August 31, 2016

Happy or joyful?

Is it possible to count the number of self-help books written on how to be happy? Is there anyone in the whole world that does not want to be happy? Some people think that being rich will do it, or perfect health, or a big house or car, or having their debts paid, and while those and other acquisitions might do it for a time, none of them will give deep and lasting joy.

What is the difference? Joy as described in Scripture is a full understanding and acceptance of God’s power and wisdom so that nothing and no one is a threat. Joy is a peace that passes understanding, a sense of well-being based on knowing I am totally loved and totally cared for. Yet that said, joy is so complete that I scarcely think about myself at all. It is having no cares or concerns — obviously it is difficult to describe.

Jesus promises me that amazing joy. Yet careful reading of the context shows there is a caveat . . .

"If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I 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 abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:7–11)

Joy is not about what I have or don’t have in this life. It has almost nothing to do with this world. Joy is being in the will of God through an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Abiding in Christ is something like being in love. And when I am responding to Him as the One who loves me totally and unconditionally, I can ask and receive whatever I wish.

Of course, loving Jesus changes my wishes. I’m not very interested in cars and clothes or any other stuff. I want what He wants. While He meets my needs (like food, clothes and other with material possessions), He gives me the desires of His heart, like justice done in a terribly unjust world, humility, a willingness to serve others. He wants me to be like Him, and I want the same thing so I can bring His joy to the people around me.

Joy is being set free from the cares of this world. As Chambers says, I don’t have to “think out my circumstances” or be concerned about anything. He adds, “Be rightly related to God, find your joy there, and out of you will flow rivers of living water . . . live the life hid with Christ  . . . . (it) is as natural as breathing . . . .”

God has shown me that continual self-examination is a joy-killer. I can always find something in me to regret or be sad about. Focusing on my flaws kills that spontaneous, childlike delight of just being who I am and trusting my Father to make of me what He wants me to be.

“Though I have not seen him, I love him. Though I do not now see him, I believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.” (1 Peter 1:8 personalized)

Happy is okay, but I’m going for the joy.

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