Count it all Joy
Every one wants to be happy. In the world people are going to great lengths to secure happiness and, unfortunately, most people are looking in the wrong places. In the Bible God has clearly given instructions which, if followed, will lead a person to true happiness and joy. However, Satan is telling the world a lie, just like he told Eve in Eden. He told Eve that God does not have man’s best interest in mind in withholding something apparently good from them. Today he also tells people lies. He tells them that God does not want them to be happy. He tells them that God’s way of happiness is all wrong and in reality it leads to a life of toil, pain and sadness. His own broad road is full of fun, excitement and entertainment. His way is the way of true happiness. God’s way is boring. As followers of Christ, we must show the world that there is greater joy and happiness in serving the Lord than in serving Satan.
One lie that Satan tells people is that if they have a lot of money and don’t need to work any more they will be supremely happy. He tells them to work as hard as they can to make as much money as possible so they can retire early and enjoy a life that is free from any care or obligations. They would not have to work any more at an age where they are still physically quite strong so now they can be free from care to relax at home, travel, and enjoy the entertainments of the world.
However, you need not wait until your retirement years or have a lot of money to enjoy this happiness that Satan offers. You can have it right now. You can indulge to your hearts content on evenings and weekends. Just toil on through the week and live for the weekends. If you run out of money, use the credit card and don’t worry; the bank will take care of your bills for now.
Yes, Satan makes it appear very attractive, but it is all a lie. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Proverbs 14:12.
On the contrary, can the true Christian enjoy life if they don’t go to the movies or theaters; if they don’t watch TV or go to parties? If yhey eat only simple foods and deny their own desires and cravings? They carry a heavy, shameful cross daily with regular fasting and self denial. Paul said, “I die daily?” 1 Cor. 15:31. Is this happiness?
After Adam and Eve fell into sin, they were told, “In sorrow shalt thou eat of it, all the days of thy life.” Genesis 3:17. Job says that, “Man is born unto trouble.” Job 5:17. Jesus said “If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23. Again, is this happiness?
The Prodigal son was deceived by Satan’s lies. He believed that his life on the farm with his father would not lead to happiness. He was thinking that all the glitter of the world, the party life, would bring him true happiness. He found out the hard way, when he ran out of money, that in the end there was no happiness at all. Thankfully he came to himself before he reached the very end of the road [death]. He said “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee.” Luke 15:18. He realized that his father’s way of life was the way to true happiness after all. His father had been right all along. His father was waiting for him with open arms when he came back.
The prodigal son portrays the sentiments of many young people in today’s society, including many who have been brought up in the faith. They see the rules and restrictions in the home and church as only barriers to the true happiness that they see exists in the world and they thirst for it. They desire to be free from these rules and to enjoy life with those fun-loving people who are apparently enjoying life to the fullest. “Let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.” 1 Cor. 15:32. Who cares about the future life – just revel in happiness now.
Solomon was one who thought wealth would bring him happiness. He had surrounded himself with wine, women and song. How did he feel as his life was approaching its end?
Firstly he described how he enjoyed life to the fullest. Being the richest and wisest man that ever lived, he had the potential to also be the happiest man that ever lived, is that not correct? Is that not what Satan is telling people today? Wealth and wisdom = happiness?
“I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life. I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees: I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts. So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour.” Eccl. 2:3-10. He went on to sum up his life and here was his conclusion.
“Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.” Eccl 2:11. He even said, “Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me:” Eccl. 2:17. He found no happiness in all his wealth.
God does want people to be happy. The road to heaven is not an initiation process of suffering that you must endure in order to be granted the gift of eternal life. There is joy to be experienced along the way. It is not in the things of this world as the Prodigal son and Solomon thought.
Yes, God wants you to experience true joy, but there is a difference between joy and happiness. One of the fruits of the spirit is “joy”, not “happiness.” (Gal 5:22).
