The Joy of Your Salvation

Psalm 15:12

        David was a man who knew highs and lows in life. Threats from his enemies created fears within his heart. Friendships, victories and the arrival of the ark of the covenant in Jerusalem produced moments of exhilaration. His own wilful sin of adultery produced hours of agony and inner turmoil. From one of the lowest points in his life he uttered one of the most beautiful prayers to God in Scripture: “Restore to me the joy of Your Salvation” (Psalm 51:12).

Peter was a man who also knew highs and lows in life. When he saw Jesus give him a miraculous catch of fish he recognized God’s greatness and his weakness. He saw Jesus transformed in glory. He went from confident boasting about following Jesus to death to denying Him three times. In his beautiful first letter to Christians in Asia facing persecution and testing Peter, like David, made a strong connection between joy and salvation. Speaking of faith in Jesus Peter wrote, “though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Life today is filled with highs and lows. There are many things to rob us of joy and fill us with sorrow. Information technology has opened us up to experiencing the joys and sorrows of others around the world. It also informs us about events that are dangerous, fearful and beyond our control. Some situations seem beyond hope. We sometimes get into them by our own poor choices. Lasting joy and happiness sometimes seem impossible. Where is real joy to be found in the midst of all this?

With his back literally against a wall many times, David found that joy was not in his circumstances but in God who saved him from his enemies and from himself. Peter wept bitterly at his own failure but found forgiveness and salvation in Jesus. In humility, David and Peter looked beyond themselves to God as the source of salvation and with it they received real joy. God acted in their lives to bring them out of desperate straights. He saved them and gave them joy.

Like a diamond, the joy that God brings us as He saves us has many facets. First, the joy of salvation is God’s. David prayed to God, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.” It is of His salvation. God is the author and source of our salvation and the joy it brings. Circumstances will bring us a wide range of emotions from saddness to extreme gladness. This range of emotions is normal. Jesus experienced deep agony and joy. One thing that should be a constant source of joy though is knowing we are saved from sin and death by God not oursleves. At the heart of the gospel, the good news, is Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection for our sins. That is what we herald in this paper, the gospel. It brings salvation and joy.

Since salvation is eternal, the joy of salvation has eternal roots that transcends time: “In Your presence is fullness of joy, In Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11). Looking forward to our own resurrection and being with God forever is a source of joy. While on earth, joy can be the experience of God’s gladness, a taste of the state of eternal joyfulness.

Like the “peace of God that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), the joy of our salvation is “inexpressible” (1 Peter 1:8). It sometimes makes no worldly sense to have joy when everything seems to be falling apart in our lives. The joy of salvation is not circumstantial, it can flourish in adversity. The Christians in Asia knew joy because of God’s Spirit and their awareness of His salvation. The beautiful hymn, “Into the Heart of Jesus” echoes the belief that we can have “joy in the midst of sorrow, peace in the midst of pain.” “Joy” comes from the same word family as grace, it is an unmeritted gift from God. It leads to rejoicing which can lift our spirits (Philippians 4:4-9). Paul knew joy in the Philippian prison cell. It was from a prison cell that he wrote the “Epistle of Joy.”

We in the West have a lot to learn about joy from our brothers and sisters in poorer parts of the world like Africa where the church is growing more rapidly. Missionaries who have worked in Africa have noticed how happy the children are. They are living proof that joy is not circumstantial as we see it. Despite their poverty they have joy while many in affluence are still seeking it.

The joy of salvation comes from faith, not from sight, “though you have not seen greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible” (1 Peter ). It in turns leads to a willingness to be with God and do what pleases Him: “Sustain me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:12). It grows. It is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). The joy of our salvation can be lost. It can be restored. Though we are guaranteed persecutions, we are guaranteed joy. Though other things come and go, it is deep and abiding. No one can take it way. On the threshold of bringing God’s salvation to the world, Jesus said, "Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you” (John 16:22).

Paul Birston

August 2005©

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