Six Steps on the Path to Joy

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Psalm 16 is a hymn of personal joy that focuses on the goodness of God. The personal pronoun “my” is used over a dozen times. To have the kind of life that the Psalmist enjoyed, we must be intentional in our choices. In the pursuit of happiness in God, here are six steps that we can learn from the Psalmist.

1. Take Refuge in the Lord

The Psalmist begins, “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you’” (Ps. 16:1–2). Taking refuge in God means asking him to shelter you and acknowledging that you have “no good apart from the Lord.” Go to God in prayer and affirm, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Ps. 73:25). He is the source of our safety and security, the fountain of our hope and happiness.

Like Ruth, we must take refuge under his wings (Ruth 2:12). “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us” (Ps. 62:8). God himself is our refuge, our salvation.

2. Delight in Fellowship with the Saints

“As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight” (Ps. 16:3). Christians should rejoice in other Christians. We don’t live the Christian life alone; we are part of a great spiritual family and need one another. Our joy is completed in the fellowship of the saints (2 Jn. 1:12). We rob ourselves of joy when we constantly judge and nit-pick our brothers and sisters in Christ. Instead, we should thank God for them!

3. Separate from the Ungodly

“The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips” (Ps. 16:4). We must be careful not to be defiled by the sins of the wicked. This does not mean that we should be isolationists—we are to be salt and light in the world, as Jesus commanded. But we should be careful in our associations with the ungodly. Israel associated too closely with the Canaanites to their demise.

4. Praise the Lord for his Blessings

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance” (Ps. 16:5-6). The Psalmist alludes here to God’s apportioning the land to the twelve tribes of Israel. They determined by lot the various boundaries. As David applies this to himself, he rejoices that having the Lord as his portion is better than the best piece of land that anyone could inherit. We need to praise God that he is our supreme treasure.

5. Set the Lord Before You

“I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (Ps. 16:7-8). When God becomes your supreme treasure, you experience his stability in trials. John Calvin said, “David kept his mind so intently fixed upon the providence of God, as to be fully persuaded, that whenever any difficulty or distress should befall him, God would be always at hand to assist him.”

6. Rejoice in the Great Hope God Has Given

“Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:9–11). 

Dennis Kinlaw comments, “The psalmist writes not of the path to life but of the path of life. The one who finds it lives.” David’s satisfaction stands in stark contrast to Solomon. Solomon sought satisfaction in work, but he found it empty. He sought fulfillment through wisdom, but he found it vain. Infinite joy is offered to us in Christ alone. Sell all that you have to buy the field with that great, eternal treasure (Mt. 13:44) and you will have fullness of joy and pleasures forever in him!