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 great pleasure, satisfaction or contentment.
The depth and consistency of the joy that Paul experienced shines through every part of his letter to the Philippians. When he prayed for them, when he preached, as he was imprisoned and waiting for his sentence, he continued to be full of joy. So it is not a big surprise that his heart’s desire for them was to “rejoice in the Lord”. It is a strong statement because the word rejoice literally means “again – joy”. That prefix is an “intensifier” and makes the meaning come alive. Focusing on the relationship that God made possible for them through His one and only Son, Jesus, and the power of His resurrection, would inevitably result in a deep, inner sense of well-being, contentment, and joy.
When Paul said, “Don’t worry about anything: instead, pray about everything”, he was reassuring those believers that they could be totally sure that God would give them His gifts of joy and peace no matter what their circumstances might be. Prayer was the vehicle to make this possible. As John Piper explains, “Prayer is that wonderful transaction where the wealth of God’s glory is magnified and the wants of our soul are satisfied.” It has always been God’s desire that His children would be “filled with His joy” – John 17: 13. Jesus said it over and over again to those who would listen. Are you listening?