Psalm 144:15b (Amplified)- Happy (blessed, fortunate, prosperous, to be envied) are the people whose God is the Lord!
Christians should be the happiest people on the planet. It should be this way, but obviously it is not. This is why the Bible gives us statements like “I’m saying this to you that your joy may be full.” (1 John 1:4, John 15:11, 16:24)
JOY IS HAPPY
A common misconception in the church is the belief that there is a difference between joy and happiness. The way it is explained is that you can have joy and not be happy because, while joy is not based on your circumstances, your happiness is. Therefore, you can have joy and not be happy. That is just plain wrong! I have never seen someone in the world who is currently experiencing joy and has a frown on their face. No, if you are walking in and experiencing the joy of the Lord, it will be obvious! Your countenance will be lit up! You will be smiling! You will be experiencing emotions of happiness and exultation more often than not when you have joy.
Now, of course, I understand that joy is a fruit of the Spirit and is product of our newly reborn spirit that is created in Christ’s likeness and image and, therefore, is not an emotion or a feeling. I know that. But what good is having joy resident in my inner man if it does not regularly reflect in my outward man? Sure, we have all of the fruit of the Spirit contained within our spirit, but those “wells of salvation” are meant to overflow and affect our outward man. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “Out of his heart (i.e. spirit) will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). The joy of the Lord is supposed to flow up out of our spirit and into our soul and body. This is when the fruit of the Spirit is produced - when it goes from seed to fruit!
So happiness is available for us all the time. The real difference is this - joy is a gift, happiness is a choice. It’s a choice we have to make every day, and one that we should at least make for the sake of others, like our family and friends, if we don’t want to do it for ourselves. And a side benefit is, you look better when you're smiling.
Jesus was anointed with the oil of gladness more than his companions Psalm 45:7. This was evident because kids flocked to him. Children like to be around people who are happy. Get to know God and He will teach you joy.
Happy and blessed are the people who are in such a case; yes, happy (blessed, fortunate, prosperous, to be envied) are the people whose God is the Lord! Psalm 144:15 (AMP)
The Bible says, "you shall BE witnesses" not “you should go witnessing.” Our joy, peace, etc. should be our witness. The (manifestation of the) goodness of God (in my life) leads man to repentance.
THE MISSING PIECE TO JOY
If there is one thing we could all agree upon, it would be that everyone is looking for joy in their life. I doubt that there is anything else higher on the list of man’s deepest longings and desires than possessing this one virtue. In the world today, countless multitudes turn to a variety of things that offer them what I would call “counterfeit joy.” Some turn to drugs and alcohol in order to give themselves an escape from the pains of reality; others turn to less destructive things such as careers, hobbies, or relationships in a quest for fulfillment, happiness, and contentment. But the truth is, whether they realize it or not, all are looking for just one thing: the genuine and perpetual joy that only the Lord Jesus Christ can give them.
Some time ago, the Lord gave me an illustration concerning this: He showed me that every person’s life is made up of a puzzle. Some people appear to have all the pieces put together. They have a good marriage, are comfortable financially, and are fulfilling their career goals. But although they may appear to have it all together on the outside, there is still one vital piece of the puzzle that is missing in the center of their heart. People often think that if they can just obtain more money, greater fame, or better relationships, then they will be happy. The truth is, however, that none of these things can fill the void they have in their heart.
Of course, this just describes the few people who seem to actually have all the pieces of their life in place. What about the majority of people who actually lack several, if not all of these things? What these tend to do is spend all their time and energy trying to find the pieces that they lack. Their search for things such as wealth, fame and relationships is unending because they believe that if they could just find that “missing link” they will be satisfied and happy.
The problem, however, is they are looking for the missing piece of the puzzle, but are looking in all the wrong places. Friends, Jesus and Jesus alone is that missing piece of the puzzle of life, and only He can fit into that empty area of our hearts and fulfill us. Yes, He is the only person, place or thing that will ever make us feel complete and content. Everything else will simply feel like we are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Those of us who have received Jesus as our Lord and Savior already know this very well. For many of us, when we were born-again, a joy immediately flooded our soul. It was as if we were baptized in the very essence of joy and peace, thereby causing a complete change in our attitude towards life. But as is the case with most legitimately born-again believers, the joy that we experienced initially in our salvation is oftentimes not consistently maintained throughout our walk with God. The reason for this is that we only continue to experience this joy if we continue to allow Jesus to reign in our hearts throughout our Christian walk.
