Bring Back the Joy

We are all familiar with King David’s plea to God, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation…”  Psalm 51:12. (Please read Psalm 51 if you can) 

     Is it natural for Christians to lose the joy that salvation plants within us?  I think it is a common condition that can easily beset any Christian.  If a believer like King David pleaded with God to restore salvation’s joy unto him it seems all Christians are susceptible to losing their joy.  I have and it was restored as with King David.  Doubtless many readers have had this experience.

      It should be noted that King David did not ask that salvation be restored to him but that “the joy of thy salvation” return.  King David didn’t need to be saved again for salvation is eternal – forever.  King David was sorely missing the joy of God’s salvation.  Admittedly, loss of salvation’s joy can make a Christian feel lost but that cannot be.  It can however make us unhappy and impotent Christians.

      The question arises, what causes Christians to lose the joy of their salvation?  There are several causes but we’ll focus on the major one which robbed King David of his joy.  He wrote, “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.”  Psalm 51:2. SIN stole the joy from King David.  Sin will dispel the joy of any Christian. 

       What was King David’s recourse for regaining the joy he lost to sin?  First he made a full confession to God of his sins.  Sin separates (alienates) us from God and quenches (hinders) the Holy Spirit’s work within us.  Confession of sin is the prerequisite for God’s forgiveness.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  I John 1:9. No confession no forgiveness!

      After confession King David entreated God to wash him thoroughly and cleanse him.  Confessing our sin and obtaining God’s forgiveness brings fresh joy which expresses itself in renewed praise and worship of God.  King David testified, “Then (after being forgiven) will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted.”  Again, “…my tongue will sing aloud of thy righteousness.”  Again, “my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.”

     We have all heard the saying, “Confession is good for the soul.”  It is not only true – it is necessary.  It restores our relationship with God and BRINGS BACK THE JOY OF GOD’S SALVATION which stirs us to renewed worship and service.

     Any Christian reading this who is battling sin can humbly confess their sin and ask for God’s forgiveness.  THIS WILL BRING BACK YOUR LOST JOY!

JOY IN SORROW?

The Lord will not cast off forever. Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies” (Lamentations 3:31-32).

From “The Vine,” 1-13-12, entitled, The Christian’s Joy:

During the battle of Gettysburg there was a little bird on a tree that would sing a few notes every time there was a lull in the awful roar of battle; but when the crash began again, its song would cease. That is the way with this world’s joy. It sings a few strains now and then in the pauses of life’s struggle and discontent. When the waves of sorrow break, its voice is drowned; it cannot sing in loss, in bereavement, in the hour of dying.

Joy is not the absence of sorrow, but the presence of God.   He allows tears of sorrow today so that our hearts may be open to receive the joys of tomorrow.

In the midst of the prophet Jeremiah’s grief in Lamentations 3:25-33, God’s comfort surfaced as a reminder of His sovereignty and goodness, giving him hope.  When we experience painful sorrow and loss, let us remember to allow sufficient time to grieve and to reflect upon God’s goodness.  And to praise Him!

Tears are lenses through which our dimmed eyes see more clearly into heaven and look more fully upon God’s wonderful face.  Sorrow cleanses our hearts of earthiness and fertilizes our lives.  Painful times are more beneficial for us than times of rejoicing.  We grow best when clouds hang over us.  Why?  Because clouds produce rain, and rain refreshes.  Then God comforts us so deeply and richly that the experience is well worth enduring the trial—just to enjoy the sweet and precious comfort that God gives in it.

Sorrow need not deprive us Christians of our joy.  Warren Wiersbe says, “The joy that comes from the Lord is real, lasting, and enriches our lives.  God doesn’t give us joy instead of sorrow, or joy in spite of sorrow, but joy in the midst of sorrow.  It’s not substitution but transformation.”

We may be in deep sorrow, yet a fountain of joy wells up in our heart and a genuine peace settles in our soul.  When we rejoice in God as our Source, we have a joy that sings through the darkness of night, and no one has the ability to take it from us.  Those who have been driven close to God in their great sorrow reflect the radiance and joy of the Lord.  The sweetest songs of praise are those we sing in the darkest hours of the night (Acts 16:25).