Happiness is fleeting. It is dependant on outward external influence and is easily lost and found, by external circumstances. For example, Leah was happy when she was bearing children for Jacob. “And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name Asher.” Genesis 30:13 Her life was not always happy though. She had a husband who loved her sister more than her. There were plenty of times that she was not happy.
Joy is everlasting. It is a calm and peaceful trust in God. No matter what the outward circumstances are, the inward joy remains unaffected. “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” John 15:11. “When the light of heaven shines upon the human agent, his countenance will express the joy of the Lord within. It is the absence of Christ from the soul that makes people sad and of a doubtful mind. It is the want of Christ that makes the countenance sad, and their life is a pilgrimage of sighs. Rejoicing is the very keynote of the Word of God for all who receive Him. Why? Because they have the Light of life. Light brings gladness and joy, and that joy is expressed in the life and the character.” MS 96 1898.
Satan can take away our happiness. We may be sad at times, but he can never take away our joy if we are experiencing joy in the Lord.
As Christians we really do want both joy and happiness but in this world of sin we do get sad sometimes. We get sad when a loved one dies. We get sad when we lose a job, but if we have an inner peace, the joy remains and happiness can return again.
Does God’s way of life offer happiness and joy? Yes, you can have both. Satan only offers happiness that is fleeting. People are searching for the next party, the next form of entertainment, the next bottle of alcohol or the next drug to keep them happy. There is no happiness, joy or inner peace between these “happy” experiences.
IS THERE ANY HAPPINESS IN THE WORLD?
The world can provide happiness temporarily. To the proud man, having a high position is happiness. To a revengeful person, revenge is sweet. To a sensual person, to gratify his passion is happiness. To a pleasure loving person, a good movie, show or music is happiness. To many people rich foods and drinks are happiness to gratify their appetites. To an alcoholic, another drink is happiness and to the drug addict another dose of a drug is happiness. These people are happy for a time, however are they joyful?
They are completely deceived by Satan. Let’s take alcohol for instance. How does the modern media portray alcohol consumption? Often TV commercials for alcohol show people having fun at the beach, or at a party. They appear happy and carefree. This is how Satan portrays it. The media does not show the end result, with the drunk lying in the ditch or the alcoholic who can’t support his family. The end results are hidden from view. It is true with any sin. STD’s and unwanted pregnancies are the last thing on the minds of young people who are sinning by fornication. There is happiness in the world, but not true lasting joy.
GOD’S INSTRUCTIONS FOR TRUE JOY
Firstly, it is important to remember that God DOES want you to be joyous and happy. There is no sin in being happy. “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Romans 14:17
“And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” John 16:23, 24 If we ask our heavenly Father for joy, will He give it to us? He most certainly will.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit
“And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.” Romans 13:52. Here is our first point. Being filled with the Holy Ghost brings a person joy. What does the Holy Ghost do for us? He will “guide you into all truth,” and “reprove the world of sin.” John 16:11,8. Does this sound like happiness? Most people do not like to have their sins and errors pointed out. They make excuses, like Adam and Eve did, or they get angry. But the followers of Christ find it joyful to have their sins pointed out. They are happy because now they can correct the errors in their life Ð errors that they may not have seen before and which would have prevented them from entering heaven. We should rather thank the person bringing reproof to us.
“Whom the Lord loveth he rebuketh.” Job 5:17 “Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy law;” Psalm 94:12 “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” Hebrews 12:5-7
“And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.” Luke 10:17. These seventy returned from a missionary tour with great joy. While on tour, they were away from the comforts of their homes and families. They likely experienced some difficulties and rejection along the way, however, there is great joy in seeing souls turn from the ways of darkness into light. There is no greater joy than to be a part of this experience. Although the angels are living in the bliss of heaven, they too receive great joy from this experience. Although they are unseen, they are working tirelessly for man’s salvation. And there is great joy when they see success for their labour. “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” John 15:10. Paul and Silas were found singing in the dungeon while doing God’s work. The jail cell could not quench their joy. (Acts 16:25).
