Happiness vs. Joy
FEBRUARY 21, 2018
What does the Bible say about joy? There is a difference between happiness and joy.
Happiness doesn’t last; joy lasts forever. Happiness is related to present circumstances; joy is related to Jesus Christ. Happiness is transient and fleeting; joy is constant simply because God is constant.
So what does it say?
“The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). “Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3). “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing…” (Romans 15:13). “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2).
The two marks of the Christian are love and joy. The account of Mark 2:18-20 demonstrates the Christian mark of joy: “The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, ‘Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.’”
To put this into context, John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Their stomachs were growling, and they were tired and drawn. They said in essence, “Look at how spiritual we are. We’re fasting because we love God more. What about Jesus and his disciples? Look at them over there with plenty of food!”
Jesus answers their question, describing a wedding. In the first century, the wedding was the center of cultural and social life for the Jew. It wasn’t just our couple hours; it was a full week of celebration. The most honored friends of the bride and groom were invited to the wedding and, when possible, even lived in the new home of the couple where they waited upon every need of the bride and groom. Aside from the couple, these friends were the most honored and valued guests at the wedding.
What does this have to do with fasting? An early first century rabbinical ruling relieved the guests—the “children” or “sons of the bride chamber”—from any fasting or religious observance that would interfere with the joy of the wedding. Why were they joyful? Why should we be joyful?
Who We Are
The children of the bride chamber were honored guests at the wedding. They were chosen. Likewise, we are children of God. We are chosen.
In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to even lower their heads before the golden image King Nebuchadnezzar set up. As a result, they were thrown into a fiery furnace…but God protected and saved them. Recognizing God’s intervention, the king shouted to them in the furnace, “Servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here.” Nebuchadnezzar defined them in relation to God. What a great way to be defined.
I’m a father, husband and teacher, but the place where I define myself with the most joy is as a servant of Jesus Christ. I belong to God.
It’s important that we properly define ourselves. Do you ever feel lonely and lost? The Christian’s joy comes from our definition—we belong to God. Our Home is in Christ. We are children of the King.
What We’re Doing Here
The children of the bride chamber were joyful because they were given tasks that increased the joy of the bride and groom. Likewise, our calling and purpose increase the joy of God.
Jesus told a story about a shepherd with 100 sheep. If a single sheep wanders off, that shepherd will leave the other 99 sheep just to find him. “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just [upright] persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).
They laugh in heaven! A joy wells up in the hearts of the angels when a new child comes into the family of God. There is great laughter and rejoicing when we, as Christians, repent of sin and run to Jesus.
One of the things I remember about my father was his laughter. Whenever he laughed, it seemed like everything was right with the world. My brother and I would even try to get our father to laugh…just so we could laugh with him.
It’s the same way with God. The Father’s joy spirals upward and, as it increases, it multiplies our joy and celebration. Joy describes the relationship we have in Christ as we fulfill his purpose in our lives.
The Source of Our Joy
The children of the bride chamber were joyful simply because they were with the bride and groom. When we spend the day with our Father, our joy is real. There is joy—lasting, abiding, real and eternal—in just being with the One who loved us enough to die on a cross.
True joy is found only in the presence of the Father…nowhere else.
As Christians, in the presence of the Father, we can live anywhere, go anywhere, do anything or be anything. Regardless of our present circumstances, our joy, like that of the children of the bride chamber, comes simply from being with the bridegroom—Jesus Christ.
It’s an eternal joy: “For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace” (Isaiah 55:12).
That same joy is ours today.
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