You see, as I am sure most of us who have been saved for some time have experienced, there is a tendency for the joy that we tasted in the beginning of our salvation experience to lessen as we progress in our Christian walk. Some have, in their ignorance, attributed the joy we experience in the beginning of our relationship with Christ to a “special grace” that we are given when we are baby Christians. Therefore, many erroneously believe that as we grow out of that infant stage, God removes this special grace and requires us to walk on our own. I could not disagree with this popular Christian philosophy any more emphatically.
I believe that the reason we experience the joy of the Lord so much more in the beginning of our walk is because we choose to experience it more. It is not that the joy that filled our hearts at salvation was God endowing us with more joy; rather, it was because we made certain decisions at that time which positioned us to obtain the joy that has always been available.
Just take a moment to consider your walk with God in the beginning when your eyes were opened to His love and salvation. In those days, no one could keep you from being involved in your church or being active in various Bible studies or prayer groups. You were not involved in these things out of obligation; you actually loved being involved in them because your heart was inclined towards the things of God. You also joyfully read and studied your Bible because the truth and the revelation were fresh and exciting. Your prayer times were also Spirit-filled to where the time just flew by. Most of your conversations with other people revolved around the Lord too, didn’t they? You loved to talk about what you were learning about Him and the revelation you were receiving from Him.
Now I understand that what I described above might not perfectly describe your early experience with God, but I would venture to say that you experienced some of these things either when you were saved, filled with His Holy Spirit, or had that “Aha!” moment with God. My point, however, is that something seemed to happen between the time you first tasted that joy and when life got in the way. Perhaps a more seasoned Christian even told you that was to be expected. However, the truth is that your joy began to diminish when your focus shifted from God and His Kingdom to yourself and your kingdom. When that happens, it does not matter how long you have been a Christian or how much joy you have experienced in the past, your joy will wane.
This is not something we should condemn ourselves over either. It is a natural progression that can easily take place in all of us because of the weakness of our flesh and because the lure of this world ever seeks to pull us down from those mountain-top experiences with God. But the truth I want to instill in you is that it does not have to be this way. I repeat, it does not have to be this way! It is possible to maintain the same level of joy that we possessed in the beginning of our walk with Christ all the way to the end. This is what the Bible teaches us. We can have joy unspeakable and full of glory all the way from the beginning of our faith to the end of our faith (see 1 Peter 1:8-9). Jesus provided us with joy everlasting, not just joy in the beginning. Hallelujah!
JOY VERSUS HAPPINESS
Now it is important to understand what the Word of God is referring to when it speaks of joy. It is not referring to feeling happy, although true joy will oftentimes produce happy emotions. Any person can experience happiness from time to time because happiness is dependent on having good experiences and favorable circumstances. Everyone, whether saved or not, will experience feelings of happiness from time to time. The difference between the happiness that the world can bring you and the joy that the Lord already brought you is the former is inconsistent and the latter is constant. Happiness is based upon the circumstances that the world throws at us. The world may offer us pleasurable circumstances one day and dissatisfying ones the next. Therefore, these inconsistent situations and circumstances will create in us emotions and feelings that are likewise inconsistent.
Herein lies the difference between happiness and the joy of the Lord: joy is not based on our natural circumstances. The joy that the Lord gave us is based on spiritual realities that are eternal and not subject to change. That means that your joy never has to change! Yes, joy can remain and reign constantly in our hearts because it is based on a God who never changes, and on His Word that will never pass away. Amen! Moreover, joy is a product of the part of us that is not based on our feelings anyway. Joy originates in our spirit and it is the Holy Spirit who gives us perpetual joy as a fruit of our recreated and regenerated human spirit (see Galatians 5:22). So as children of God, we have this everlasting joy within us and available to us all the time. As Jesus said, “our joy no one will take away from us” (see John 16:22). We can and should experience the joy of the Lord 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Amen!
