It is not a pretty thought, but there is a good likelihood that some day your home is going to be burglarized. It is very likely that one day you will come home and find a window pried open or door latch broken. You may then find things missing – gone – just like some your neighbors. Any casual observer can recognize that you are gone from your homes regularly on Sundays and Wednesdays, creating easy targets. Like Daniel, the enemy might “find occasion against us concerning the law of our God.” It has been a few years, but Brother Gaston has been robbed. If I remember correctly, Brother Kjeldgaard has had things stolen out of the back of his old pickup. I had my tool box stolen out of my garage. And very probably there are others who have been robbed as well. The sad thing is: there is not very much we can do about it, except to hold the things of this world loosely, and trust the Lord to supply the things we really need. And sadder yet, Americans encourage many of their own losses. We may leave a door or widow unlocked, or something of value may be left out to be seen. Thousands of cars are stolen because keys are left in the ignition. In my case I invited some men to do some work for me, and they rewarded me by stealing my tools.
The two scriptures we have read this morning were written by a gifted and God-blessed man. He was spiritual, benevolently powerful, wealthy, gracious, and generally speaking, a good servant of God. But he lost a most important part of his life. It was not his wife, daughter, life, money, his crown, a computer or 90 inch plasma television. If he had lost these, he probably would have reacted like Job: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither; The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” If he had just lost things, David he might reacted with the attitude of Paul: “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”
What David lost, or had stolen, was an important piece of his own heart. It was the joy of his relationship with Jehovah and his power to serve the Lord. As a result, the Temple became a fortress against him. At this point he didn’t even want be a doorkeeper in the house God, let alone a king visiting there. The Word of God lost its sweet savor and its shining, golden luster. No longer could he say, “It is more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold.” His enjoyment of Nathan and the other preachers of the Word evaporated. He didn’t want to go to church, church camp, prayer meeting, or prayer breakfast. And of course, he might have said that it was because their love for him had changed. Personal prayer? It was a formal recitation of a few printed words; “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep.” Bible reading? Too busy. But in David’s case, our Scripture shows us that he wanted the Lord’s joy to be restored. And eventually it WAS received once again. But for a while, David didn’t want to even admit that he had been robbed.
David’s is not an isolated case. He is not unique just because he was a king or because he was a Biblical psalmist. Multitudes want the joy of the Lord, but who can’t have it, because they are alienated from God. And there are also times in every Christian life, when even the child of God loses the joy which is available to him.
But Christians ought to be the world’s most joyful people.
We ought to be candidates for the “Guiness Book of World Records.” The people at “Good Morning America” or “20 / 20” ought to be on phone asking for interviews. “The National Observer” should be sending observers to observe us. And “The National Enquirer” ought to be inquiring about the source of our joy. But why is it that so many of the people of God appear so miserable? Many times, it is that their goals are in the world (and therefore unfulfilled), Their lord isn’t the LORD, and their sins are bearing ripe fruit.
As I have often told you, the word “blessed“ is special and almost untranslatable. In the Bible it refers to joy which begins its life in the garden of Heaven, rather than in the mud of earth. It’s like the fantastic sound of a heavenly radio station. But it is transmitted in a Heavenly short wave, which is only receivable by those who have tuned in. There are nearly three hundred of these “blesseds” in the Bible And almost all are received and understood only by true children God. “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. “Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.” “I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD. Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust.” “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.”
God’s people can and ought to be the most joyous people in the world. Though father and mother, sister and brother forsake us, we have “a friend that sticketh closer than all.” We have a Father in Heaven who has given far more for each us than any human can ever give. “He that delivered up his own son, how shall he not freely give us all things?” God has ten thousand joys, like butterflies, awaiting for us to open our window. We’ve been invited to join the staff of the Great King. We may, like Mephibosheth, feast at the Lord’s table, when we haven’t strength enough to eat at our own.
Each and every step of the Christian experience can be joyous. Joy is a part of the gospel? “Joy to the world the Lord is come.” In Luke 15 we read the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, and there were learn more about joy. There we learn that there is more joy over the penitential mourning of one believer than all the mirth of the wicked. There is joy of faith in Christ, “Whom having not seen we love.” And then there is the joy of the indwelling and over-filling Holy Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace….” There is the kind of joy that filled that African man whom Philip baptized down there in Gaza. And there is the joy of answer prayer. “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” There is the joy of sowing and reaping precious seed. “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” There is joy in possessing and hearing the Word of God. Jesus said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” John said, “And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” There is joy of knowing that we’ve done the job which the Lord has given to us. “None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” There is even joy in suffering for the Lord. “Rejoice inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings.”
