Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Joy of Salvation

    Avigail took a deep breath. This was it. This was her last hope, their only chance. If this didn’t work, all was lost. Slowly, carefully, she tipped her jar of oil, the only possession she had. Reuven and Benaiah, her two sons, watched in silence as she poured. They knew what was at stake. The oil was flowing, a steady stream disappearing into the much larger vessel. Avigail’s hand started to shake, making the stream of oil quiver. The little jar should’ve been emptied by now, but the oil was still flowing. The nature of the silence abruptly shifted from expectant to shocked as they all realized what was happening. The oil was not stopping! Suddenly, Benaiah cried out, “Mama! It’s going to spill over!” “Quick!”, Avigail called. “Another jar!” Reuven grabbed one of the dozens of vessels they had borrowed from their neighbors. Avigail filled that one too, and the next one, and the next. Jar after jar, and the oil just kept coming. Not until the very last jar was filled to the top did the oil cease. “We’re saved!” Avigail cried. “The LORD has saved us!” Because of this oil, their debt would be paid. Her sons would not be slaves. They were free! What joy!
    Have you ever known the joy of salvation? I remember the hour I first believed. I remember kneeling at my mother’s knees as she led me in prayer. I remember asking Jesus to forgive my sins. I remember saying, “Amen” and feeling a sudden rush of happiness. Although at age 5 I couldn’t put words to it, it felt exactly as though a load of bricks had been taken off my shoulders. What joy!
    King David knew something about this joy. In Psalm 51, when he is confessing to God after his sin with Bathsheba, he pleads, “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation”. Sin always causes separation between us and God, and that eliminates joy. “In Thy presence is fullness of joy”. (Ps. 16:11) This is true not only in the eternal sense, but also as a principle in our daily lives. According to God, there are no problems outside of sin, and no solutions outside of Jesus Christ. David, in Psalm 32:1 says, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” The word “Blessed” literally means “happy”. So if you aren’t happy, if you don’t have joy from being in the presence of God, the reason is very simple: there is unconfessed sin in your life. That may sound harsh, but it’s the truth, and the truth will set you free! In Psalm 32, David goes on to describe what life is like in that state: painful, peaceless, and dry as a desert. Then in verse 5 he unveils the solution: “I acknowledged my sin unto Thee...and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin”. It’s that simple! I’ve seen this borne out so many times in my own life. When I realize that my joy is missing, I’ll go to God and say, “Ok, what’s wrong?” and He is always faithful to gently and specifically show me where I have been disobeying. Maybe I’ve harbored a spirit of complaining, or spoken without kindness to someone. Maybe I’ve allowed an anxiety to roost in my soul, or been unthankful. Whatever it is, if I take it seriously and confess it as sin, God forgives me and cleanses me from it every time. Then comes my favorite part: our relationship is restored! I am reconciled to God and can rejoice in Him again!
Joy is not reserved for conversions and mountaintop experiences. It’s supposed to be a constant, daily reality, just like our walk with Christ. It is, after all, a fruit of the Spirit. “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit”. (Gal. 5:25) So how do we keep our joy when trials come? What do we do when the basement floods, when you have a headache, when your prayers haven’t been answered yet? Keep your focus on Jesus, and trust Him. Refuse to look at the enemy’s evidence, he’s a liar. Jesus is our source of joy, and if you remain clinging to Him, your joy will have no end, only increase. Blessings!
“Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, you righteous;
And shout for joy, all you upright of heart!”
-Psalm 32:11

Written for Pathways To Serenity, Vol. 1, Issue 4: "Joy"