail to take the time to sit at the feet of Eternal Joy, moored to His Presence, and basking in His radiant and undying love (Lk. 10. 38-42). If we can find time, like David in Psalm 27, to wait hopefully on the Lord in prayer and meditation, seeking the beauty of His joy and the glory in His face (2 Cor. 4.6), He will, in His time, bring us into His joy, so that we grow in love for Him and gratitude for all His grace.
The Lord has come, and the Lord is here, everywhere, all around us, all the time, bidding us to see Him and enter His joy at every moment of our lives. And from there, to bring the joy of the Lord to the people in your world.
1. Would you describe your salvation as great? Why or why not? How can you improve your understanding of the greatness of your salvation?
2. Which of the prompts to joy, mentioned in this study, are you likely to encounter today? How will you respond?
3. How can you prepare each day to make sure you don’t miss any of these prompts to joy?
Next steps – Preparation: How can you use your morning prayer time to set your mind and heart to respond to the prompts of joy God sends your way each day?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.