The world says, “But we have our joy, too!” The difference between the world’s joy and Christian joy is like difference between light and lightning. How can the world have joy, worrying about nuclear war with Korea, stock market crashes and AIDS? The world can not, but the Christian can, because he has an omnipotent Heavenly Father who loves him. The Lord has told us that this world will not end in a nuclear holocaust. Paul could say, “For the sake of the Gospel I suffer many things,” “nevertheless, I am not ashamed for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
The sad thing is that this joy may be stolen or lost at any time. Oh, the child of God can’t loose the Lord’s grace or his soul’s salvation. The Christian’s inheritance is “reserved in Heaven for him,” under God’s lock and key. and the Christian himself is “kept by the power of God unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last day.” But any Christian can loose the enjoyment of the Lord, even as we hear David cry out.
But how can these things be? How can they be lost?
Although God may aid in joy’s return, He is not responsible for its loss. He says, “I am the Lord, I change not.” “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” The Lord is no Indian giver, aboriginal giver, native American giver, or thief. “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” He is the Lord who cannot lie, and “every good gift, and every perfect gift cometh down from Heaven from our Father of lights and delights.” The responsibility for lost joy lays on the shoulder of the Christian. When he walks into the shade of the Tower of Babel, he must expect to loose the warmth of Jehovah.
The joy of the Lord may be lost by the NEGLECTING OF OUR CHRISTIAN OPPORTUNITIES. Satan is as wise as he is wicked. He is not afraid to imitate the joy of salvation by substituting the pleasure of religion. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the joy of mere religion washes away. For example, the thrill of a christening or the first communion are not comparable to joy in the Lord. Does hearing of the imminent return of the Lord from Heaven bring you joy or grief? Perhaps there is more grief than joy because you not ready for that event. Your affection is not set on things and Persons above. Some people hate the idea of the return of Christ because they are lost. How can a fish enjoy sailing, soaring, and singing in the sunshine? He is fish.
Joy can be lost by neglecting the opportunities of joy. Like those of Matthew 5: Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
I remember an old story told by a botanist who went to Scotland with his microscope. He was studying the Heather Bell, a very, very tiny flower. One day, as he lay on his stomach studying the flower, a shepherd came by. The scientist invited his visitor to take a look. His reaction surprised the botanist. “Oh, I wish you’d never shown it to me. I must have crushed ten thousand of these over the years.” To know that we ought to serve God, and not to do so, will rob the Christian of the joy of the Lord.
And joy may be lost by COVERING IT OVER. In getting Judy’s Dad’s house ready for sale, the carpet in the living room was ripped out, revealing beautiful wood floors. We have a tendency to cover the treasures of our Lord under garbage of ourselves – or of the world. GRIEF can be that garbage – tarnish on golden vessels. That was the case with the poor Thessalonians. Paul had to strip away the false theological idea that their dying brethren would somehow miss the blessings of eternity because they wouldn’t be alive at the return of the Lord. “I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” This could also have been the case with David and the death of his newly born son, but “Behold I show you a mystery, in a moment, in the twinkling of eye, at last trump for the trump shall sound and the dead shall be raised, incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” WORRY too is like graffiti on a beautiful marble wall. When fretting about tomorrow we can’t enjoy the blessings of the Lord today. And besides, all our worry can’t add single day to life or a tenth of a cubit to our stature. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Then there is the simple DUNG OF WORLDLY DELIGHTS that befoul the joy of Lord.
But these things are not nearly so troublesome as the effects of DELIBERATE SIN. David lost the joy of salvation because of lust, adultery and murder. A grieving, indwelling Holy Spirit will not permit real joy to reign in any heart. Your pride, cursing, gambling, anger and hatred will rob you of God’s joy. Your vices, reading habits and viewing habits, your jealousy, rebellion, even your sins of omission will rob you of joy. And believe me, it doesn’t take a lot of sin to break the fellowship and joy of Lord. The closer you live to Christ, the quicker you will realize that the joy is gone.
But what about the restoration David was pleading for?
If the lost joy is due something that you’ve missed – then retrieve it. If you are not serving, then serve; if you’re not trusting, then trust. It’s all pretty simple. “Don’t curse the darkness when you can turn on a light.”
This is one reason why Jeroboam wanted to keep Israel from returning to Jerusalem. Back at the Temple was the worship, fellowship and joy of the Lord. Under the shadow of the Temple were some of the prophets of God pointing out the sins of the people. Jeroboam published the word in Israel, “These golden idols are thy gods, O Israel. Don’t bother going back to church, to the Temple, and to the Lord.”
If the cause of your lack of joy is your covering of Lord then throw off those covers. “Let His light so shine in your heart that you can see the power of God and glorify your father which is in Heaven.” Do it for the sake of own mental and spiritual health. Do it for the glory of the Lord.
If problem is due sin, then repent. Follow David’s example. He confessed his sin and sought forgiveness. Remember that “the Lord is faithful and just to forgive us our sin,” when we plead the blood of Saviour. “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” The answer goes back to what we say nearly every week – “Repent before God and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”