‘In thy presence is fulness of joy.’ Psalm 16:11 KJV
The word happiness comes from the old English word happ, which means ‘chance’. It corresponds to the Latin word fortuna, which means ‘luck’. Both words suggest that when things happen the way we want them to we’re happy, and when they don’t we’re unhappy. But such happiness is temporary and fickle; true joy is permanent and settled. Some Christians are so serious and solemn they’d lead you to believe God cringes at laughter and hates anything that smacks of joy and delight. The psalmist wrote, ‘In thy presence is fulness of joy.’ C. S. Lewis observed, ‘Joy is the serious business of heaven.’
The truth is, the Bible is one of the most joy-filled books ever written. The words joy and joyful are found there at least245 times. The word rejoice shows up around 150 times, and we’re instructed to be joyful and rejoice nearly 400 times! That means joy isn’t an emotion, it’s an attitude. An emotion can’t be commanded; no one can tell you to feel happy if you’re not. But you can choose to be joyful regardless of your circumstances. And neither is joy a commodity that can be bought. Many people find out too late that money can’t buy happiness, much less joy. It’s been said that the poor are better off than the rich, because while the poor keep thinking money will buy happiness, the rich know better. Trying to find happiness and joy in materialism is like drinking salt water: the more you drink, the thirstier you get. The secret to lasting joy is in realising that you’re unconditionally loved, valued, and accepted by God.
‘A merry heart does good, like medicine.’ Proverbs 17:22 NKJV
The Bible says, ‘A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.’ Do you know that laughter is such good medicine that it can help to relieve stress, cure headaches, fight infections, and alleviate hypertension? Some doctors tell us laughing produces physical benefits similar to the benefits we get from vigorous physical exercise. When you throw your head back and laugh out loud, the muscles in the abdomen, chest, shoulders, and elsewhere in your body contract, while your heart rate and blood pressure increase. Just one burst of laughter can cause your pulse rate to double from 60 to 120, while your systolic blood pressure can shoot from a normal 120 to 200. Then once you stop laughing your heartbeat and blood pressure dip below normal - signalling reduced stress.
God created laughter because He knows it’s good for your health. Don’t, however, confuse happiness with merriment. Merriment comes from joy, not happiness, and understanding this is crucial to your emotional well-being. There are times when we can’t and shouldn’t be happy - when people are hurting, going through tragedy, or losing jobs and loved ones. In the face of injustice happiness is inappropriate, if not impossible. Yet the joy that comes from knowing that you are unconditionally loved and accepted by God enables you to remain joyful. That’s because:
1) Happiness is external; joy is internal.
2) Happiness depends on outward circumstances; joy depends on inward character.
3) Happiness depends on what happens to us; joy depends on who lives within us.
4) Happiness is based on chance; joy is based on choice. So today - choose joy!
‘That my joy may be in you.’ John 15:11 NIV (2011 Edition)
Jesus said, ‘I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.’ The joy Jesus is talking about is unique: ‘My joy.’ And it’s fulfilling in a way that the world’s happiness isn’t: ‘That your joy may be complete.’ Being a faithful follower of Christ’s teachings brings inner joy that’s real and resilient regardless of economic indicators, interest rates, government deficits, and even disease or death. You can’t be happy without being joyful, but you can be joyful without being happy! How’s that possible? Jesus had previously told His disciples that we enjoy a love which transcends all others - the love of our heavenly Father that’s unconditionally offered and, once accepted, is permanently experienced.
Nothing can compare to the love of God. His love isn’t based on looks, personality, wealth, or even moral goodness. It’s offered without any preconditions. And it’s neither fickle nor failing. You can’t do anything to make God love you more, and you can do nothing to make Him love you less. Furthermore, divine love doesn’t just give you ‘warm fuzzies’. It’s constantly at work to direct you towards making wise decisions, to protect you from making poor ones, and to correct you when you make bad ones. God’s love guarantees His acceptance when all others have rejected you, His forgiveness when all others have judged you, and His mercy when all others have condemned you. When you bask in His love, you experience a wellspring of joy bubbling up in your heart. And since the world didn’t give you this joy - the world can’t take it away.
‘He made him a coat of many colours.’ Genesis 37:3 KJV
God gave Joseph a dream of future greatness - one in which his brothers would bow down to him. But when he announced his dream, his brothers hatched a plan to kill him. And to make things worse his father ‘loved Joseph more than all his children…and he made him a coat of many colours’. Try to see it from Joseph’s brothers’ perspective: ‘How come he gets special treatment? What’s wrong with us?’ There are important lessons here:
1) Be careful how you come across to others; your enthusiasm can be interpreted as arrogance.
2) When God blesses you, it’s always for the benefit of other people. One day Joseph would wear a royal robe and ride in Pharaoh’s chariot, but that was just a fringe benefit. His true calling was to preserve his family lineage, from which would come the Redeemer of the world.
3) You must be generous towards those who have less than you. Joseph’s brothers worked hard and deserved their father’s love too. The coat Joseph wore didn’t mean he was better than they were; it simply marked him as having a different destiny.
4) The coat of his father’s favour didn’t exempt Joseph from hardship. Actually, he suffered more than all of them because of it. Why? Because the level of your assignment determines the level of Satan’s attack.
5) Joseph’s character, not his coat, sustained him through years of betrayal, temptation, accusation and imprisonment. How do we know that? Because he was able to look back and see the hand of God at work: ‘You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good’ (Genesis 50:20 NASB).
‘Make every effort to add to your faith…self-control.’ 2 Peter 1:5-6 NIV (2011 Edition)
If you’ve the faith to believe, the moment you pray for salvation you receive it. It doesn’t work that way with self-control. Yes, you should pray for it, but Peter writes, ‘Make every effort to add to your faith…self-control.’ It only becomes a reality when you ‘make every effort’ to practise it daily. And here are three areas in life that will test you:
1) Your temper. Your circumstances are no excuse for a short fuse and an explosive temper. The Bible says, ‘Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city’ (Proverbs 16:32 NIV 1984 Edition). When you lose your temper, you lose respect and credibility with others.
2) Your time. Time is the stuff life is made of, and wasted time really is wasted life. It takes time to build relationships, learn skills, execute meaningful actions, achieve goals, and fulfil plans. A mismanaged life is often the result of mismanaged time.
3) Your tongue. The Bible says, ‘Let your speech be always with grace’ (Colossians 4:6 KJV). Every day brings new opportunities to control your tongue; if you’re wise you’ll take them! And if you must speak, let this scriptural principle govern what you say: ‘Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out’ (v. 6 MSG).
Benjamin Franklin put it this way: ‘Would you live with ease, do what you ought and not what you please.’ The word for you today is ‘make every effort’ to control your temper, your time, and your tongue.