It’s not uncommon for people to greet others with ‘Merry Christmas’ and a Happy New Year’ around the holidays. Indeed, the pursuit of happiness is the way of the world. Happiness is part of the United States Declaration of Independence as it states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Let us first look at happiness and then let us take a look beyond happiness to joy. They are not the same.
As already stated, the pursuit of happiness is a basic conquest for people. Now, there are two kinds of happiness:
- Natural Happiness – Natural happiness is related to happenings. If your team wins the game, you are happy. If they lose, you are unhappy. When the Minnesota Vikings football team eventually wins the Super Bowl, I will be happy. Actually, I will be, like the rest of Minnesota, ecstatic. If your boss gives you a raise, you’ll be happy. If you get fired, you will be unhappy. Natural happiness is an emotion, and it is all related to happenings. That’s the pursuit of happiness that’s so many yearn for and think of, often tied to money, possessions, automobiles, houses, trips, pleasures . . . you can go on endlessly. Tragically a Barna survey in 2010 revealed more than half of evangelicals agreed with the statement, “The purpose of life is enjoyment and personal fulfillment (Breakpoint.com). Unfortunately, that kind of happiness is not lasting as there’s more to life than the pursuit of natural happiness.
- Spiritual Happiness – Spiritual happiness is related to doing the right thing, acting in obedience to God’s word, and responding to His leading. This kind of happiness is a byproduct of right living. We can see this in the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount when you could use the word ‘happy’ for ‘blessed.’ Chuck Colson said, “So what then does this happiness mean? Our founding fathers understood the pursuit of happiness to mean the pursuit of a virtuous life. This concept of happiness comes from the Greek word ‘eudemonia,’ which refers to a life well-lived life rooted in truth. That is what happiness means and that is what every man and woman has an inalienable right to pursue – a virtuous life.” He goes on to sum it up as “The goal is not pleasure. It is righteous living, decency, honor, doing good, – in short living a virtuous life” (Breakpoint.com). You don’t make happiness the goal of life. You make living righteously the goal. And if you do, then you will find happiness is a byproduct of righteous living.”
But there is more. There is joy!
Joy is more than happiness. Dr. David Jeremiah points out, “the Bible puts far more emphasis on joy than on happiness” (TurningPoint/Facebook Post). The words’ joy’ and ‘rejoice’ occur more than 400 times, while ‘happy,’ ‘happiness’, and similar words occur only just more than 20 times.
The book of Philippians is a book about the joy of Christian living. ‘Joy’ is to rejoice and be glad, be joyful, end it is related to our relationship with the Lord. Habakuk 3:18 declares, “Yes, I will rejoice in the Lord. I will rejoice the God of my salvation.” In other words, joy flows from a relationship with the Lord and not just from the circumstances or the happenings in our lives.
Psychologist and theologian Jim Wilder is quoted as saying, “Joy is a dynamic, relational experience, in which you are in the presence of someone who is glad to be with you”(ChristianityToday.com). Psalm 16:11 declares, “In your presence is fullness of joy. At your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Joy comes out of a relationship with the Lord.”
SCRIPTURES ON JOY
With this in mind observe some other scriptures about Joy:
- Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness . . . “Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It comes from the Holy Spirit working in us.
- Philippians 4:4 calls us to rejoice always. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!.” We can choose to rejoice!
- Nehemiah 8:10 “Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.'” Joy is a powerful source of spiritual strength.’
- Psalm 126:5 “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.” Joy can come to us even in trying circumstances and pain. See also James 1:2f “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials.”
- Psalm 100:1 “Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!” This verse lays to rest the concept that joy is only a quiet inner sense of well being. It can be vocal and loud.
- John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” Jesus brings joy that remains. See also John 6.
JESUS AND JOY
Jesus told three parables in Luke chapter 15 that’s spoke about joy: ‘The Lost Sheep,’ ‘The Lost Coin,’ and ‘The Lost Son,’ with the call to, “Rejoice with me.” One scripture about Jesus and joy is profound. It relates to His death. Hebrews 12:2 declares,
“for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God.” If we go through pain and suffering, we, like Jesus, can look with joy to what lies ahead of us, even heaven.
I will remember a Charismatic Catholic priest speaking at one of our conferences in Australia saying words like these, “If there were more Christians with joy the world, there would be more Christians in the world today.”
When people experience the presence of Jesus in the life of God’s people and see joy at work in their midst, they can see the transformation that it brings, and that the Lord can truly bring joy to one’s life. Long ago we used to sing a simple song.
Joy is the flag flown high from the castle of my heart
from the castle of my heart,
from the castle of my heart
Joy the flag flown high from the castle of my heart
for the King is in residence there
So let it fly in the sky let the whole world know
let the whole world know, let the whole world know.
Let it fly in the sky let the whole world know
that the King is in residence there.
Lord, let there be more joy amongst your people. Let us be a people of joy!