Monday, October 26, 2015

"His Joy in My Spirit"

On the kitchen counter in my home there once stood a plastic container labeled "New Fresher Lemon Scent Joy." Why should anyone want to call a dishwashing detergent "Joy"? I suppose to generate good feelings; because if you're doing dishes, you need all the good feelings you can get. However, neither that label nor the bottle's contents has ever made washing dishes any more enjoyable for me. But not long ago, while washing the dishes, I began to think again about another kind of joy.

My thoughts turned back to a fifth Sunday evening worship service at Sagamore Hill Baptist Church (before we changed locations and dropped the "Hill" part of the name) some years ago. At the close of a lovely testimony of the grace of God in her life, a singer names Gayle said these words: "I have the praise of the Lord on my lips, His joy in my spirit, and the passion of His love for me in my heart."  Powerful words. Words that penetrated my spirit, lingered there all this time both to encourage me and to challenge me in my own relationship in the Lord.

What is this thing called joy? Many of us relate joy to happiness and define them both as if they were the same. But joy is not happiness. Happiness often depends on circumstances, on events, or on happenings. When something good happens, something pleasant and beneficial as well, it brings us happiness. Alternatively, if something bad occurs, something also unpleasant and not so beneficial, it results in unhappiness. You see, happiness is kin to happenings, both descending from the same root word, "hap," which means luck, fortune, or chance. If you're lucky, you will also be happy. If you're not lucky, well, you get the picture. Not so with joy! Joy does not depend on luck or circumstances.

What, then, is this thing called joy? "O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill And to Your dwelling places. Then I will go to the altar of God, To God my exceeding joy; And upon the lyre I shall praise You, O God, my God." (Psalm 43:3-4)

The psalmist takes us into the presence of God to show us that joy is the Lord Himself; it is part of His very nature. For us to discover joy, we must abandon all searching for it and go searching instead for the One who is Himself joy to see, to know, and to love. Seek His face and you will discover not only joy but "exceeding joy," a phrase meaning actually "the gladness of joy" or "the delight of joy." And in your seeking, you will also discover that real joy is a deep, abiding sense of the presence of God in your life.

Very often we perceive His presence only when we discover the wonder that God has built into the daily experience of our lives. In the beauty of a sunset, for instance, I see the Lord. The rose bush beside my house once produced one yellow rose; and in its fragrance, I sensed the Lord's hand. In the warmth of a smile, the refreshment of a cool breeze, the exhilaration of worship at Sagamore (or anywhere else), in the joy of helping another--everywhere I turn, I sense God's presence and thrill in the joy of it. God is a God of joy. And this life--this day--this moment is His gift of joy because He is in my life and in this moment.

The Psalms, the most joyful of Biblical books, resound with rejoicing because its poets were keenly aware that God, the source of joy, is near to protect them and to succor them. Their confidence in His presence and their trust in His power join to remind us of the truth of a sign I once read: "Joy is the flag flown from the castle when the King is in residence."

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