As I continue to post on joy based on a recent sermon I preached, today we ask: How Can We Get Joy?
Where does joy come from? Where can it be found? The word ‘therefore’ in verse 9 of Psalm 16 points back to the rest of the Psalm. It says: ‘Therefore, my heart is glad…’ Why is your heart glad David? ‘Well, it’s glad because of everything I’ve written so far in this Psalm.’ So let’s go back to the beginning of the Psalm.
Verse 1 says: ‘Preserve me, O God, for in You I take refuge. I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from You.”’ Then jump down to verse 5, which continues in a similar vein: ‘The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup…’
Joy in seeking Christ
There is a joy in seeking Christ. Jesus is full of joy, He gives joy, and He is the source of joy. As we take refuge in Him, as we entrust ourselves wholly to God, and as we get to the end of ourselves and seek Him as an empty being, and we say this: ‘I have no good apart from You, I hopeless without you, I am desperate without You, I am a failure without You. At the beginning of this term, as I think back of all the mistakes I have made, I am full of fear that I will make the same mistakes again unless You are with me, God. Unless You help me God. Unless You make me a better father, God. Unless You make me a better husband, a better wife, a better worker, just a better person. I need You God. I have no good apart from You, and nothing that I seek in this world means anything to me apart from You. Nothing brings satisfaction to me, I am empty without You God. I have tried other cups and they do not satisfy. I have supped from the cup of ambition and it doesn’t do it for me. I have supped from the cup of money, O God, and having money in my account at the end of the month doesn’t do it for me, because next month it goes anyway. Lord, I have supped from the cup of thinking that a relationship is the answer for everything and now I have discovered, O God, that it isn’t. I have supped from these different cups and now I say You Lord: You are my cup. You are my chosen portion. I will feed on You. I will seek You with everything I have. I am an empty being; fill me up.’
You see brothers and sisters, we fail dismally at law-keeping. We do. So Jesus came and kept the Law for us. And He calls us now to an altogether different kind of relationship.
Many people say that all the different religions are the same. They have similar morals, etc. Well, yes to a point, but here is the difference. What we say is, it is not possible to reach God on your own. The standard is too high, we have all fallen short. We all miss the mark. But there is Someone who has come and shot the arrow for you. It is the ultimate form of ‘cheating’. Jesus shot the arrow for you, and now you get the victory. Yet it is not cheating because He knows what has happened and He says: ‘Come, abide in Me. Take refuge in Me. Come, be filled with Me’. Come to the end of yourself and be full of Him.
It reminds me of what it says in Philippians 3:7-9: ‘But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss… because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus…’ The more we know Him, the more we become like Him. He is the source of all joy and He is worthy of our pursuit. Jesus really is the source of all joy.
At the beginning of creation, the sons of God all shouted for joy when creation happened. (Job 38:7). At the end, if you read the book of Revelation (I think sometimes people read the book of Revelation and they get stuck on one verse and try to decode exactly what it means), if you just sit and read it through, you figure out a couple of things. One is that God wins at the end, and the other is that there is a whole lot of rejoicing in Heaven. There is a whole lot of joy in Heaven. In fact they even have to say, oh and by the way, there was silence in Heaven for half an hour. Maybe that was the first time there was silence in Heaven. I don’t know. And maybe it was the last as well. Who knows? But I do know this, there is a lot of joy in Heaven.
Some say, hang on a minute Adrian, you’re telling me that Jesus is so full of joy. Maybe I believe that in Heaven perhaps, but on earth? It says He was: ‘…a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…’ A man of sorrows, Adrian, and acquainted with grief. Well, yes, that is in the Bible but, as always when we read a verse in the Bible, we must look at it in its context. And the context of that verse is very clear. It is talking about the cross. What it is saying, actually, is this: Jesus, carried your sorrows. So the reason He became a man of sorrows (He was not always a man of sorrows) and the reason He became acquainted with grief is because He stepped into your sorrow. It is a wonderful thing that when Jesus came to the tomb of Lazarus, it says that He wept. He can’t have been sorrowing in one sense, Himself, because He knew what was about to happen – He was about to raise His friend from the dead. Yet He wept, because of the sorrow of other people. Jesus carried our sorrows. He took them away on the cross so that we might not have to be sorrowful. The truth is that, actually, Psalm 45:7 tells us that before the cross, Jesus was: ‘…anointed with the oil of joy above your companions’. Jesus was the happiest man alive, and it is quoted in Hebrews again. Oh, to be like Jesus.
Jesus was not always preaching. Sometimes He was at a party, in fact often at a party. So much so, that He was known as a friend of sinners. That was meant as an insult but, in a way, it was the best praise anyone could give Him. Sometimes He would rather hang out with the undesirables, the people that probably you don’t like hanging out with. The people where we might say ‘extra grace required’, you know, that kind of people. Jesus was there with them. He would enjoy their company. In fact, He would go to their parties so much so that (hear this carefully), He was accused – only accused, this was not actually true of Him –of being a drunkard and a glutton. I wonder how many of us know of any Christians today who are both very holy and spiritual and could be accused of being a drunkard. This is not an excuse to go and get drunk. What I am saying here is this, God is calling us to be a people of joy, people who enjoy other people’s company, and people who are like Jesus in that they are fun to be around. At one point in His life, it says in Luke 10:21 that Jesus ‘…rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit…’ I would have loved to have been there, to see what that looked like. Did He laugh? Did He speak in tongues? Did He fall over? Who knows? I do not know what really happened at that moment but it says there: ‘He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit’. That is what is on offer for us. He calls us to be like Him.
In John 15 Jesus tells us to obey Him. This is a different sort of obey. It is not obedience of law and fear, it is the obedience that comes out of relationship. He says: ‘obey Me so that My joy may be in you and that Your joy may be full’. Just hear that carefully, He commands you to obey Him so that His joy can be in you, and so that your joy can be full. In case we missed it, when He was praying just before the cross, He looked down through history and He saw us, sitting in this room and He said: ‘Lord, for Mike and Daff, for Adrian, for Rob, for Danielle, for Grace, for whatever your name is, may they have the full measure of My joy within them.
And so we must seek this Jesus, this Jesus of joy. We must seek Him beyond everything, as it says. He is our desire, He is everything, He is our portion. We do not seek anything else. He calls us to seek Him, to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and then, yes, He will add all these other things to us. So many people get this round the wrong way. So many Christians turn God into some sort of slot machine who can give them the stuff they want, whereas God calls us to seek God and then, yes, He will give us other things.
He calls us to yearn for Him, to seek Him above everything else, to say with the Psalmist: There is nothing I desire besides You. God, You are my exceeding joy. God, as the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs for You. My soul thirsts for You, my flesh faints for You. God, You are my goal. It is in You that I seek joy.
How do we get joy? We get joy in Christ. But how else do we get joy? What are the means by which to obtain joy that Christ has made available to us? In the next post we will look at some of these found in Psalm 16.