Friday 14 May 2010

Joy: Foundation for a Positive Life

JOY:  Foundation for a Positive Life

   Wouldn’t you like to experience deep and enduring joy?  Wouldn’t you like to be joy-full?  Be assured ~ you can!

   The world has a woeful shortage of joy and a surplus of fear, worry, discouragement and depression.  Even the “pursuit of happiness” and obsessive pleasure-seeking do not bring deep and lasting joy.

   Let’s first understand the difference between joy and happiness.  Happiness is an emotion, and God never intended for people to be in that emotional state all the time.  There is “a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4).

   Biblical joy ~ true joy ~ comes from filling the spiritual void with good relationships, primarily an intimate relationship with the One who is pure joy.  Jesus put it this way:  “I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (John 15:5).  That fruit includes much joy!

   The Bible speaks much more often of joy than of being happy.  “Hap” means chance and is the root of several words ~ happen, haphazard (dependent on mere chance), hapless, happenstance (a chance circumstance) and happy.

   Happiness is a glad feeling that depends on something good happening.  God wants us to experience happy times (as long as God approves of what is happening).  But His greater desire is that you have unconditional JOY.  Jesus said His joy would “remain in you” and “your joy no one will take from you” (John 15:11; 16:22).

   Think of joy as a strong foundation that supports a variety of healthy emotions, including happiness. The long-range evidence of joy is general gratitude, contentment, optimism, a sense of freedom and other positive attitudes.

   Joy looks out and up, not inward ~ A common mistake is to think that getting something will make you happy.  We tell ourselves, “If only…”  But joy and happiness come much more from giving and serving than from getting.

   The Apostle Paul reminded his listeners that Jesus Christ had taught this very thing:  “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving” (Acts 20:35, TEV).

   To grow in joy, we must resist not only self-pity but also being self-centered and self-absorbed. For joy to flourish, we must focus on loving others and especially on loving God.

   Joy is largely composed of gratitude ~ gratitude for the wonderful things God has done for us and His “exceedingly great and precious promises” for our future (2 Peter 1:4).  Gratitude produces joy (1 Thes. 5:16-18).  And our gratitude should be for other people’s blessings as well as for our own (Romans 12:15).

   Try to follow this biblical formula:  Add to your life gratitude, humility, forgiveness, faith, hope, patience and love.  Take away resentment, anger, fear, worry, materialism, greed, jealousy, complaining and pride.  The result? JOY!

   Joy is spiritual, supernatural and essential ~ God is joyful ~ far more than any human being ever was!  It is tragic that many people think of God as somber and stern rather than cheerful and smiling.  He is enjoying His creation and especially the delightful anticipation of many new “sons of God” (Rom. 8:14, 19).

   True followers of Jesus Christ will be joyful also.  Psalm 68:3 says, “Let the righteous be glad;…let them rejoice exceedingly.”  God desires that we serve Him “with joy and gladness of heart” (Deuteronomy 28:47).

   Paul spoke of the “joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6). It is through His Spirit that God shares and communicates His joy.  And when Paul lists the “fruit of the Spirit,” joy is second, preceded only by love (Galatians 5:22-23).  If we are filled with godly love, won’t that produce joy?  Of course it will!

   Joy is a major topic in the Bible.  In the KJV, “joy” appears 158 times and “rejoice” 198 times (not counting other variations such as joyful, joyfully, joyous, jubilant, happy and glad).  Rejoice is the verb form of joy, meaning to feel or have joy!  Clearly there is great emphasis in the Bible on expressing joy.  That explains why the Bible also emphasizes prayers and songs that praise and celebrate God (James 5:13; Psalm 150; Colossians 3:16, 17).

   Joy is not optional.  The Bible repeatedly commands us to rejoice!   The most emphatic exhortation is in Philippians 4:4, where Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again I will say, Rejoice!”

   Joy because of trials?  God’s joy continues to flow through His people even during their suffering because of their rock-solid hope of future everlasting joy in His Presence.  They know that all suffering is limited to this short life, and the time will soon come when “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying” (Revelation 21:4).  They “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2).

   We also have good reason to rejoice because of our trials when we understand how God is using those trials to help us build godly character.  “And we know that God works all things (even severe trials) for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). More specifically, Paul wrote that “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope” (Romans 5:3, 4 NIV).  James wrote, “Consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” in remaining faithful to God (James 1:2 NIV).

   And because Christ suffered for each of us, we should have a special joy when we are persecuted for our faith.  Jesus said, “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:11, 12).

   The number one key to Joy: God’s Spirit ~ Supreme joy is God’s nature and character!  We see proof everywhere in God’s creation, i.e., birds singing, animals frolicking, flowers blooming, brooks babbling and the sun shining!

   Our unique joy begins when Christ comes to live in us (Gal. 2:20). We then have an intimate relationship with the Lord God, through His Son ~ the One Psalm 43:4 calls “God, my exceeding joy!”  God’s Spirit is a tree of life, producing life-giving fruit which includes great joy!

   Jesus prayed for His followers “that they may have My joy fulfilled in them” (John 17:13). He taught, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full!” (John 16:24).

                                                                                         Don Hooser                             

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