Sound His praises! Jesus who bore our sorrows:

Love unbounded, wonderful, deep and strong;

Praise Him! praise Him! tell of His excellent greatness;

Praise Him! praise Him! ever in joyful song!—Fanny J. Crosby

COUNT IT ALL JOY (2)

“Consider it pure joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4).

We need to lay aside any blame, revenge, bitterness, and guilt.  The word used for “consider” or “count” (v. 2) means that when pain penetrates our being, mentally, we need to immediately count it as a thing of joy, “knowing that” (v. 3) our ability to count our difficulties as joy is based on God’s sovereignty and that which we know to be absolutely true.  If we process pain correctly, it will eventually mature our character and bring us to completion—producing good works.  It is clearly not an emotional choice but volitional—our will.

 That is why in a trial or crisis we need to lay aside our feelings and instinctive responses based on how we have responded improperly in the past; and reflect on what God says.  His command is to consider every trial as “pure joy.”

However, we can be so troubled and despairing that our capacity to learn through them is impaired. That is why we need this knowledge NOW so that we remain certain in the midst of changing circumstances and emotions.  It serves as an anchor firm and secure.

Our trials are guarded by His character and His presence; His intent is our spiritual growth and His glory. They are tests of our faith to develop endurance, which, in turn, produce mature Christian character (Romans 5:3-4).

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus  . . . who for the joy set before Him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).   Counting trials as joy does not mean that we feel happy about our difficulties but it keeps our focus off the moment of pain because we understand that ultimately God will make the experience worthy of joyful thanksgiving and praise.

Have you ever tried to praise God when you didn’t feel like it—when your heart needed comfort and encouragement?   Waiting until we feel like praising and thanking Him is the wrong thing to do.  We can thank Him without feeling like it because we choose to do so.  There is healing in praise!   And joy brings victory!  The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

When we come to God with praise on our lips because of who He is, He gives us power and strength.

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;

Drive the dark of doubt away;

Giver of immortal gladness,

Fill us with the light of day—Henry van Dyke

COUNT IT ALL JOY (1)

Consider it pure joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience

(James 1:2-3).

Honestly now, is that our first reaction—to count it all joy?  More likely, it is usually anger, bitterness, resentment, or despair.  We ask, “Why me? Why now?’  What did I do to deserve this?”   When we react in these ways, it lets us see how far we fall short in maturing in our Christian walk.

We may loathe the process that makes us Christ-like because of the sorrow, pain, and stress  involved, but James is saying that if we try to wiggle out of the hard times prematurely, we will short-circuit the divine process and remain impatient and immature.

For the most part, the depth, duration, timing, and complexity, are beyond our control; but we can control our response.  Making right choices in the midst of difficulties minimizes regrets. The 30 pieces of silver burned a hole in Judas’ heart, and in despair, he hanged himself.

Max Lucado writes:

When a potter bakes a pot he checks its solidity by pulling it out of the [furnace] and thumping it.  If it “sings,” it’s ready.  If it “thuds,” it’s put back.  Character is also checked by thumping… Late night phone calls… grouchy teachers… burnt meals… flat tires… “you’ve-got-to-be-kidding” deadlines.  Thumps trigger the worst in us… They aren’t big enough to be a crisis, but if you get enough of them, watch out.  Traffic jams… long lines… empty mailboxes… dirty clothes on the floor… Thump.  Thump.  Thump.  How do you respond?  Do you sing or do you thud? 

Jesus said, “People speak the things that are in their hearts” (Luke 6:45), and there’s nothing like a good thump to reveal the true nature of a heart…. It’s not in momentary heroics, but in thump-packed hum-drum of day-to-day living.  If you’ve a tendency to “thud” more than you “sing,” take heart.  There’s hope for us “thudders.”  Begin by thanking God… not a half-hearted thank-you… but a rejoicing, jump-for-joy, thank-you from the bottom of your heart.

