In once knew a lady who moved out of the city of New York into a beautiful rural setting. But soon she was not happy. She longed again for the city. She regretted she had ever sold her home there amidst the subways and the blowing paper and the noise. There are those who have retired early from work, thinking if they could get away from the work-a-day world, they would be happy. But, alas, they were not happy. It is more sad yet, when Christians, having put their hand to the plow and having a song at first in their heart begin to look back and then are caught in the painful straddle and lose all their joy.
This is part 6 of an 8 part series on the subject of joy. The Joy of the Lord — His Joy is Sheer Joy — and it is our joy, We’ve talked about the Joy of the Harvest — when you serve God and bring home something to him in profits, you are profited and blessed with a joyful heart. We spoke about the Joy of Answered Prayer. We talked about Joy even in trials. It isn’t necessary to have no conflict or burdens in order to know blessings. In fact, it is exactly the other way around in the spiritual realm. We talked about Joy Forever, that eternal hope we have in him which will one day be realized. And if the anticipation of it is good, what will be the participation in it, but overflowing joy.
Now, I would like to dedicate this message to just simply counseling those who find it a mystery about this joy. It is not in their lives as it ought to be and, furthermore, there is a great deal of misunderstanding, perhaps, about it. The fullness of joy has eluded you, perhaps, and it seems that the whole matter is nebulous to you and mysterious. You sing these hymns about joy but you know it’s not real in your life. If you’d like to understand about spiritual joy, let me remind you that you can know this, you can know it for sure, you can know what it is all about by just studying this text today — Psalm 51:12.
“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.”
Notice that here is a text that will answer some questions. If you would like to understand spiritual joy, then give heed to these questions and the answers which are intimated in our text.
- Where does one get this spiritual joy?
- Why is it lost?
- How is it regained?
Notice the origin of this joy. Where does it come from? Verse 12 – He says, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.” It is of the Lord. It is of the lord — that is where it comes out of. Just like good fruit grows from a good vine. You see, when we find salvation, we find the Lord himself. One of the Psalms reads: “Let all those who put their trust in you, rejoice. Let them ever shout for joy because you defend them. Let them also that love your name be joyful in you.” (Psalm 5:11)
The other week I came by the nursery just before church began. A father had just apparently dropped off his baby. That little child was crying for daddy and I could hear them trying — now usually nobody cries in our nursery, you know that, we have the best nursery, but it just so happened that the one time a baby cried I happened to be right by the door — and this little one was saying, “Daddy! Daddy! I want Daddy!” The workers there were trying to divert his attention, “Look at this! Look at that!” But no, he wanted his father. And daddy was the only one who could have satisfied him.
When a Christian loses their joy, then they may search around , then there is one thing that is missing, that is the Father’s face. The Lord is our joy. Now even the secular psychiatrist whom the Christians sometimes claim, Karl Jung, who died a while ago, has made the statement, “There is, so to speak, a God shaped hole in the human psyche that needs to be filled.” There is a vacant spot in us which only God can fill. The Psalmist is praying, “O God of my Salvation, give back that relationship to me. I want you.” Psalm 73:25 reads, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.” The Lord is the God of our salvation. He is our joy as Moses wrote, “Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord…” (Deuteronomy 33:29). Having the Lord, we have all of those wonderful relationships.
Psalm 16:5-9 —
“O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You maintain my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance.
I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel;
My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.
I have set the Lord always before me;
Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope.”
Zechariah 2:10 —
“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” says the Lord.
And when Jesus entered into the city, he referred back to some of that prophet’s writing and quoted this Scripture:
“Rejoice greatly O daughter of Zion, shout O daughter of Jerusalem, behold your king comes to you.”
As he rode into the city and the people shouted until his enemies were confounded, he said, “Why, if you shut up those little children, even the stones will cry out.” You see, God brings praise and joy into the heart because it is his salvation, his deliverance, he brings to us. Back in the book of Nehemiah, the people having heard the word of God were beginning to grieve over their sin and after they had repented, the Lord’s teachers said to them, “Don’t grieve, the joy of the Lord is your strength.” And then it says the people had great mirth because they had understood the words that had been declared to them. And you know, when you understand God’s word You’ll join with the Psalmist, (Psalm 19) “the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandments of the Lord are pure, enlightening the eyes. Your Word is my rejoicing.” It does something to you when you are hearing your Savior’s voice — when the Lord himself is rightly related to you, then there is this joy and this peace.
