Contrary to what most people think, happiness and joy are not synonymous. While the outward effects on people may be similar, still, they are different. Each has a different source.
Happiness can be achieved through drugs, alcohol, material goods, good friends, road trips, hobbies, favorite foods — or even work. There are many avenues through which people may achieve happiness.
But happiness, at best, is fleeting. One may be basking in happiness one day, and the next day their world may be turned upside down.
Joy is a different matter. Its source is from God the Father. The fruit of the spirit is love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness goodness and faithfulness. Galatians 5:22
Nehemiah 8:10 says that “... .the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Philippians 4:4 tells us that we, as God’s children, are commanded to be joyful. “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.”
We are told in 1 Peter 1:8 that the child of God rejoices “... .with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
The world does not understand that receiving is not what brings joy — but to give. Acts 20:35 “... .remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Joy can be experienced even in adverse circumstances. Why was the Apostle Paul, and his friend could pray and sing songs of praise to God while in prison in Philippi? Acts 16:25. The answer is simple — their joy was not sourced in the circumstances but in God the Father in Heaven.
As a pastor, it has been my privilege to visit elderly people in nursing homes. On occasion, I went when I really didn’t feel like it. I had a circumstance in my life that wasn’t pleasant. But duty called, and I went — only to be lifted up and encouraged by a bubbly, joyful, aged lady, whom one might suppose had very little to live for. But she was full of life, and vitality — and joy. It didn’t come from her circumstances, but from God the Father, Who inhabited a place that she was living in wild anticipation of one day seeing.
On the other hand, I read where Howard Hughes, one who had amassed great wealth — owned everything money could buy. But he died, a miserable recluse. Why? Possibly because wealth, acclaim and power were not enough to light up his life with joy. That can only come from Heaven — from the Father of lights; the God of all creation — the one who sent his only begotten son to earth to deliver us from the penalty of sin through the shedding of His blood on the cross. The most significant incident in history — the crucifixion, was endured by the One Who gladly — joyfully went to that cross to die. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2.
It’s not a sin to be happy over a new watch, or a great haircut. But it is a sin to refuse to rejoice in the Lord in adversity.
Paul Gauntt currently serves as the pastor of First Baptist Church of Palmer.