Though their outward body may suffer, it need not disturb their inward peace. This has proven to be true with many martyrs and Christians who have been persecuted for Christ’s sake.
Suffer for the faith
“But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” 1 Pet. 4:13 “Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.” Phil 2:17. Paul was a joyful man, and what kind of life did he live? “Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.” 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. Yet he had no regrets at the end of his life. He was able to say, “I have fought a good fight,” 2 Timothy 4:7.
“How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.” 2 Cor. 8:2.
Often when people are tempted by Satan, they get exasperated. A struggle is involved in fighting against sin. The flesh wants to yield, while the spirit desires to remain firm. However, we should rejoice when we are tried. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1: 2-4. “Faith, patience, forbearance, heavenly-mindedness, trust in your wise, heavenly Father, are the perfect blossoms which mature amidst clouds and disappointments and bereavements.” (Letter 1, 1883)
Obedience to Parents/Authorities
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” Heb 13:17. Although young people often don’t believe it, there is truly joy in obeying those in authority, whether parents, teachers, or some public authority figure. Obedience here creates quiet, peaceful families and communities.
Afflicted And Mourn
“Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.” James 4:9. Is James wrong to say here that we should not be happy? “It is right to be cheerful, and even joyful. It is right to cultivate cheerfulness of spirit through sanctification of the truth; but it is not right to indulge in foolish jesting and joking, in lightness and trifling, in words of criticism and condemnation of others.
“Those who observe such persons who make a profession of religion, know that they are deceived. They know that the hands of such professors need to be cleansed, their hearts need to be purified. They need to experience genuine repentance for sin. What have they to mourn over? They should mourn over their inclination to sin, over the danger they are in from inward corruption and from outward temptation. They should be afraid because they have so feeble a sense of the sinfulness of sin, and so little idea of what constitutes sin.” (Letter 13, 1893)
“And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:” 1 Thess. 1:6. Affliction can bring us joy. We have the comfort that Jesus has walked the way before us. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” John 15:18.
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb 12:2. Why is this? He loved others more than himself.
JOY IN THE ATONEMENT
“And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” Rom. 5:11 “The atonement of Christ is not a mere skillful way to have our sins pardoned; it is a divine remedy for the cure of transgression and the restoration of spiritual health. It is the Heaven-ordained means by which the righteousness of Christ may be not only upon us but in our hearts and characters.” (Letter 406, 1906). As we contemplate this, our hearts overflow with joy. Nothing is too dear to give up for Christ.
“Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” Psalm 119:165 “There is no peace in unrighteousness; the wicked are at war with God. But he who receives the righteousness of the law in Christ, is in harmony with heaven.” (Letter 96, 1896).
The world may look at Christians and either think they are crazy, always happy and joyful even in the most distressing times, or they may view them with envy, wishing they had the same peace that they had when they are going through difficulties. It has disturbed many people to see the peace on Christian faces amidst trial. Nero was disturbed when he went to view the faces of the martyrs he had condemned to death and they all had smiles on their faces.
“If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. ” 1 Peter 4:14
SORROW TURNED TO JOY
Although we experience trials and difficulties, it does not need to disturb our peace. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” John 6:20. Who will be happy when Christ appears? The people in the world will have completely lost their happiness while God’s people will be overflowing with joy.
The greatest hindrance that Christians face when regarding the experience of joy is when they try to attach to Christ without detaching from the world. These are the most unhappy people in the world. They are not happy in the world as their conscience bothers them, but they are not happy in the church as they still love the world. They may pretend to be happy to look good in front of others, but they are miserable inside. The only source of true happiness is in Christ.
May God help us to find the true Joy that is offered to us, rather than searching for the fleeting happiness that is offered by the world. There is true joy found only in Christ and in His service.
Wendy Eaton, Canada