The joy of salvation is the first spiritual gift given to every believer. It releases the power of God’s generous Spirit to sustain and uphold us, providing we hold fast to the joy.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. (Psalm 51:12)
When I think of the joy of salvation the image that comes to mind is always that of children playing in water. One of our favourite things growing up on the farm was racing out to play in the summer storms. These are moments of pure, unbridled, effervescent joy. It wells up from deep within, spills out, and bursts the banks of all limitations. This is raw and honest, a combination of delight and rejoicing that transcends the day-to-day humdrum existence. It throws us into a place of absolute freedom and exuberance. And oh, it’s so good for us to sometimes simply fling our cares aside and, like Habakkuk says, to gambol like the calves on the hillsides. Even without the spiritual implications, we all need, like children, to rediscover the simple release of playing in puddles – or even the local water fountain if it won’t get us arrested.
The joy of salvation is our first spiritual gift.
I hadn’t really considered this before, but we receive the joy of salvation straight off. It’s that transcendent feeling that is so much more than simply emotion. It lifts us from our circumstances and brings the supernatural power and identity of Jesus into crystal-clear focus. We see further than ever before to all kinds of spiritual truths simply waiting to be discovered. We may be in the gutter, the hospital, or watching our world crumble around us, but the joy exists as something entirely removed from the natural. It is imbued with the power of God Himself and ushers in a whole new dimension to our lives. The impetus to develop deeper intimacy with God and to learn and grow spiritually is triggered and sustained by the sheer, liberating joy of salvation. It is so much more than simply ‘feeling happy’ or other human definitions.
If we take all this into account, a vital truth emerges. As we set off on our journey with and closer to Jesus, we do so with this joy already given. That’s because God knows that it’s a vital part of our walk with Him. Yet it’s often also the one gift most neglected when we go chasing off after the ‘greater gifts.’ Some may disagree that the joy of salvation is typically a gift, but there is a difference between spiritual gifts and gifts of the Spirit. It’s a fine line, but the gifts of the Spirit are those given specifically for the building up of the church. Spiritual gifts, on the other hand, are those things given to us specifically by God to build up ourselves. They are our blessings, although their natural outworking will always be that we want to share them.
The purpose and power of the joy of salvation.
The primary purpose of this gift is to magnify God. It stirs up praise and thanksgiving because we see Him as He really is – all His grace, love, mercy, power, etc. When God is magnified and occupies His rightful position in our lives, we are enabled to live supernaturally rather than naturally. It ushers in the truth that nothing is impossible with God who is so much greater than all our circumstances. The other things that follow, like faith, prayer, etc., are triggered and sustained by the joy of salvation. Our perspective of God determines the outworking of His presence in our lives. His joy keeps us focused on Him, and so keeps our perspective fixed to the things of God. It doesn’t automagically remove all the problems, but it does keep them grounded in the spiritual reality and possibilities that define God.
The second part of this verse unfolds a deeper understanding – God’s generous Spirit. When we go through tough times, it’s easy to see only the things that went wrong or which currently seek to overwhelm us. These are the moments when we lose sight of the overwhelmingly generous Spirit of God who longs to pour out His blessings and gifts and to empower us in all things. The joy of salvation reminds us of the cross. It keeps us grounded in abundant love, grace, and mercy that God has already displayed and proven beyond doubt. But the reminder encompasses every area of our lives. Salvation isn’t limited to being spiritually saved. It’s a complete ‘package’ that covers every single aspect or need. Salvation is the I AM of God made available. The joy shows us that, and we are sustained when we see His generosity.
We must hold on to the joy of salvation.
This gift of grace is one we should nurture and hold onto. It’s a sure and certain lifeline in the dark and raging seas because it is freely given by God to sustain us and uphold us. Yet it’s often the first thing to go. Life and ‘reality’ creep in. We assume that we’re not meant to have joy all the time, that it’s ‘not natural’ and cannot realistically be a permanent condition. I don’t doubt that God’s response to this is that of course it’s not natural. It’s supernatural, it’s from Him, and it’s not intended to behave according to the ‘rules’ of the natural world. His purpose in the joy of salvation is to lift our spirits above the natural so we live spiritually with Him in the place of unbounded possibility. It’s the first thing He gives us because we need it so badly.
Fair enough, we cannot fling everything aside and spend every moment running around looking for puddles to dance in. We have responsibilities and commitments and must still interact with the natural world. But we shouldn’t aside the joy of salvation for a ‘more suitable’ time. There will always be those ‘high’ moments when it explodes in us in a glorious way. For the rest of the time, God intends that it bubble within us, a sure and certain source of strength and spiritual focus on Him in all things. Shelving it or ignoring it takes our eyes off God and cuts us off from the sustaining power of His generous Spirit. When we shut the door to His joy, we close the door on His supernatural power to transform us and empower us. If we don’t have it, we need to humbly ask that He restore it.
The joy of salvation and God’s generous Spirit.
These two things work hand in hand. His generous Spirit working in and through us is the evidence that we have the joy of salvation. This is because without the joy we neither see the generosity nor enable it to work in us. God’s generous Spirit isn’t a purely abstract spiritual principle. He may be spirit, but He is also an immensely practical God. The cross exists so that the supernatural can impact the natural. Every single spiritual principle has a practical outworking that will manifest in some visible way in our lives. If it doesn’t, there would be no testimony to the power, glory, and greatness of God. This, in turn, feeds our joy. As we see God working, our joy increases, and with it comes a deeper revelation of God’s generosity. If we’re not seeing the outworking, we need to go back and examine our joy of salvation.
We all accept the reality that the things of this world cannot make us truly happy. All around us, people with everything money can buy remain unfulfilled and unsatisfied. They try to fill the ‘hole’ within through all kinds of illusionary means. Even believers fall into the place where there always seems to be something missing, and eventually settle for second best. There is a tendency to believe that God intends us to be ‘content in all things’ rather than joyful in all things. While contentment may be the best we can hope for from a worldly perspective, that’s not the way God works. He’s defined by His generous Spirit – a spirit of abundance, which includes joy. Being content is Biblical, but it applies to things and positioning rather. Having the joy of salvation is an entire different supernatural gift that should operate consistently and powerfully – in abundance.
To restore the joy of salvation.
It’s possible, at a human emotional level, to stir up a semblance of the joy of salvation. We can even convince ourselves through mouthing thanksgiving or uttering praise by rote that we are joyful. But the evidence lies in the upholding. If we’re upholding ourselves by ‘creating’ a joyfulness, it won’t last. When the proverbial hits the fan, man-made joy will vanish, leaving us floundering in the storm. Only God can release and restore the joy of salvation, because it’s a spiritual gift sourced in His generous Spirit. Yes, we must nurture it by focusing on Him and by reminding ourselves daily of His generosity and of all He has already given us. But the actual source of it is God Himself. It is only through daily intimate relationship that this transcendent joy is restored, released, and revealed to and through us.
That He desires to do this is already made plain at salvation. The joy of salvation is the will of God for us, His first precious gift. Reach out to Him today, so that His joy will transform us as He intends it to do.
Gracious Father, forgive us if we have neglected this precious gift. Forgive us if we have tried to substitute something of our own making. Bring us back to the joy of salvation and release it anew in us. Help us to focus on You and to see the full measure of salvation in Your generous Spirit. And, Lord, let it rise up to uphold and sustain us, and to overflow into every area of our lives so that we may testify in word and deed to Your glory, power, grace, and love.