You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. // Psalm 16:11
Joy and happiness are not the same thing!
Happiness is a temporary feeling, something that's based on what happens to you.
For example, here are some of the things that make me happy.
- Shopping at Target
- Being with friends and family
(You get the point)
As great as those things are, they only bring good feelings in the moment; they will not sustain me in the long run. For instance, I can indulge in all the coffee I want, but the second that I finish consuming it, what's next? Also, shopping is fun until you deplete all of your money, am I right?
Happiness is great! It lingers however it is not everlasting, whereas, joy is quite different. I would say that joy acts as an anchor and is more constant through the seasons. I like the way that biblestudytools.com puts it, “There is a big difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is a reaction to something great. Joy is the product of someone great.”
Let us never forget the difference, nor fail to enjoy both happiness and joy, fully on this earth. Sure, God wants us to be happy, but happiness comes and goes, and sometimes the things that make us happy aren't good for us. Also, have you noticed that what used to make you happy; may not even make you smile anymore? As a child, playing with dolls used to make me super happy. But now as an adult, it fails to do that. Not because the activity is inadequate but because I’ve grown up. God is concerned about our happiness but it’s not His first priority, holiness is. God knows how flaky happiness is and He wants us to experience a sensation that is far more superior. He knows that the pursuit of happiness can leave us feeling empty. However, a pursuit for Him will not only make us holy but bring us true long-lasting joy as well. God wants us to reside in blissful permanence not coast through with temporary satisfaction.
Happiness will not get us through tough seasons, because chances are that it's not even present in times of trial. Also, people in the world experience happiness as well, however, they don't have joy. It is Joy that has us laughing amid storms and not being anxious when it seems like the world is falling apart. Joy comes from the Lord, and we must cultivate it in spite of what our circumstances may be.
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south[d] to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”[e] And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
// Acts 8:27- 40
Encountering Joy through salvation
In Acts chapter 8 we see Phillip being led by God to minister to an Ethiopian eunuch. Phillip approaches the man and asks him if he understands the scripture that he is reading, the man replies “no”. So Phillip takes his time to teach him the scriptures; then the man decides that he wants to get baptized and commit his life to Jesus. Phillip leads him to Jesus and gets snatched up in the Spirit to another location. It is noted in the end that the eunuch was full of great joy.
Why was he filled with great joy? Because he had come into the knowledge of who really Christ was; therefore his spirit had been made aware of the truth. The interesting thing is that before becoming a Christian, the eunuch was a convert to Judaism. Yet as he read the scriptures, he wasn't able to truly decipher what they meant. But when he learned of who Jesus was and what he had done for him, it changed everything. Not just intellectually but spiritually as well. You can not live out a Christian life on knowledge alone; you need revelation. The supernatural understanding of who your savior is. Sheer religion can bring happiness, provide some answers, and lay a firm foundation. However, it is only through a relationship with God; that one can truly begin to benefit from the perks that God has to offer! One of them being joy!
Cultivate joy through worship
Worship is an opportunity for us to connect with God in a way that is both diverse and unique. Worship is diverse because it can be demonstrated through a song, dance, or words of adoration. Worship is unique because it’s not like any other concept out there. Without God, there wouldn't be any worship, and outside of God, worship doesn't make any sense. As humans, we are inclined to worship, because it is simply who we are! We were created by a God who desires and longs to be worshipped, therefore we were created to respond to His excellence. So we are all bound to worship something whether we are aware of it or not.
Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate. // 2 Samuel 12:20
I love King David in the Bible because he is known as a worshipper. In the scriptures, we see him worship and cry out to God. Although David is known as a man after God’s own heart, he wasn't perfect. In fact, on one occasion, David fell into temptation, took another man's wife, and then proceeded to impregnate her. Then to make matters worse, he had the husband of that woman killed. Needless to say, the Lord was displeased with King David’s actions, and as a result, the child died. However, after receiving the news that his child passed, we see David go and worship the Lord. Why? Because David understood that what had occurred was a consequence of his actions. Second of all, he knew that God was still worthy to be worshiped despite the mess that he had got himself into. I believe that his devotion to God, even when things were not so great is why he is known as a man after God’s own heart (Remember that this is the same man who was chasing after God’s heart even when King Saul was chasing Him down to kill him).
David did not allow shame, sin, or fear to keep Him from worshipping God, and neither should you. Sometimes we stray from worship because of what has happened to us or what we have done. But if we continue to press in and chase God even after we’ve hit a wall or unexpected difficulties, then we will not be disappointed. It was David’s continual pursuit for God that landed him a huge legacy of faith. With time, God restored him, and he experienced joy again. Not due to anything that he had done, but by being in constant communion with God! If you build a life on worship, you too will experience the supernatural joy that God has to offer!