A man who is not a believer will sometimes have happiness. Because he knows that pleasure, he experiences the pleasure that is just for a season in sin. Though there is that contradiction for just a little while, God tells us ahead of time it is that way. When you see the Christians out on their Saturday night parading and frolicking, you may not realize what it’s like to wake up on “blue” Monday and without God or hope. The worst part of a hangover is not the biliousness within the stomach; it’s that utter hopelessness, the meaninglessness, the folly, the foolishness, of what has gotten them into that, and the hopelessness that is ahead of them.
I’ve seen people who are all smiles. But, you don’t find those who are ill in sin smile. Oh, how good it is to look up and say, “There’s no judgment against me. If God be for me, who can be against me?” That is the joy of the Lord. The first converts of the apostles, as they preached in the book of Acts, were said to have gathered in one anothers home and they did eat their bread with gladness and singleness of heart. “Singleness” means childlike simplicity of heart. That’s the thing the devil just cannot stand. He will do anything he can to destroy that childlike joy and contentment with your Father in heaven. He doesn’t want that. He can’t stand to see you gathered into the arms of the Father and to be trusting him. “Happy is the man who fears and trusts the Lord.” The Apostle Paul wrote in real concern to the Corinthians in II Corinthians 11 and said, “I fear after I have brought you on to Christ that you are going to have your simplicity spoiled. You are going to have that simple relationship for the Savior ruined by the devil.” That is the mark of a Christian. From the very birth, spiritually, you are to know joy. It is a contradiction to be an unhappy Christian. I am not talking about surface. On the surface many Christians are almost in despair at time, there’s difficulty. But, underneath, there is that support that God gives and there is a joy that is the fruit of the Spirit –not the result of right breaks.
“If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” “And the fruit of the Spirit is joy.” That is part of it. Well, then, I come now to one of perhaps the most agonizing puzzles. You say, “Here I am. I have not joy! Then, I’m not a Christian?” It could be that you’re not. There are no unbelievers who have the joy of the Lord. They may have the pleasure of their way for a while. They may be people who have glands that work just so that they have a bouncy, giggly feeling about life, they may be positive and not pessimistic. But, they won’t have the joy of the Lord because it is a joy that comes of salvation. And, until you surrender to Christ as your Savior and Lord and you have him rule you, you’ll not know any joy — not his joy anyway.
Well then, what about those who have believed in Jesus and yet they find themselves today without a happiness and that joy. The answer is found in our text. Our text does not say that “Restore to me the salvation of your joy.” Notice what is the fruit and what is the root. The joy is the result of a prior salvation. And, so, you can never be sure of the root, beneath the ground, unless you see something above the ground. And, you, who do any gardening know that you look there and you don’t know whether that seed has germinated or not. You’re curious, you’d like to scratch it up! But, then, you might ruin the thing. So, when it’s beneath the soil, you can’t even tell whether it’s been planted or not, until something comes up. The proof of our salvation is the joy. Without that joy you will not know where you stand. But, notice this, he is not praying “restore to me my salvation.” No! He is praying, “restore to me the sense of my salvation.” …my assurance of it….give back the joy of my salvation. Salvation does not come from the joy. Joy comes from the salvation. But you can lose the sense of it. You can lose the peace of it. What then causes this great loss?
At the first part of the chapter we can see what happened. Already we know that David wrote this. We know what he had done. He had committed terrible immorality and he had blood on his hands, too, for putting to death the rightful husband. Notice what he prays at the end of verse 1: “O God, have mercy on me. Remove this awful blot from my life!” Verse 2 — “And wash me completely from this iniquity. Cleanse me from my sin.” There was a film of filth all over his life. He felt it. He wanted relief from it. And he said in verse 3, “I acknowledge my transgression, my sin is right there before me. I am unable to shut it out. My conscience keeps flashing it on the screen on my memory. O God, help me and turn off those pictures.” Verse 4 — It is against you, Lord, that I have done this evil thing. I’ve sinned against the one who is my redeemer.” Verse 8 — “And if joy is to return to me, O God, you will have to mend the bones that you broke.”
