I hope this day finds you and your family well. I invite you to take a few moments with me to read and reflect upon today’s scripture selection — and to carry these thoughts with you into your day.
Today’s Scripture: Psalm 16:5-11
1 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
I have a goodly heritage.
7 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
8 I keep the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
my body also rests secure.
10 For you do not give me up to Sheol,
or let your faithful one see the Pit.
11 You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
The psalmist says, in prayer and song, “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy.”
We say it in the creed we most often use in our worship service: “God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.”
And what does the psalmist experience because of God’s presence? Fullness of joy.
Samuel M. Shoemaker, a priest of the Episcopal Church considered to be one of the best preachers of his era, said, “The surest mark of a Christian is not faith, or even love, but joy.”
Jesus’ ministry was so marked by joy that removing the joyful aspects of Jesus’ life and teachings would shorten the gospels. Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God in the language of joy — as a feast, or a wedding, or a pearl of great value, or a buried treasure. The gospel of Luke alone would be thin indeed if you took out all the references to feasts, banquets, celebrations, and parties.
Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.” (John 15:9) . . . “I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.” (John 15:11)
It’s important that we realize, however, that joy is not the same as happiness. The astounding thing about joy is that it is not dependent on what is going on around us. Happiness depends on what happens; joy does not.
Happiness comes from the old English word ‘happ’, which literally means “chance.” It suggests that if things happen the way we want them to happen, then we are happy.
Joy, on the other hand does not come because something is happening or not happening but arises from our faith within.
I like what the late Reverend Dr. Gil Ferrell, a United Methodist pastor, urban missioner, and seminary professor said about joy: “Joy and happiness may sometimes dress alike, but they are not twins. Sometimes I wonder if they are even kin; I think they come from different parents. You can plan for happiness, anticipate it, often achieve it. Joy is unpredictable.”
Paul said that joy was an aspect of the “Fruit of the Spirit,” the fruit born in the lives of people who “walk in the spirit” — those who live their lives fully aware of the presence of God. What Paul is saying to us is that joy is something that comes from within, it is something generated in us by the Holy Spirit as we draw strength from our relationship with God.
When Paul cataloged the fruit of the Spirit, he chose his words carefully. The Greek word Paul used that we translate “joy” is the word chara. It is from the same family of words as that beautiful word, charis, which translates to “grace.” Charis, or grace, is the basis for our Christian life. It is by charis that we experience joy. The joy in our lives comes because of grace.
Because chara is based on charis, joy is based on God’s grace in Christ, not on what is happening around us or to us, we can understand Paul writing in Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. And I say again rejoice.”
Note carefully what Paul says: “rejoice in the Lord always,” not “rejoice for everything.”
There is no pleasure in sickness, or job loss, or family tension. There is no pleasure in knowing a loved one is dying.
When Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always,” it’s not the outward circumstances that determine this rejoicing. It is our inner relationship with God. We rejoice “in God.” It is the joyful relationship we have with God that gives us pleasure and strength, even in the most difficult of circumstances.
Author Ann Douglas Sedgwick died in 1935 after a lengthy illness. Near the end of her life, the nature of her illness was terrible. She could not breathe unless she was lying down and she could not eat unless she was sitting up. Yet, in that terrible plight, she said this, “Life is difficult and yet life is mine and it is beautiful to me. There is joy in knowing that I lie in the hand of God.”
In Romans 5, Paul writes that we “rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so but we also rejoice in our sufferings.” (Romans 5:3)
It is our knowledge and experience of the presence of God that gives us joy, as it did the psalmist.
“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”
Joyful, joyful, we adore You,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flow’rs before You,
Op’ning to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!
All Your works with joy surround You,
Earth and heav’n reflect Your rays,
Stars and angels sing around You,
Center of unbroken praise;
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Flow’ry meadow, flashing sea,
Chanting bird and flowing fountain
Praising You eternally!
Always giving and forgiving,
Ever blessing, ever blest,
Well-spring of the joy of living,
Ocean-depth of happy rest!
Loving Father, Christ our Brother,
Let Your light upon us shine;
Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine.
Mortals, join the mighty chorus,
Which the morning stars began;
God’s own love is reigning o’er us,
Joining people hand in hand.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife;
Joyful music leads us sunward
In the triumph song of life.
Thank you for sharing this moment of your day with me, with God, and with these reflections on a portion of scripture. I hope you will carry these with you throughout your day and night.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster