Do you think there is a difference between happiness and joy? What makes you happy? What gives you joy? Do you use the words interchangeably or do you make a distinction between the two of them in your mind and conversation? Webster’s dictionary indicates that happiness is characterized by luck, good fortune or prosperity, while joy is the expression of high pleasure, satisfaction or contentment.
The depth and consistency of the joy that Paul experienced shines through every part of this letter to the Philippians, doesn’t it? When he prayed for them, it was with joy. If the Good News of Jesus was preached, he was glad, even if the messenger did not have the right kind of motive. He experienced joy when his friends were loving one another and working together. Even as he was imprisoned and awaiting a sentence, he felt joy because the palace guard could hear the message about Christ. And he wanted his friends and companions to share in that kind of joy.
So it is not a big surprise when Paul repeated this idea one more time right in the middle of his letter to them. In one little sentence he encapsulates the heart of his desire for them – “rejoice in the Lord”. This is a strong statement because the word rejoice literally means “again – joy”. That prefix is an “intensifier” and makes the meaning come alive. Review, repeat, recall, rehearse, reexamine, recount, and reaffirm what God has made possible for you through His one and only Son, Jesus. Focusing on that relationship and power of His resurrection will inevitably result in a deep, inner sense of well-being, contentment, and joy. It means that you can rejoice!
Why is it that when life is the most challenging and circumstances are the most difficult that these truths come alive? Paul knew it and lived it, didn’t he? How about you? Are you progressing in your faith journey and experiencing more joy because of Jesus? Remember it is one step at a time.
The portion of this passage that stands out for me is that Paul describes himself in the past as a persecutor of the church. It was heart-breaking for me when I came to realize that I, too, did not have the correct perspective on God. It has taken years to not be burdened by my past choices. Forgiving ourselves is a big part of the healing process. Thank you Jesus that we are forgiven in You!
As I look through an old concordance given by my grandmother 39 years ago, the list for the word “joy” takes almost a full page of biblical references. It’s easy to see that “joy” is a major part of our faith.
I also read in the NIV bible notes that:
~~~~Joy is the quiet, confident assurance of God’s love and work in our lives–that He will be there no matter what.
~~~~Happiness depends on happenings, but joy depends on Christ.
~~~~Joy comes from inward strength, not outward circumstances
~~~~We can have joy even in hardship.
This study of joy has opened up a new way of thinking in me about our gift of grace from Jesus.
Love the idea that happiness is the result of happenings and joy comes from our relationship with Christ.