God faithfully afflicts a sinning child of his. You see children on the street sinning. You see the neighbors in their homes, you should be able to tell if they are good parents. Which ones are parents to which children? A good parent goes to the sinning child and chastens him and deals with him. If you are without chastening, you are not his. But he says, “O God, in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” Psalm 119 — “You’ve broken these bones. You’ve broken me down, O God. And you are my healer, too. You’re going to have to restore me if I am going to have joy again,” Verse 9 — “Hide your face from my sin. Blot out all my iniquity, O God. Your eye is upon me. I thought I had my sin hidden. But, I forgot about you and you won’t look away from the sin. So, O God, remove the sin. Cleanse it away that it may be hidden from you.” The eye of God is upon some of your lives today. Young woman, God knows you. Young man, you older ones, God knows your life. The Psalmist says, “In my heart, too, O God, not only forgive my sin and hide it from you, in forgiveness, but cleanse me and renew a right spirit within me. And O God, (verse 11) don’t cut me off. Don’t remove your Spirit from me. I’m only kept by the Spirit. Restore me, O God.” And then he says, “if you will do that, I will then teach transgressors your ways. I’ll turn sinners back to you. Just take away this guilt and deliver me from it.”
Verse 14 — “And again I can sing of your righteousness and salvation. Open my lips. Let me again praise you with a glad heart. Restore to me the joy of thy salvation.” The joy is lost, you see. The restoration? How does it come?
Before going to that, this lost joy has something to do with what you have done. In psychology this is one of the most sure and certain of all of the rules and it is often overlooked by modern psychiatrists who believe nothing about responsibility. There are some of you who are reading this who have a popular intuition about psychology. You know instinctively in the courts when they do not make a man guilty. They rather explain, he was drunk at the time that he beat the head in and pulled the light cord around somebody’s neck. So you can’t blame the poor man. Or, he had a deprived childhood; he was a disadvantaged person — that’s why he gunned down all those people. We should rather pay our debt to him and let him go free and we go into prison. Society — we are all guilty. You hear this a lot. But, perhaps you never connected — you know there is a deception there, something is wrong — but perhaps you never connected it to your own life.
Did you ever stop and say, and realize, that some of your own depression is coming because you are guilty of something? You go into the dugout of one of the teams — I hesitate to say the Red Sox. If you pick out a team that’s not hitting the ball. Here is the man who used to be a ringer and now he is way down — he’s not even up to 200 — that fellow is not going to feel very good. He’s not hitting the ball. And, some of you ladies, thing are piled, the ironing is piled, the house is scrambled — you’re way behind time, you’re still planning your spring cleaning and you’re depressed. That’s why you are depressed. It’s from actual failure in doing and performing your responsibilities. Why don’t you perform them? Because of something still deeper. You’re not right in your life and your character. So we go to the doctor, “give me a pill, I’m depressed.” Well, what’s that got to do with it? That’s not the answer at all! The answer is in what you are doing or not doing. You’re defaulting. Your behavior is wrong. Your pattern is wrong. You are slovenly. It is a defeatist’s life you are living. But that isn’t the bottom of it yet. Why are you doing that? Because in your heart there’s something wrong.
Now when you translate that over into the moral realm, it’s exactly the same. The parallel holds right there. What we do destroys our joy. The Lord Jesus came into the world with this good ringing testimony. He said, “I delight to do your will, O my God, yes, your law is in my heart.” The last phrase of Proverbs 29:18 and all through this book this is taught, but it’s just clear as a bell — in little phrases here and there. The last half of 29:18 — “he that keeps the law, happy is he.” It’s that simple. When you are batting more than 500 things are right. If you aren’t hitting the ball, if you are not obeying God, you’re not living up to your responsibilities, things go sour. The joy of the Lord is missing. The Psalmist wrote in that study of God’s word in Psalm 119:6 — “Then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect for all your commandments. They will not be offended who keep your law.” They are going to have great peace. They who keep your law have great peace. So the peace and joy and the unashamed outlook on life, the unconfused outlook on life, comes when a man is obeying and squaring up with God’s laws. When you do wrong, you will feel wrong, ultimately. Though there may be joy in sin just for a season. Now, when a man is doing wrong, this goes back to what he is. And, the joy of the Lord has everything to do with what you are and the very bottom of it is our joy is ruined when we do wrong. There is an area of wrong in our life, sin persisting there, the joy is removed. Why am I doing wrong? Beneath that is because I am wrong. And that’s where the Bible puts the emphasis. The characteristic fruit of the Spirit is joy — it is a joy in the character of the person. It is a life character that is commensurate with the joy of the Lord. And it goes like this: (Did you ever hear these words?)
“Blessed are the pure in heart. They shall see God.” Joy-filled are those who are right in their hearts, they shall see God. Blessed are the meek — the humbly responsive to God — they shall inherit the earth. How blessed are the poor! Great riches are going to be theirs. They are joy-filled! Those who are right in their heart with God. We know that is true. If God is our joy, himself, then “grieve not the Spirit of God, whereby you are sealed. Quench not the Spirit.” If you have and thing are wrong, then how do you get back this joy?