THE BIG QUESTION
So, the question that begs to be answered is this: if we have this everlasting joy on the inside of us, why do we walk in it so inconsistently? If we were honest about it, we would have to admit that we have not always experienced the level of joy that the Bible teaches is available to us. But why? What keeps us from consistently experiencing the joy of the Lord as we should? The Bible gives us some specific reasons for this, and that is precisely what we will talk about in this series. We will take a journey through the Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians and answer this big question - How can we walk in fullness of joy all the time?
You might well ask why I chose the Book of Philippians to expound on the joy of the Lord. It is because in this letter, the Apostle Paul uses around seventeen references to joy and rejoicing. Seventeen references to joy in four chapters, for an average of some four references per chapter. That is amazing! It is for this reason that the Book of Philippians has been affectionately referred to as “The Epistle of Joy.”
But what the Lord has revealed to me is how this 2,000-year-old letter is more than just an epistle that contains many references to joy; it is also a Holy Spirit-inspired book that contains the keys to unlocking that life of joy that is available for all of God’s children. That is why I am so excited to be able to put these truths into your hands as we go through this series.
THANKFULNESS IS A KEY
Being thankful is a catalyst to being joyful. You show me a thankful, grateful person and I’ll show you a happy person.
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:18-20
The theme of this passage is thankfulness, and it’s not a suggestion - it’s a command. Having melody in your heart produces joy. Getting full of the Holy Spirit will also produce joy in you.
And here’s a word of wisdom on “giving thanks always for all things to God” - we give thanks for the things God gives to us, not the things the devil gives to us. We need to live a lifestyle of thanking God for all the things He has given us. We do this by thanking Him directly and by telling others what He has done, bragging on our good, good Father. When we let our eyes get on our circumstances, we start to lose our joy. But if we focus on Jesus, our joy remains and increases. This is born out in Hebrews 12:2, which says, “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross.” So make a habit of thanking God for what you DO have, even when you are going through stuff.
“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.” Psalm 100:4: Notice here again that the Word commands us to be thankful to Him. It’s not a suggestion. It’s a command. We are commanded to approach the Lord with thanksgiving. In this Psalm we find the proper protocol of entering the presence of the King of Kings. The illustration of the Tabernacle is what is being used. We are to begin our approach of God with thanksgiving. That beginning approach is described as the gates of the tabernacle. Then we are to walk down the courtyards through praise. This Psalm ends there but now under the New Covenant we all who can enter through the gates and courts of the Tabernacle can enter into the Holy of Holies. And that is done through worship because we now can worship God in spirit and truth.
Here are two more great passages from the Psalms on thanksgiving and joy.
“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.”
“You will show me the path of life; In your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11
But what is our natural tendency? To complain about what we don’t have. Like, “Why can’t I have a Church where the heat works?” We could focus on the blessing of such great teaching at our Church from a variety of people instead of what’s not right or to our liking. Look at the Pilgrims. They went through really trying times, but chose to give thanks for being freed from religious oppression and for the harvest they had just reaped.
Now there is a difference between being thankful and saying thank you. How many of you remember your mom telling you to say thank you to someone, and you begrudgingly said the words? You can say the right things and still be miserable. What I am talking about is having a heart of gratitude, or an attitude of gratitude. This is what changes our emotional makeup and allows us to live in joy.
So if we want to be fully pleasing to the Lord and have God’s best, we must cultivate a lifestyle of thanksgiving. That means we have to work at it. Genuinely being thankful does not just happen. It is a product of your perspective. We must choose to be thankful every day, and by doing so, we can purposely and aggressively pursue happiness. It starts with being thankful, giving thanks for what He's done, naming specific things. Then it continues with praise, moving into the courts. And then moves through worship into the Holy of Holies.
When you do what God says, even if you don't feel like it, the walls come down, just like in Jericho. So your pursuit of joy can bring down walls of depression, anxiety, doubt, fear, etc. The end result is the joy-filled life that everyone wants. Amen!