Sometimes we act like there's an exclusion clause that exempts pastors, ministers, and spiritual leaders from all of the warnings of Scripture. Of course, there are no asterisks in the texts, only editors notes about an unusual construct or contextual issue that could shade our interpretation. But, we have this treasure in clay pots. As a result, and we must guard against over-playing the clay pots thing, the Scriptures apply to leaders too. No, leaders especially.
Joy can be hidden from our view. We humans certainly have a vision problem at times, and lose focus on what is most critical for the life God intended. Just the same, joy can be one of those elusive realities because we humans simply cannot imagine what God has planned for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. Another complication in living joyfully is the harsh reality of life circumstances that can divert our attention or obscure our joy in a cloud of busy-ness. All of the above can leave us at times stale and worn, in need of spiritual refreshment. So, suddenly our defenses are down the the one crouching at the door can enter our lives so easily. And, guess what, kids? This spiritual digression can happen to his called servants--- pastors, church staff members, denominational employees, and spiritual leaders with the greatest intentions and sense of calling over their lives! Check the statistics on just about any of the reputable research sites and see the horrifying results of these many human realities in the lives of those leading our spiritual enterprise.
It's not new, either. Psalm 51 is a great example. King David had sinned grievously. He was prone to this kind of life because of his dark heart, and the effects mentioned above, the slide into sin. Psalm 51 is his personal prayer after being confronted by the Prophet Nathan about his sinful behaviors with Bathsheba. It is a beautiful expression of his broken, repentent heart. Each phrase is an admission of guilt or a plea for forgiveness. Verse 12 leaps off the page at me. He prayed, "Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit" (Psalm 51:12).
Several things stand out about this request for restoration. There are a few lessons in it for me, and perhaps for you.
(1) Sin can and does affect our joy. The request for restoration is clear enough that the joy had been hidden from King David because of this sinful lifestyle. That his joy needed to be restored is evidence enough that it had become a significant life issue. This is made more profound because, of all the people in Scripture, David is the one remembered for being a man after God's own heart. If the failure of sin could happen to a man like David, just think what can happen to us when our vision is bad, or when our imaginations have run wild, or when our life circumstances have become over-bearing, or when our faith is suddenly stale and dated. Hey, it could happen to David! It can happen to me and you too.
(2) Somebody held David accountable. Nathan the prophet may be one of the heroes in this epic of David's restoration. Most of us can't imagine being the spiritual advisor to the King and having the integrity of being so honest with him. Read 2 Samuel 12 to get the gist of their conversation and the power of Nathan's words. The point is, many spiritual leaders don't have a prophet or advisor as accountability guide in life. And, each of us needs at least one. All o f us need some up-close people who know us and will tell us when we've crossed the lines of compromise. Nathan was the man for King David. Thank God for him.
(3) Joy can be restored. David prayed for joy to be restored. Even when our lives are marked by sinful patterns like David's there is the possibility of forgiveness, restoration, and living the joy-filled life God intended. Reading through Psalm 51 we see David's many requests for total renewal, including the restoration of joy. What a testimony to God's love and grace!
(4) Salvation belongs to God. It is interesting to note the language of David's prayer request. He prayed, "Restore the joy of your salvation to me..." (v.12). It was a powerful acknowledgement of the one who authors our faith, initiates this life-changing relationship, and holds us so faithfully to him as we experience the realities of life. Perhaps the stewardship of salvation could be altered somewhat when we realize whose it is anyway.
(5) Only God can restore our joy. Yes, of course, people can refresh us. We can be lifted and encouraged by our circumstances, comforted by making the right decisions, renewed by life-style changes. But, only can restore the joy that is hidden from us by sin.
Confession and repentance are key themes in Scripture. Having the right heart to plead for forgiveness and the strength to actually turn from our sin is a significant element of recovery. When we ask him to restore our joy, we are asking him to take the barrier of our sin from between us so that we can continue the relationship with him that is necessary for our joy to be real and constant.
And, that's an issue too, our unconfessed sin. How often we cannot see the horrors of our sinful lives because the high horse is so far removed from reality. King David confessed his sinful nature, and with a contrite and humble heart asked for restoration of his joy.
He prayed, "Let me hear joy and gladness..." (Psalm 51: 8).
it's where we start on the path to inexpressible joy.