Each thumping helps or hurts us, depending on our attitude.  Remember, thumps help us grow, and they work together for good when we love and obey God.  We will be tested, so we might as well learn from the “thumps,” and welcome them as opportunities to develop patience and persistence.

Your ways, O Lord, are higher and

Your knowledge is immense;

So give us strength to trust You when

Life doesn’t make much sense. –Sper

CATALYSTS OF JOY FOR ONE ANOTHER

Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints” (Philemon 7).

When we were born again, God didn’t leave us here to live as we please, to do our own thing, or to seclude ourselves from those around us.

Nor did He leave us here to be so busy serving our own family that we miss the cohesiveness of being with and encouraging other adults—stirring up one another “toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Catalysts are people whose words and enthusiasm cause others to be more enthusiastic and energetic.  We can be catalysts of joy for one another!  God wants our enthusiasm to energize and bring joy to each one He puts in our path.

Paul wished to be with the believers in Rome that he might come to them with joy and be refreshed by their company (Romans 15:30-32).  He was full of joy for their obedience (Romans 16:19).   His desire when he arrived at Corinth was that all would share his joy (2 Corinthians 2:3).

In spite of all his troubles, he told them that he was encouraged and overjoyed with them (2 Corinthians 7:4).  “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him.  He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever” (v. 6-7).

He expressed his desire to remain with the Philippian believers for their “progress and joy in the faith” so that through his being with them again their “joy in Christ Jesus will overflow” (Philippians 1:25-26)—even calling these brothers, whom he loved and longed for his “joy and crown” (4:1).

The body of Christ comes in different colors, shapes and sizes—even different denominations.  When we reach out and take risks, they will become our joy and add joy to the body of Christ!  Joy is the result of relating to God’s people God’s way!

Just as a waiter watches to see when he can be of service while we are eating, then meets those needs with a willing heart, we can be aware of serving and meeting the needs of others.  Therefore, the best kind of “waiting” comes from bringing joy to the One who loves us by being a “good Samaritan” to those around us (Luke 10:29-31).  How is God asking you to “wait” on others for Him today? 

The longer I serve Him the sweeter He grows, The more that I love Him, more love He bestows;

Each day is like heaven, my heart overflows, The longer I serve Him the sweeter He grows.

–William J. Gaither

JOY IN SERVING

John 13:1-11

He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet” (John 13:5).

Jesus’ disciples must have been shocked to see Him get up from the table in the middle of a meal, take off His outer garment, wrap a towel around His waist, and begin filling a basin with water.  He was about to wash their dusty, dirty feet!  This was the work of a servant—not their Leader and Host!

Furthermore, this Servant would soon give His life as the ultimate act of service.  “The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Psalm 126:3).  We are called to follow His example and we are free to serve others joyfully! 

It is so gratifying to be an instrument in God’s hand—in the name of Jesus—leading people to Him as their Savior, bringing transformation to troubled lives, comforting the sick and sorrowing.

In his blog, 1-8-10, Roy Lessin wrote:

When Jesus worked, He worked as no man had ever worked. When He found the sick He showed them the way to healing, when He found the impure He showed them the way to cleansing, when He found the broken He showed them the way to wholeness, when He found the heavy of heart He lead them to the fountains of joy, when He found those in darkness He lead them to His glorious light, when He found the thirsty He lead them to the rivers of living water.

Jesus still works and He is still speaking. What is He working in your life? What is He saying to your heart? Is there a new step of faith to take? Is there a new ministry He is leading you to do? Is there a change He wants to make within you? Is He asking you to trust Him at a deeper level? Is He saying to be still and wait? Let Him work, let Him speak, let Him have His way with you and your obedience will be clothed with joy.

“I take joy in doing your will, my God” (Psalm 40:8 NLT), and, how reassuring to know we are not left to serve in our own strength (Philippians 4:13).  He wants us to be immersed in the springs of gladness and serve Him and others joyfully (Psalm 100:2).

Since I started for the Kingdom,

Since my life He controls,

Since I gave my heart to Jesus,

The longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows. –William J. Gaither

BE JOYFUL – NOT SO SERIOUS

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy” (Job 8:21).

