The Pursuit f Happiness v. the Imputation of Joy

Almost everyone wants to be happy, and rightly so. There is nothing wrong with that. I like to be happy. Mr. Webster defines happiness as wellbeing and contentment, pleasurable satisfaction. Those are good states of being. We are happy when everything is going our way as the old song says. A beautiful day can make us happy. Receiving a promotion at work can make us happy. Just last month I submitted three photographs to a black and white photography show to be held in November. All three were accepted, which gives me pleasurable satisfaction, or happiness. The show receives over 400 applications and it has room for only 250 photos. And there are many excellent professional and amateur photographers in Albuquerque. So getting all three of my entries accepted certainly gave me a sense of accomplishment. And I derived happiness from that.

Notice, though, that the happiness sources listed above come from external events or states of being. We get our happiness only from external sources of one kind or another. And most often, these sources are secular. That is, they come from the world. Everything worldly is finite and will end sooner or later. Therefore, happiness ends too. We must continually receive new sources of happiness or we’ll become unhappy or be in a neutral state neither happy or unhappy. The photo show will be over at the end of November and that happiness will be gone. If a photo sells, that will make me happy for a little while. But out of the approximately 250 photos in the show only about 10 to 12 sell, so I’m not really anticipating a sale. I’m not looking forward to that source of happiness. We can seek happiness. I do, because I dislike being unhappy just as much as anyone else. Many men get happiness from watching baseball or football on TV at home or their local sports pub. I watch golf, which most of my friends think is as exciting as watching paint dry, but I like it.

Some external events can take away your happiness. The illness or death of a family member can overpower sources of happiness, or your favorite team may lose the game and that will make you unhappy. Thousands of people have lost their homes to floods, fires, earthquakes and other disasters. It’s hard to be happy through such events. So happiness is finite, temporal. It’s fragile and fleeting. Some years ago there was an account in the Just Thinking magazine, published by the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), of a Christian woman who had reverted to a secular lifestyle. She told the writer that she was happy, and what more was there? There is a lot more.

Joy is not like happiness. It cannot be lost because it does not come from external worldly sources. Joy is not fragile nor temporal. It cannot be lost because it comes from God. Joy is derived from being in God’s grace as a true Christian and remains through negative events and disasters. Paul and other disciples were joyful even in prison. Jesus tells us, “As My Father has loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments you will abide in My love just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and I abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:9-11; see vv. 15:1-16; emphasis added). Joy comes from being a true Christian, and from doing God’s will for you in this life. Joy cannot be sought by doing what we think God wants us to do, because that’s what we want to do. Joy is derivedas a consequence of being Christian, from following His will. Apple trees grow apples as a consequence of bein apple trees. Christians do God’s will because it is their new nature to do so. And, joy is a part of that new nature.

The joy we experience on earth as Christians is not the same as the joy we will experience in heaven. Jesus gave the example of a man who did His will on earth entering into another form of joy with Christ after departing this life: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:14-30). Joy is an integral part of being Christian. It comes from living in Christ, and He in us, of our putting Christ before everything else in this world (Matthew 13:44-50).

Joy, then, is far greater than happiness and unlike happiness, it cannot be lost. Also, it cannot be sought. We receive joy on earth and a greater joy in heaven as a result of living in Christ and doing His will for us. Joy sustains us through hard times and disasters as the hymn says, through all kinds of pain and anguish, it is well with your soul. Whatever life and the devil throw at you, God will use it to better you and your circumstances in His time schedule: “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine, oh what a foretaste of glory devine” says another hymn, and that is true. The confidence and assurance that sooner or later all will be well with your soul comes from God being in control of your life. I will invariably foul up almost everything I try to do on my own. It’s only when I let God control my life that everything-in its own season-works out as it should (Ecclesiastes chapter 3).

Put Christ in your life’s driver’s seat. Let Him use you to fulfill what He has planned for you to do since before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 2:10). Only then will you experience joy in your life not because you went seeking it, but as the natural consequence of being a true Christian. You cannot get joy by pursuing it because that is a selfish motive. It’s putting you and your wants before Christ’s plan for you. Don’t worry about joy. It will be yours if you follow God’s plan for your life. So, start following now.

Note: I apologize for not having a blog posted last week. Malware locked me out of my computer again. That’s been fixed, and I’ve installed Malwarebyte to prevent it from happening again. I’m back on schedule, and I’ll be posting a blog every Sunday (Sonday) morning. Thank you for being patient.

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