What if I were to tell you that joy is always available? Are you interested in knowing more? I am. If you are reading this post, that must mean that you are as well.
I am starving for joy. I’ll admit that I have not been very happy. I walked through quite a streak of stresses and difficult circumstances over the past 3-4 years and it got the best of me. I’ve been waiting on the next bad thing to happen rather than shaping something good. So I started searching for joy. I found it. In Psalm 16 David shares 5 places where joy is always available.
Joy is always available in God
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.Psalm 16:1-2
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”
Joy is a reaction. Joy is a response. There always has to be a reason for joy. You can’t fake it.
Joy is not like love in that we can love someone who is not easily lovable. Jesus commands us to love our enemies. But when it comes to joy, you can’t take joy in something that isn’t joyful. Taking joy in something that isn’t joyful is sinful. The Bible uses words like envy, jealousy, covetousness, and drunkenness to describe the misguided notion that a person can find satisfying joy in joyless things.
Joy is Not an Option
What’s even more interesting is that joy is not an option. The Bible speaks of joy about 430 times. The Bible uses the word “rejoice” about 230 times. Did you know that the Bible commands us to rejoice and be glad more than it commands any other thing? That means that just as it is a sin to take a human life, it is a sin not to be happy! That’s a problem if I can’t find joy.
So what makes you happy? Family. Food. Friends. Money. Sports. We all have a shortlist of things that make us happy. But there’s another problem. Those things are not always available or affordable. Then what?
You’re fine with your shortlist as long as there is someone at the top of the list that is always available to give you joy. So David secures his joy. He declares that the Lord is his Lord and that he will find no good apart from God.
David does not share his circumstances, but if you know anything of his life you know that he is a man who seemed to surf the highs and lows of difficult situations. Declaring that he seeks refuge in God indicates that there is no joy in his current circumstances and so he turns to the faithful reservoir of joy. God. And that is wise. Since God commands joy He is always available for joy. Seeing that the Bible so often mentions joy, we can take conclude that God is concerned for our joy.
And David is not disappointed. In verse 16 he shares what he has found. “In your (God) presence there is fullness of joy.” That word full means satisfied, saturated. It means that the supply has not been exhausted but that you simply don’t have the capacity for more.
For those who name the name of the Lord, there can be no one else on the top of our list of things that make us happy than God. God commands us to take joy in Him. “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.” If He commands it, He is available for it. Being the most excellent being in existence He will never fail to give us a reason for joy.
Joy is Always Available in God’s People (vv. 3-4)
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,Psalm 16:3-4
in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.
It is no surprise to hear that God is the source of infinite joy. But as a human, I need more than words on paper. I want to see Him, feel Him, and hear Him. I want to experience God.
One of the great doctrines of the Bible is that the church is the Body of Christ. God has chosen to minister His graces to His people through His church. Basically Jesus died for our sins. Rose from the grave. Ascended into Heaven. Gave us His Spirit and essentially said, now you be me on earth. No pressure!
And David has found this to be true. Not only does he have an excellent God, but David has found some of God’s excellent people. The excellent ones are the people who have been affected and infected by God’s joy so much so that David not only finds pleasure in God, but he delights in God’s excellent ones.
Immediately we raise an objection. Some of the meanest people I have ever met have been in church.
The Bible has something to say about this as well.
The Ugly Side of Church
- Not all people who claim to be God’s people are God’s people. Unfortunately within the church, there are false teachers (2 Peter 2:1) and fake Christians (Matthew 7:15-23). These people are definite joy killers. They bear no spiritual fruit (Gal. 5:22-24). They exhibit no evidence they are indwelt by God’s spirit. They share no witness of Jesus. The Bible says they are there. Identify them, but don’t make decisions based on them. The fact that you can draw no joy from them and that they seek to distract you and destroy your joy should be no surprise to you. These are not God’s excellent ones.
- Not everything that is claimed to be of God is from God. Another unfortunate reality of church is that even sincerely saved, spiritually indwelt, regenerate people can exhibit spiritual immaturity. This is true of all of us from time to time. If we are not careful, we get caught up in gossip, accusation, deception, unfaithfulness, and anger. In response to this, we should renounce it and approve what is excellent (Titus 3:8-11). In short, we should seek to quickly end expressions of immaturity and approve joy (1 Peter 2:1-3). It’s especially true that when you are seeking joy in a turbulent time that it is wise to adopt David’s approach to ungodly people and ungodly things in 16:4. I smell blood, and I’m not going to go there! It’s false. It is not of God and it only ends in sorrow. And who needs more of that? Not me!
While it is true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, don’t fail to look around and find God’s excellent ones. These are most often the people who are not vocal. Often they are not noticeable, but they are excellent. They will pray for you, encourage you, and impart godly wisdom. Since God is an ever-present source of joy, you can take comfort in knowing that there will always be people who have been affected and infected by His joy who will be a delight to you.
Joy is Always Available in God’s Ways (vv. 5-6)
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;Psalm 16:5-6
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
Have you ever wondered “why?” Of course you have. What’s even more painful is when we find no joy in our circumstances and we seem to get no answer from our ever-present God of endless joy. THAT – I do not enjoy!
