+1.423.559.5100 info@cogop.org

Joy and Happiness: Initial Observations

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy
Down in my heart! Where?
Down in my heart! Where?
Down in my heart!
I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy
Down in my heart! Where?
Down in my heart to stay!
And I’m so happy! So very happy!
I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart!
And I’m so happy! So very happy!
I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart!

In a recent International Offices chapel service, I was asked to preach a message based on this familiar old song, mostly sung in children’s meetings. With the goal of mining deep spiritual truths from Christian children’s songs, the first truth we encounter is a close relationship between the words “joy” and “happy.”
In Scripture too, these words are closely related. The same Hebrew and Greek words are at times variously translated either as joy or happiness. Also, the Greek word for joy comes from the same Greek root from which we get the word grace. The children’s song shows that joy is a matter of the heart produced in us by the Holy Spirit: “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.” “And I’m so happy, so very happy, I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart.”
Could we also say that happiness is joy manifested? I think so. Happiness ought to be lived out. Joy manifested blesses others. Another old children’s song says, “If you’re happy and you know it, say Amen! (and clap your hands, and stomp your feet).” If joy is manifested in our lives the happiness that others see will certainly bless others who are on the journey.
Joy, happiness, well-being, favor, grace. What a concept! What a word! In the Scripture text below, Peter will literally say that you can’t put words to the feeling of joy (“joy unspeakable”in the KJV). But can I tell you that joy is Jesus!

Joy – Not as a Feeling, But as a Person

joy-is-jesusJoy is best described, not as a particular type of feeling but as a particular person: Jesus Christ. His birth announcement promised joy to the whole world. “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10 NIV). During his earthly ministry Jesus brought great joy to his followers. Again in Luke, “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name” (Luke 10:17 NIV). Jesus spoke of the joy of answered prayer. “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24 NIV).
As Jesus prays for his followers, including us, in John 17 he says to His heavenly Father, “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they (his disciples) may have the full measure of my joy within them” (John 17:13 NIV). Joy is Jesus!
After his resurrection and ascension, His ministry continued in the person and work of the Holy Spirit. In Acts we find, “. . .the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52 NIV). “The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household” (Acts 16:34 NIV11-GK).

Our Joy is Jesus

This theme is revealed in 1 Peter 1:3-9. Let’s look at the first few verses:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice.
1 Peter 1:3–6a NIV)

The “all this” Peter mentions is all that God has done for us through Jesus Christ. Joy is Jesus. And. . .

Biblical joy is experienced by certain people: God’s elect, born again people.
“In all this you greatly rejoice” (1 Peter 1:6a). And no wonder. We, as God’s people, are elect, chosen, sanctified and able to be obedient, having received great mercy from God, born again into a living hope because Jesus rose from the dead. In all this you greatly rejoice: We are born again into an inheritance that is imperishable. An inheritance that God is keeping in heaven for us while we trust in God, and are shielded by God’s power until our full salvation is revealed at the end of time. No wonder we rejoice! The problem with our joy is that it does not banish trials and problems once and for all. As a matter of fact, the joy the Lord gives to his born again children often occurs in spite of and in the midst of great trials. Our text goes on to say, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1 Peter 1:6 NIV).

God’s people experience both joy and difficulties in this life.
We often look for something that God does not promise in this life: constant joy. We may preach on joy because we perceive a lack of joy amongst God’s people, but constant joy is not part of this life. The psalmist reminds us of reality: “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalms 30:5 KJV). In this life we find a mixture of weeping and joy. Our joy may be temporary and intermittent in this life but so are our trials and troubles. The text says “for a little while you may have had to suffer.”But these temporary trials serve a good and godly purpose in us.

These trials, that is, have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:7 NIV

There will be rejoicing in God’s presence not because there has been an absence of trouble in our lives, but we will rejoice because we have come through those troubles by trusting in God. Rejoicing will fill our hearts for God has brought us through. “These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith. . .may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (v. 7). We will rejoice because we made it. . . by faith in Jesus!

Joy is Jesus, and the Holy Spirit

Concerning this Jesus:

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8–9 NIV).

Joy is found in believing in Jesus Christ and, by that same faith, being filled with joy as a fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Faith in Jesus in the best of times and the worst of times brings joy to our lives. You may have some trials but they’re temporary. And in the midst of trials and trouble, when we trust our lives to the Lord we “are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (v. 8). The Holy Spirit produces the joy of Jesus in our hearts. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace. . .” (Galatians 5:22 NIV).

Joy cannot be taken from our lives

rejoiceIn our text, Peter mentions that we experience joy in the midst of trials. Later in the same epistle he writes, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12–13 NIV). For the believer it’s rejoice now, even in the midst of fiery ordeals, and in the future we will be “overjoyed;” a word that literally means “jump for joy.” As believers, rejoice now in Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, and later, in a new heaven and a new earth, be overjoyed. Literally, “jump for joy!” Sounds like a plan! Joy is in Jesus! James of course echoes the same theme of rejoicing in the midst of trials in his familiar passage: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2–3 NIV).
Whatever happens to you cannot take from you the joy that God produces in you. Joy is in Jesus! No matter what our circumstances, our destiny is eternal life, and knowing that will manifest the joy that God has produced in us through our faith in Christ. Paul would tell us as he told the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 NIV11).
So, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart, down in my heart to stay.”“And I’m so happy. . .” And, “If you’re happy and you know it. . .then your life will surely show it.” To quote another song “It is Joy Unspeakable and Full of Glory.”
Summarizing God’s Word through his apostle Peter to us: A real experience of salvation through faith in Jesus, plus an ongoing faith in Jesus, (a faith without sight, often in the midst of difficulty) will yield times of joy that are produced in us not by our circumstances, (and often in spite of our circumstances) but produced by the Holy Spirit that lives in us as born again children of God. Joy is Jesus!
Don’t pray for more joy, or less trouble, but ask for more faith and the grace to persevere in Jesus who fills us with inexpressible joy through the Holy Spirit. May we have more faith in God in the midst of trials. More faith to welcome the Holy Spirit to work in us in the midst of life. Faith in Jesus produces something in us: inexpressible and glorious joy, because joy is Jesus.