By Joe McKeever
“Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation” –Psalm 51:12.
Just because salvation is for eternity, anchored forever in the faithfulness of God, does not mean you cannot lose the closeness and fellowship with our wonderful Lord. A married couple can lose their joy and intimacy for a season, although the marriage is still valid and intact.
God’s faithfulness does not wax hot and cold depending on what we do or how we felt when we woke up this morning. He does not undo our salvation when we weaken and falter. The blessings upon us are conditional to our faithfulness and may dry up, but the relationship never varies. Forever, we are His and He is ours.
My children may be in or out of my favor at given times, but they are still mine.
Just because the Lord brings us into His forever family (through faith in Christ, by His precious blood, as a result of His grace) and promises to “never leave thee nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5) does not mean we cannot lose the joy of that relationship.
We can. And many have.
Try not to lose yours.
Jesus promises us His joy (John 15:11 and 17:13) and fullness of joy (15:11 and 16:24). He promises that no one can steal our joy from us (John 16:22).
Jesus sees joy as one of the essential elements of the Christian’s walk. C. S. Lewis said joy is the business of Heaven. Psalm 16:11 assures us joy is the very atmosphere of Heaven.
King David sure lost his joy.
He did it by taking his eyes off the Lord and diving headlong into sin.
That deadly plunge cost him more than he would ever know.
David sinned and he sinned grievously. Giving in to his lustful heart, he denied himself no pleasure and took Uriah’s wife as his bedmate. Then, when she became pregnant–her husband was off doing military service for the adulterous king!–David arranged to have him killed in battle in order to protect his own reputation. Shameful doesn’t begin to describe what David did!
Scholars say Psalm 51 is David’s prayer of repentance. Perhaps composed sometime later while reflecting on his fall from the closeness he had once enjoyed with the Father, this song (for that’s what it is) expresses so well that separation and the conditions necessary for restoration.
Sin separates us from God. “Your sins have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2).
So David prayed, “Restore me the joy of Thy salvation.” He said, “Do not cast me away from Thy presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” (Psalm 51:12,11)
Have you lost the joy of your salvation?
Do you look back to a time when the Lord seemed nearer, when worship seemed more wonderful, the Scriptures more joyful? Do you long for the time when joy was a constant and peace defined your life?
Do you remember being clean and feeling such joy in the Lord’s nearness? Do you long for that once more?
Here are seven ways to tell if you have lost the joy of the Lord’s salvation…
One. Look at your face.
The Psalmist called God “the helper of my countenance” (Psalm 42:11). You know He is that, don’t you? When the Lord enters the heart of a yielding, surrendered soul, He fills that life with joy and peace and love. And when He does, it registers on the face. You’ve seen it happen and I have too.
But look at the face of one who has rebelled against His Lord and lived in sin for years. The pain is etched in every line, the loneliness stares at you through the sad eyes.
A pastor told of a woman of the streets coming to him for counsel. She looked rough and used up by life, much older than her actual years. Opening her purse she took out a photo of a little girl, maybe 4 or 5 years old. So cute and precious. “That was me,” she said. Bursting into tears she said, “Oh pastor, when I think what I have done to that little girl, I could just die.”
What does your face say about your joy in Christ?
Two. Listen to your words.
Our Lord said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 15:15-20). When the joy of the Lord flees, the residue left in its place is guilt and restlessness, and that shows up in everything we do. ((For a helpful Bible study on this, look at King Saul in I Samuel, beginning in chapter 13. The more Saul forsook the Lord and took matters into his own hands, the more miserable he became. He lost his power (I Samuel 18:12), lost his peace (I Samuel 18:10ff and 19:9), and lost his prayer (see I Samuel 28:6). ))
That’s the reason you cannot tell me the man speaking a constant stream of profanity is a follower of Jesus. His words belie that claim. (God alone knows. I’m simply saying there is nothing in his life that tells the world he is saved. I’m not judging him but neither am I believing if he testifies of salvation.)
What does your speech say of your relationship with the Lord Jesus?
Three. Examine your prayers.
The prayers of the backslidden Christian tend to be clichés, vain repetitions, just pious words that evade the real issues of life.
You’re going through the motions and you know it. Just filling the air with religious words, hoping to impress someone–yourself, your church, your neighbor. Everyone except the One to whom you should be praying.
Look at the prayer of the self-righteous Pharisee in Luke 18. He wasn’t talking to the Lord, but making a little speech bragging on himself.
What do your prayers say about your love for the Lord Jesus?
Four. Check your giving.
God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). When joy fills our lives we are generous and loving. When the joy is absent, we pull the same stunt as the worshipers of Malachi’s day. Read the early chapters of his short book at the end of the Old Testament. People were bringing diseased, unworthy animals to the Lord, and they grew angry when the prophet challenged them, saying God was insulted by their shoddy gifts.
People do this in church.
People who have lost their joy hate to give. People who have lost their joy in Christ resent the pastor preaching on giving. People who have lost their joy in Christ write those anonymous notes preachers receive, urging them to quit harping on money or “You’ll be looking for another church.” Or they’ll be pulling out and taking their huge gifts. Which is a joke, of course. If they were giving faithfully, they’d love the sermons on tithing. That is an ironclad rule, friend, which you may engrave in stone.
Pastors should never cave in to the threats of the carnal and backslidden. Never.
What does your giving indicate about your joy in Christ?
Five. Notice your witnessing.
I’m all too aware that most backsliders never share their faith (or a reasonable facsimile of same). But some who are in the habit of talking to people about their faith, their religion, and salvation, may keep right on doing so even after they’ve fallen into sin. For one thing, it’s a good camouflage. They think this will prove they’re still faithful. But listen to what they say and you’ll find it rules-centered, legalistic, and superficial. When we lose our joy in Christ, the message we share is no longer attractive to anyone.
What does your witnessing to others say of your relationship to Jesus?
Six. Think about your singing.
I’m not saying the non-singers are out of fellowship with the Lord, but almost. The backslidden may still be able to harmonize but not with the joy of the Lord which makes it acceptable to Him and precious to those around us.
What does your singing say about your joy in Christ?
Seven. Ask those who know you best.
Ask your spouse and/or your children. They will know in a heartbeat but may not tell you what they’ve noticed unless you ask.
Think of King David. The foolish man thought his dalliance–and the resulting manslaughter!–were his private little secrets. But the one group of people who knew beyond a doubt of his unfaithfulness were those who lived in the same house as he. They saw what he did. The family knew. The servants knew. David’s best friends knew. He alone deluded himself by thinking what he did in private was no one’s business but his own.
Through the prophet Nathan, the Lord informed David that by his rebellion and sinful indulgence, he had despised the Lord, despised His Word, and delighted the enemies (2 Samuel 12 verses 9, 10, and 14). God would forgive him but nothing would ever be the same.
I have no doubt that for the rest of his life David looked back on those as the darkest days of his life. He remembered those days with great shame and pain and deep regret.
But there is mercy with the Lord. And forgiveness to all who humble themselves and come home. That’s the story of the Prodigal in Luke 15.
If you are far away from the Lord, read Luke 15 and be encouraged. Then, read Psalm 51 and give yourself to Him anew.
Joe McKeever is a retired Louisiana Baptist pastor and former director of missions for New Orleans Baptist Association. This editorial first appeared on his blog, joemckeever.com.