But notice that joy may be frustrated, but it is not lost. The cup in the Bible is a metaphor for fate. Jesus referred to this in his conversation with God in the Garden of Gethsemane, “If possible let this cup pass from me (Matthew 26:39a).” And then comes that beautiful statement of our Savior’s surrender, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
There is no way we could plumb the depths of the reasons for Christ’s surrender, but one of them is certainly cited here in Psalm 16. Notice the language. The Lord does not just give us the cup. God gives us Himself. He is our chosen portion and our cup. The Lord holds our lot. The fact that He holds our “lot” basically means that our fate is not simply left to chance. There is joy in knowing that God’s choices are providential and purposeful. Even more amazing is that we have Him! This is why the Bible speaks so often of the paradox of joy that God’s people find in the midst of sorrow (James 1:2-4, Romans 5:3-5, Psalm 30:1-5). It can be said, because God is our cup and our portion that our suffering is not pointless, nor is it joyless.
The Lines in Pleasant Places
But what does the Bible mean here about the lines falling in pleasant places? This is a reference back to God’s distribution of the promised land to Israel as their inheritance. It is as if he is walking around within the boundaries of his inheritance and finding wonderful things. It is like a man who has just been given land exploring it for the first time and he likes what he sees with every step he takes.
What is interesting about Israel’s inheritance is that it was possessed in obedience. I think this sense of boundaries, or commands is also encapsulated in the word “lines.”
So let’s put it all together. Sometimes you don’t like your circumstances, but you cannot change them. When you don’t like your circumstances you may not think much of God’s commands because you don’t want to do them. But Psalm 16:5-6 tells you that there is joy always available here. How so?
The Journey and the Job
- Journey in the command. As the picture of the verse indicates, walk around, take a look. The command may not look like much when you take a look at it, but journey in it. You will find some pleasant places in it. You will find some unexpected beauty there. In God’s commands, there is no regret. There are no foolish mistakes. When certain things DON’T happen, certain things WON’T happen! Think about it! Take joy in the journey of waking rightly with the Lord.
- Work the command. Just like Israel had to work the land you have to work the command. It will bear fruit! You will find the joy of God’s preservation in the command. You will experience the bounty of God’s blessing in His commands. Don’t negotiate it, shortcut it, or question it. Just do what God says to do! His ways are not your ways and His thoughts are not your thoughts. He’s God. You and I are not! Work His plan. Do His commands. You reap what you sow! “Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy (Psalm 126:5)!” Work it! There is joy within the boundaries of God’s commands. You will never be truly happy until you are concerned with being holy.
Joy is Always Available in God’s Word (vv. 7-8)
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;Psalm 16:7-8
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
I don’t know about you, but I do my worst thinking at night. Sleepless nights are filled with voices. It is at night that my mind replays every criticism, rehearses every doubt, and exaggerates every fear. But David does not hear cursing, he hears the voice of blessing in the night. David has found that joy is always available in God’s Word.
The passage is instructive to us about our approach to God’s Word. If you want to hear the voice of God bring you joy and drown out your critics in the middle of the night then God’s Word must be taken 1) as counsel 2) as instruction 3) to heart. God’s Word is not intended only to be read. The intention of God’s Word is for it to be obeyed. Furthermore, if it is to change me, it must be within me. Psalm 16:7 reflects David’s commitment to Scripture meditation and memorization reflected in Psalm 119:11, “Your Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.”
And notice that his experience in God’s Word helps him to find that God is not only always before him, but that God is at his right hand. The result is that he will not be shaken.
There is joy in knowing that there is not a single thing you can go through that God is not already there. He is ever before you. God’s Word is filled with stories, prayers, illustrations, and wisdom for every circumstance of life.
There is always joy in knowing that God is always available at your right hand. What does this mean? It is a nod to the ancient warrior who carried his shield in his left hand. This means that his right side is most exposed. Every warrior knows that the person beside you is critical to you. His shield was the cover for your right side! Let His Word be your counsel and His presence be your defense. There is joy always available in God’s Word!
Imagine going to be tonight and instead of hearing criticism, you hear Psalm 16. Take God’s word to heart in meditation and memorization. It will not be long until you do your BEST thinking at night!
Joy is Always Available in God’s Salvation (vv. 9-11)
There is nothing more miserable than not knowing where you will spend eternity. I remember what it was like not knowing. Doubt is crippling. I remember what it was like to be lost.
But did you know that of the 430 plus times the Bible mentions joy, that it mentions most the joy that is found in salvation? There is nothing that can bring a person more joy than knowing God, defying death, and having hope in the resurrection.
David found joy in knowing that the grave was not his end. As humans, we need something to look forward to. David looked forward to leaving behind a life in which we experience only the first-fruits of joy at best and entering into God’s presence where there is endless pleasure and fullness of joy.
If joy is always available in God, in God’s people, in God’s word, in God’s ways, and in God’s salvation and you meet a person who says, “I have no reason for joy,” that is a person who is in Hell already. For a human, created by God and commanded to enjoy God, to have no reason for joy, he is already experiencing the tragedy of Hell minus the flames.
If that is you, I would point you to Christ! Repent of sin. Turn to Jesus today! Today is the day of salvation. JOY IS ALWAYS AVAILABLE!
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