As an occupational therapist, Holley Gerth’s mom works with children and “has always been serious about play.“  Holley gives us a glimpse of her childhood in her blog, 4-6-12, entitled, “It’s Okay to Play:

I have a sweet Mama who used to perch on the edge of my bed and tell me stories as I drifted to sleep. One of my favorites was about Dainty Doodlebug.

Spun from my mother’s imagination, the tale shared of a prissy little doodlebug named Dainty who refused to roll up in a ball because she didn’t want to get dirty. One day a bird flies by and Dainty rolls up in a last ditch effort to stay safe. When she does, she finds out how much fun it is after all.

The moral of the story: Don’t be afraid to play. It brings joy to your life and just might save it too.

(Dainty was a smart little bug to realize play can save your life after all).

And author, Dr. Stuart Brown, of “Play: How it Shapes the Brain” says:

What might seem like a frivolous or even childish pursuit is ultimately beneficial. It’s paradoxical that a little bit of “nonproductive” activity can make one enormously more productive and invigorated in other areas of life.

Holley concludes:

When we are kids, play comes easy. We even have a scheduled time for it called recess. But the older we get, the more play seems like a luxury amid more adult responsibilities. But taking time to have a little fun lowers stress, makes us kinder, and can even help prevent heart attacks.

We’ve all got a bit of Dainty Doodlebug within us—a little part of us that says playing will make us feel silly or get us dirty or mess with our plans. But I believe there’s a great big God who’s inviting us not just to work or serve or obey but sometimes simply to play.

What makes you feel like a kid again?  What can you do “just for fun”?   Blowing bubbles with your kids?  Wrestling in the floor with them?  Dancing in the kitchen when no one is looking?  A game of catch with your pet?   Walking barefoot on the cool, green velvet lawn?  Reading a good book?

It is okay to have a little light hearted fun!  Laughter, a gift of God’s goodness, can bring us through some of life’s darkest days.  The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

The preacher came to call the other day.  He said at my age I should be thinking about the hereafter.  I told him, “Oh, I do that all the time.  No matter where I am—in the parlor, upstairs, in the kitchen, or down in the basement—I ask myself what am I here after?” –Anonymous

BE JOYFUL – LAUGH A LOT

A cheerful heart does good, like medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).

Marvin Williams, Our Daily Bread, Oct. 23, 2007, writes:

A judge has ordered a German man to stop bursting into laughter in the woods.  Joachim Bahrenfeld, an accountant, was taken to court by one of several joggers who say their runs have been disturbed by Bahrenfeld’s deafening squeals of joy.  He faces up to 6 months in jail if he is caught again.  Bahrenfeld, 54, says he goes to the woods nearly every day to relieve stress.  “It is part of living for me,” he says, “like eating, drinking, and breathing.”  He feels that a cheerful heart, expressed through hearty laughter, is important to his health and survival.

Wholesome laughter has great face value!  A cheerful heart is essential in life; it affects our spirit and our physical and emotional health (Proverbs 17:22).  Sometimes we Christians can be so preoccupied with maintaining our dignity that we become a joyless lot in need of a joy transfusion.  How contradictory, since we belong to God and He has given us this gift of joy and laughter. 

King David “danced before the LORD with all his might” when they brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem “with shouts and the sound of trumpets” (2 Samuel 6:14-15). 

Psalm 126, probably written after the return from Babylonian exile, captures the Israelites’ joy of being set free (v. 1-3).  “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy” (2a).  We need to take time to laugh.  Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.

Life does not have to be so hard!  Sometimes we make it that way by saying no to joy because we don’t have time for it, or think we deserve it; or we impose so many rules on ourselves that we’re like the Pharisees who became self-imposed slaves to the precise laws they created. 

How long has it been since you have said yes to good wholesome fun?  Paul says “Be joyful always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).  What are you waiting for?  If you are always structured, steadfast and sincere, it’s time to balance the scales with some spontaneity in your life.  

Internal joy goes public—we cannot hide it.  A joyful heart brings healing.  And when the heart is right, a joyful countenance accompanies it.  The ability to laugh in today’s trying times is a safety valve, ridding us of needless worry that could possibly harm our health. 