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. // James:2-4
Joy in the midst of trials
I love how James mentions experiencing Joy in the midst of trials. Sometimes the worst thing that could ever happen to you, is actually the best thing that could ever happen for you (read that again). Because it’s an exercise and opportunity for you to experience the purest joy of your life. The joy that you experience in trials can only be traced back to God because there is no way that it came from another source. Sometimes we can mistake the source of our joy by thinking that it has something to do with our finances, jobs, or other new and exciting things in life. But whenever your faith is tested in a desert season it is very clear where your help comes from.
Sometimes God will allow us to be in difficult seasons so that we can dig deep, and nurture the joy that He has already put inside of us. Joy isn't that far from you when you have God, but the question is are you nurturing it? Or are you allowing various things to steal your joy? Whenever the Bible mentions the enemy trying to kill, steal, and destroy; it is not referring to your favorite pair of sneakers or your most expensive jewelry but your peace, joy, and sanity. Better believe that the enemy is creeping around like a lion and looking for an opportunity to pounce. So protect your joy, and don't put yourself in situations that could diminish it. Also, don't be in environments that will drain you, plus put your joy to work, don't let it just sit idle. Instead, invest it into places and people! The Ethiopian eunuch's joy caused him to minister and evangelize! He chose to invest and utilize it.
What are you doing with the joy within you?
Are you passing it to those around you?
Can people tell that you're saved by the fruit of joy in your life?
I bet when the Ethiopian eunuch went back home after his journey his friends were like “Wow is that him? I could hardly tell! He seems so different!” The joy of the Lord is distinct, therefore you should be distinct as well. Be joyful in every situation, and don't allow anything to ruin your joy.
So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden[a] calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” // Exodus 32:2-5
Where are you trying to find your joy?
Are you trying to find your joy in people, things, circumstances, or opportunities? The Israelites were on an 11 day trip for 40 years. Not because they had a faulty GPS, or their bus broke down, but because of their unpleasantness. They complained, were disobedient, and lacked reverence for God. One day Aaron was asked by the Israelites to create an idol so that they could worship it. So he did, and many things capture me about this story.
1) Aaron was a priest, therefore he was supposed to be a leader/an example. He simply knew better than to worship idols.
2) Everyone in this story had experienced God’s goodness, mercy, and faithfulness. Yet they still decided that a golden calf would suffice for their craving to worship.
3) The idol was crafted with valuable possessions, and formed with things that they loved.
Idols are not created with things that we hate or despise but by things that we treasure too much. Idols are a merging of all our heart's unhealthiest desires. We even expect idols to satisfy our every need, which is a terrible thing to do. It’s so crazy, but we do it often! God has shown up in all of our lives time and time again. Proving just how good He is, we have tasted and seen His goodness repeatedly. Yet we sometimes decide that it's not enough, and we run and get ourselves something to indulge in. God has given you joy in your life, a joy that will indeed sustain you well into eternity! Do you realize that joy is more accessible than Starbucks (and Starbucks is everywhere)? So don't go around trying to find joy in other places because joy is here now! Even at this moment, joy is here, reach out it’s available to you.
A closing prayer
Lord, I thank you for the joy that permeates so deeply into my soul. Your joy is responsible for my perseverance in every season and helping me when life is low. The joy that you give is evidence of the truth that sets me free. Because of joy, I can live again. I am reborn and every shadow of a doubt is replaced with a glimmer of hope. Your joy is a song that will never get old and I will sing it every day of my life. As the sun rises I will remember the joy that I’ve found in you. As I wake up from my slumber, I will never stop dreaming because your joy is simply that sweet. I will rest in your goodness because your joy is enough. It has chased me, wondered with me in dry seasons, and it is relentless at making me feel good. It sticks around longer than happiness and fails to disappoint. I will never stop saying how unchanging your love is for me. It casts away every fear and wipes away every tear. In you, I have hope and peace that remains forever. I am yours and you are mine, and forevermore I will hold on and celebrate you because your joy is simply eternal, amen.
A prayer for salvation
If you would like to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior, then say the following prayer:
Dear Lord, I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. You have chosen me from the very beginning and have known me since before I was formed in my mother’s womb. I crave your presence and desire to spend my life with you, not just now but forever. I repent for all the wrong that I’ve done and I’m asking you to lead me. Have your way, in Jesus' name, amen!
If you accepted Jesus as your Savior let us know! Welcome to the family : )