Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
When have you felt the most joy in life? What caused that joy? How long did that joy last? Why did you stop experiencing joy (if you have)? What would you do to get that joy back?
David, known as a man after God’s own heart, had experienced tremendous joy in his life, even when running for his life and hiding out in caves. He knew what it was to live a life of joy – not a life free of trials or trouble, but a life of joy. But, eventually David would become King and begin to lose his focus resulting in some really bad decisions. It was adultery and murder that stole David’s joy.
The biggest joy stealing culprit in our lives is sin. It doesn’t have to be adultery or murder, just about any kind of sin will do. When we try to live life on our terms it almost always ends up in selfish and sinful decisions. That sin will take our joy. Leaving us with the question what do we want more – the sin we have been living in or the joy we have been living without?
David was tired of living without. He wanted that joy back. To get it back he was willing to take responsibility for his sinful actions. He was willing to come before God humbled and broken confessing his sin and recommit himself to a life of obedience. His life needed to be, once again, not about him but all about God.
The joy David was after couldn’t be found anywhere else. His massive kingdom couldn’t provide it. All of his military victories couldn’t give it to him. His wealth, his power, his success – none of it came close. So, he cried out God – return to me the joy of YOUR salvation. What he wanted only God could provide.
Many of us want joy – a joy we cannot find anywhere else. To get there and experience it we need to become like David. We need to repent of the sin in our life and be willing to leave it behind. We can’t blame anyone else, that’s one us. Confess it and leave it. With that burden gone and barrier out of the way joy can come in.
When the angel announced Jesus’ birth they said He would bring great joy to all. God wants you to have joy. He wants you to live in joy. Jesus is ready to give it to you. But you can’t have sin (which breaks that joyful relationship with Jesus) and joy. We must choose. Let’s choose joy.
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
I think one of the most peaceful moments I have experienced was sitting out in the woods watching the sun set. It was during hunting season and I walked a few miles out on a ridge and sat down. I was supposed to be watching for elk but was taken by the setting sun, the stillness in the air, and the absolute peace I felt. In that moment I had no responsibilities, no burdens, and no phone ringing (there was no service). It was peaceful. The only problem – it wasn’t sustainable. I had to walk back to camp, I had to drive back home, and I had to engage in life. Peace is amazing and would be even more amazing if we could have it all the time.
Those kinds of peaceful moments are wonderful and we all need to experience them regularly. But, when we talk about Jesus being our Prince of Peace those are not the moments He died to give us. He actually came to give us so much more than that. The peace Jesus came to give is sustainable – it is eternal.
But, before we can experience this sustainable peace we first must confront the things that steal our peace. In Matthew Jesus said he didn’t not come to bring peace, but division. Now, that sounds contradictory to what Isaiah said doesn’t it? The Prince of Peace wasn’t going against His mission, He was telling us that what He brought isn’t going to be easy to receive. It isn’t going to be an escape from reality, but a new reality. It is going to require confrontation. The promised result, however, being deep and abiding peace.
Jesus came to give peace through confrontation. He confronted the sin in the world. He confronted the religious leaders. He confronted the broken and the lost. Jesus’ public ministry wasn’t about trying to get everyone to agree. It was about showing everyone the way to ultimate peace.
If you want peace today then start by seeking Jesus. Expect some conviction and some challenge. It isn’t a bad thing, don’t resist it. Through that challenge comes repentance and through repentance comes forgiveness. It is in forgiveness we can find real, lasting, peace.
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.