PSALM 16:8-11 – I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
THEME OF THE DAY. WORKING FOR OUR JOY. The joy of the Lord is a Christian’s greatest experience in their walk with Him. It is energizing and puts zeal into every spiritual effort and discipline we do. Joy is what Jesus promised and is to be common in the lives of His people. Yet, this joy is often not seen in its full light. In the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he brings up an interesting side of joy that perhaps we don’t think on much. He writes, But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith (2 Corinthians 1:23-24). Yes, joy is a gift of God’s grace; a fulfillment of Jesus’ words, “But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13), but, as Paul tells us, “we also work with you for your joy.”
In working for our joy, this does not mean we earn the joy of the Lord. Nothing in the Christian life is earned. Everything is of grace. Everything, but everything of grace does not mean effortless on our part. And that leads to the second truth to understand about working for joy. Remember how the Apostle Paul illustrated the “human dilemma” of all of grace and our effort? He wrote, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Don’t keep yourself up at night trying to “untie this spiritual knot” between all of grace and our effort with grace. Just believe and rest in it. The same applies in trying to understand the gift of joy and working for it. And here is one of the reasons why we may often cry out for the experience of the Lord’s joy and not get it. We fail to understand our responsibility to work for it.
Today’s scripture is a fine example of the Psalmist working for joy. His work has achieved its goal as seen in the fruits of joy. The Psalmist has a glad heart – a fruit of joy. The Psalmist rejoices with his entire being – a fruit of joy. The Psalmist enjoys security – a fruit of joy. The Psalmist abides confidently in the Lord – a fruit of joy. And the Psalmist lives in the awareness of the Lord’s presence – a fruit of joy. How did he get to know this joy-filled life? Look at how he started. He said, “I have set the Lord always before me.” Here are other translations of his opening – I keep the Lord always before me; I am ever mindful of the Lord’s presence; I never lose sight of the Lord; I constantly fix my mind on the Lord; I always remember that the Lord is present with me; and I know the Lord is always near me. What is this Psalmist doing? The work of fixing his mind, heart, and will on the Lord. Or we may say that he is consciously remembering the Lord’s presence in His life. The work for joy begins in the mind; a mind learning to keep itself focused on the Lord. During trying circumstances, the mind sees through them to the God of circumstances and joy comes. When trials engulf us, the mind directs our thinking to the sovereign Lord of all and joy comes. In everything that would seek to steal our joy, if we practice what the Psalmist has done – a mental resolve to think on the Lord, those joy stealers will be “locked up” and the gift of God’s joy will be ours as we work for it through the mental discipline of setting the Lord always before us.
PRAYER: “Father, help me to see Your joy is not only to be enjoyed but sought.”
QUOTE: “Joy is both a gift of the Lord and a reward for our obedience.”