 

The heart overflows with gladness, and leaps and dances for the joy it has found in God.

In this experience the Holy Spirit is active, and has taught us in the flash of a moment

the deep secret of joy.  You will have as much joy and laughter in life

as you have faith in God. –Martin Luther

JOY IN WORSHIP

Psalm 95:1-7

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker” (Psalm 95:6).

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4).

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love—Henry van Dyke.

Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28).

How can joy become characteristic of our lives?  It grows out of true worship, which involves not only celebration but also confession.  In Israel’s national holidays, the scales seemed to be heavily tipped in favor of celebration—5 joyous occasions to 2 serious ones (Leviticus. 23:1-44).  Serious consideration and prompt confession of sin are essential, but God wants these balanced by celebrating who He is and what He has done for us.

A beautiful passage of Scripture is Mary’s Song, commonly referred to as “The Maginificat,” in the first chapter of Luke’s gospel.  “My soul glorifies the Lord” (Luke 1:46 – “glorifies” is translated “exalts” – NAS; “magnifies” – ESV).

 

Michael Guido in his “Seeds from the Sower,” peers into Mary’s soul:

 

In the Hebrew and Greek languages the word “soul” is used to reveal or describe a person’s entire identity – their very essence, being or character.  In this one word Mary reveals that “all” of her is committed to magnifying the Lord.  The sum and substance of her being were to worship God in all of His majesty.

 

In her song she magnified the Lord, not her child . . . God entrusted her with the Messiah because He was the center of her life.  

 

Our “spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1), in view of all the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us, is to dedicate our lives to Him.  This goes beyond acts of devotion but a lifestyle of worship in His service.

 

If we let our hearts praise and worship Him, something will occur deep inside our emotional nature.  Wouldn’t you rather give up life than be separated from His delightful love?  “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You” (Psalm 63:3, NAS).

O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

We’ll praise His name forever, Christ the Lord.

We’ll give Him all the glory, Christ the Lord.

For He alone is worthy, Christ the Lord.—Traditional text

HIS SON – THE SALVATION OF JOY (2)

Though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Jesus is the salvation of joy.  “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).  We are immersed in the springs of joyfulness! 

We have heard the joyful sound—Jesus saves!  Jesus saves!—Priscilla J Owens.

Roy Lessin, in his blog, 4-4-12, says Jesus’ best day was not when He performed His first miracle at the wedding in Cana, or the feeding of the 5,000, and not even when He raised Lazarus from the dead.

All of these moments were filled with awe and wonder, happiness and celebration, blessing and delight, but none of these moments compare with the joy that was set before Him.

Jesus’ best day was not a “most fun” day, but the day of His greatest suffering—when He went to the cross.  Charles Spurgeon said, “The wounds of Jesus are His glory.”

From our human perspective, everything about that cruel cross looks like His worst day. 

His beaten body, the pain of the nails being driven into His hands and feet, the agony and the shame, His blood poured out—all of these point to seeming failure and defeat if we do not understand the reason for His suffering. The events that preceded the cross only seem to heighten the sense of failure—the betrayal, the false witness brought against Him, the illegal trial, the mockery, the spitting, the pulling out of His beard, the lashing of His flesh, the crown of thorns.

The cross was Jesus’ best day because He did the will of His Father, because He glorified and pleased the Father through His obedience, and because He finished the work the Father sent Him to do. The cross was His best day because it meant the day of salvation, the day of redemption, and the fulfillment of the day that was foreordained before foundation of the world. . . Jesus said, “It was for this very purpose that I have come to this hour.”

The origin of our joy is salvation.  If we truly know Him, our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life! 

Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, He made it possible for this moment, this day to be your very best day.  “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:7).  There is rejoicing in Heaven’s throne room with angelic praise when one sinner repents! (Luke 15:10).

Yesterday He died for me, died for me—This is history.

Today He lives for me, lives for me—This is victory.

Tomorrow He comes for me, comes for me—This is mystery.

O friend, do you know Him?  know Him? Jesus Christ the Lord!—Jack Wyrtzen