Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy! So, does Jesus promise us “Happy, Happy” or “Joy, Joy”? As followers of Jesus, we often DO find happiness. However, our true strength, and what Jesus promised us, is rather, that we will find joy in all things. So…you ask (you asked, didn’t you?), what is the difference between happiness and joy? My simplest answer is: Happiness is a good feeling that you experience only when things go your way. Joy is a good feeling even when things don’t go your way. Indeed, joy is the feeling of peace and growth even in the midst of trials and tribulations.
Mark 6:27-29 (TNIV)
27 So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, 28 and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. 29 On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
The death of John the Baptist serves as a reality check and reality therapy for followers of Jesus who believe in the “health and wealth” gospel proposed by some. As followers of Jesus we ARE NOT PROMISED prosperity in the same way that some think. At first this sounds terrible. “Well then, why follow Jesus?”
Jesus over and over teaches that true fulfillment, the ultimate fulfillment in life that we can experience comes not from being “me” centered ….but comes from loving God and being “others” centered. God, indeed Jesus, in His wisdom, gave us each free will and set this life in motion. When mankind rebelled, physical death entered into the picture. It’s a reality we can’t escape. In order NOT to be a PUPPETMASTER God, but wanting His creation to find a TRUE fulfillment in life He gave us each a free will which means then that we are also subject to the choices of others.
John the Baptist was subject to the free will of Herod. Okay, now I know that you are saying, “Pastor Jan, this is getting depressing! Where then is my joy, where is my hope?” I am so glad you asked!
The apostle Paul tells us:
Romans 8:18 (TNIV)
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (The Message Version)
So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.
Jesus Himself tells us:
Matthew 5:10-12 (The Message Version)
“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. Not only that–count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens–give a cheer, even!–for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
The FULL TRUTH IS:
Those who don’t live a life with Jesus at the center will also experience the same things you do, and more than likely, because of their poor, ungodly choices and by surrounding themselves by ungodly people….will experience much, much more pain and suffering, death and destruction. They will walk through their days also….with no hope (for they don’t believe in a future hope), bitterness, anger and consternation (confusion).
Those of us who DO live a life with Jesus at the center will experience many of these same things, however, because of our godly choices (because we apply the wisdom of God, indeed, the wisdom of Jesus to our lives) and by surrounding our inner circle with godly people…..we will experience much, much less pain and suffering. I didn’t not say that we will experience none! We will walk through our days knowing that we are loved, by both God and others, we will experience the hope of a future glory in an eternity with our loving creator, we will be able to walk through our trials and our pain without the bitterness and anger that poisons our soul. Yes…..and recognize that as we cling close to Jesus….we learn this on a journey with Him and not all at once.
James 1:2-5 (TNIV)
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you
Don’t expect every circumstance in your life to revolve around you, to be happy and pleasurable. Understand that there is Joy in our trials, and growth in our perseverance. Yes…..you will experience much happiness……however; the greatest fulfillment in life is too also experience joy in the midst of your storms. God, indeed, Jesus wants us to love and obey faithfully no matter what the outcome.