I have a clipping. Jerome Peckman of Portland Oregon gives his solution for failing joy and if you need restoration, this is what you do: I go out and buy an 8 ounce can of Pork and Beans. Eat them one at a time so you can count them. Just count away your troubles. Don’t count sheep. Count beans by eating them one, two, three. And when you are done, you’ll have about 250 (on the high side) and 225 (on the low side). All these years, it never varies more than 25 beans at a time. That’s the way this self-appointed philosopher gets back his equilibrium in life. Of course, I am suspicious of that fellow because he wanted ivy that was growing on the outside of his home, he wanted to be able to see it grow on the inside of the wall, so he bored a hole right through his living room wall. Somehow, I don’t trust him. I think there is something wrong. I would encourage you to come back God’s way.
Ask the question: “How is this joy regained?” I notice he turns to God and he says, “Lord, you restore.” Before we examine the implication of that, there is a fact that I want to make sure every person reading this agrees with: A Christian trying to get back his joy, while continuing in sin, is faced with the same obstacle that sinners will be faced with in eternal hell when they try to escape. In the suffering of hell, the sinner who wants out will face exactly what some of you face trying to get back your joy on the one hand while keeping on with the sinful life, the compromised life, the mean life. God almighty stands against you. “Whom he loves, he chastens.” The scourge of God will stand against the man who claims to be a Christian, who wants the joy of God, but still is fooling with sin. Choose you this day whom you will serve. What did the Psalmist do? He turned to God. I give up my sin. Remove it from me. I want you! REPENTANCE — that’s first. You might be interested to look at the companion Psalm written by this same writer — Psalm 32 — written at the same time or perhaps a little later. It’s giving his testimony and is written about the same failure in his life and how God restored him. Here he tells how he regained. Psalm 32:3: “When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; I was shriveling up like a weed in the parched ground. That was when I hid it — when I kept silent. When I didn’t make it right with the one I had wronged or sinned — I owed restitution to my parent or neighbor.” Then he says, “But then I acknowledged my sin. Verse 5 — I came out with it, I didn’t hide it any more and I said I am going to confess my sin to the Lord. I’m going to make it right. And, you forgave my sin.”
Do you recall what God says in Matthew 5 — if you have sinned against your neighbor, you know there is a grief between you and your neighbor, or you have hidden something from a husband or a wife or parent or brother or sister, and you owe them a confession — you are hiding it from them — you are deceiving them. God says before you can get through to me at my offer you are going to have to go and make that right. But you say: “I thought God’s altar was for poor sinners!” It is! But, do you know that even the blood of Christ will not and cannot ever cleanse you, though you tell him your sin, until you make the sin right and forsake the sin. You cannot receive forgiveness while continuing in the sin. You cannot receive joy above all things, while continuing in that sin. But he says: I am going to break with it. I won’t hide it anymore. I’m going to come out with it. And then he says in verses 6 and 7:
For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You
In a time when You may be found;
Surely in a flood of great waters
They shall not come near him.
7 You are my hiding place;
You shall preserve me from trouble;
You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.
Deliverance brings new joy. Restore, O God, to me that joy that is missing. Happy is the man who fears always, who obeys the Word of the Lord.
After repentance comes remaining on the alert. Be like the man who being in a sound sleep is suddenly startled, who at midnight sits right up in bed — his eyes are blazing in the dark, darting here and there — his ears are attune — that’s the way a Christian is to be. Be on guard, be alert. And, at the very first sign of temptation to run and commit himself to God again and keep from the sin after you’ve repented and made it right. Go to your brother, go to your parent, your husband, wife and make it right.
Secondly, make it right with God. Tell him you have sinned — your sin — as David did. Claim the blood of Jesus Christ in prayer. Tell God you accept that offer. Then, the Bible says you will be like those who dream — it will be so wonderful. Then he says, the trees of the field will clap their hands and sorrow and sighing will flee away. And instead of ashes, God will give you a garland of beauty for your life. But, alas, for some of you today, that’s far from your life. You’re in the ashes. Listen carefully now. You know now where you left the track. God has shown you. You know the way back is through him…..you’ve got to come back to him who is your joy. The one you’ve wronged and sinned against is the one you’ve got to have forgiveness from. And the wonderful thing is: “come to me and I will make you as white as snow. Though you be laboring and heavy laden, you are going to find rest for your soul.” Do that right now.