A few weeks ago my brother asked me about happiness and joy while we were watching something on TV.  He said he was sharing his thoughts online about happiness not being the same thing as joy and wanted to hear my opinion about the two. My initial answer was a simple one: happiness is not equal to joy. He then asked me at one point:  “Do you think it’s possible for somebody to gain joy in the world.”  

I shared my answer with him and I believe my answer made him curious because he responded, “speak more on that” (or something along those lines). We can have some very deep and great conversations that could last all day if we let it.   

It is a good topic to talk about – happiness and joy – because there are many people who will equate joy with happiness.  In fact, if you look up the definition of both of those words, joy is defined as a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.  Yet, I tell you today that happiness is not equal to joy.

This is something that everybody needs to hear and understand.  So, what I want to do today is focus on both of these words and share with you the difference between happiness and joy.  I also want to answer the question as to whether or not joy can be gained in the world today.

A product of the world

I find myself saying, “in the world” or “of the world” a lot.  I have been saying it or hearing it for so long that I assume that everybody else knows exactly what that means.  With that said, not everybody knows exactly what that means because all of us are a part of this world because we all live in it.  So, let me explain that phrase very quickly.

When I say, “in the world” or “of the world”, I want you to understand that I mean something that is a product of this world and this world alone.  For example, Jesus spoke a parable (Luke 12:13-21) that we call, “The Parable of the Rich Fool.” In this parable, this farmer was rich because his land produced much crop.  He labored and harvested his crop but he had so much crop that he needed to build himself a new barn.  (He should have shared his great wealth with others, but he chose to be greedy instead. Read this parable.)

 In scripture, you may see, “worldly treasure” or “the riches of the world”.  You see, the rich fool’s treasure was literally produced by the earth. In our times, many people still receive their treasures just by living and laboring in the world.  Of course we may not be farmers, but we can gain wealth through our laboring in the world.  We are taught if we get a good education, we can grow up to be anything. We are also told that if we work hard and diligently, that we can gain great riches.

Happiness in the world

Through this way of thought, happiness and joy from the world enters into our mindset.  Because the world can produce riches, and because we can labor for those riches, then we have a means to gain our happiness in the world.  This concept is certainly not rocket science! In fact, it makes gaining happiness to be such an easy thing (at least in thought).  

The hope is that when you achieve these things through your labors in the world, you will find great happiness.  At the very same time, if you don’t work hard or hard enough for anything, then you’re told that you cannot know happiness or real joy.  (Incredibly dangerous way to think or live.) That being said, our logic leads us to believe that once we have reached such a high level of consistent happiness, we have found and gained great joy!

There are many people who live among us, who desperately are seeking this sort of joy but struggle to gain it.  Not to pick on anybody, but some folks wake up and are at work before the sunrises and when the sun sets, they are still at work!  Why, because they are trying to live that dream of gaining happiness and, therefore, joy through their labors in the world. The question still remains, can true joy really be gained through our laboring in the world?

Joy in the world

Just considering how it is believed that happiness is gained in the world, honestly, saddens me.  I feel saddened for the man or woman that believes the only way they will ever know happiness is by what they can afford.  I am saddened for the one who believes the one way they will know joy is by whether or not they have gained enough wealth.

You see, to me, this is not real happiness nor is it real joy.  Happiness is certainly something that everybody can experience just by living in the world.  At the same time, happiness is temporary – it comes and it goes. If happiness can be temporary, that means that such joy would also be temporary as well and that just does not sound right to me.

You see, joy to me is something that should be fulfilling, not for just a temporary moment.  The real joy that I know of is not something that can be simply gained through our labors in the world.  We should not ever compare what we know of happiness with real joy because they do not compare.  Happiness in the world is not equal to what real joy actually is.

Joy is not of this world

The one thing we have to establish is where joy really comes from because this world is not capable of producing joy.  Yes, it can produce happy moments and great fun, but joy is not something that is of this world If you were to tell somebody that happiness does not equal joy, you may see a frown form in return.  

The reason why is because we are taught at a very young age that being joyful means you’re exceedingly happy.  (That was the definition of being joyful too.) We are told that if you have joy (or you’re really happy), then you “really ought to show it”.  This mindset tells us that the joyful person should always be full of cheer and never down.  

This mindset is also a mindset that is very confusing and leads many people into deep depression that some never come out of.  Why? Because they are told to smile in a world that in just the past week, seen two very young girls (3 and 5 years old) have their dead bodies thrown in a dumpster or in a landfill.  There are many people that see no reason to smile in our world today! 

Yet, they are being told that they should have great joy in a world that they realize cannot produce anything to have joy about.  So, to the brokenhearted, the sad, and depressed, I tell you that you’re not wrong – joy is not something produced by this world. However, at the same time, joy is something that we actually can gain through living and being a part of this world.

Joy comes from the Lord

As I said last Sunday, it takes a humble person to be able to understand this.  Scripture paints a very clear picture as to where joy comes from.  In John 15, Jesus tells us (John 15:9), “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you.”  He then says (John 15:10), “ If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love.”  (Abide: to stand by something or be able to live with something.)  Jesus tells us these things for a specific reason which He then makes next.

Jesus says to us (John 15:11), “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”  Again, scripture and even Jesus (God in the flesh) is very clear about joy – where it comes from and what it is.  We are told that joy is a product one gains when they choose to abide by God! 

There should not be any confusion about this!  So, nobody should be confused about where real joy actually comes from.  No matter how hard you work in this world, you will never experience this sort of joy if you do not abide by the Lord.  The world itself is simply incapable of producing this kind of joy.  Our world can certainly produce pain and hardships. We may now and then find some sort of happiness but it always goes away!

The Lord’s joy defined

I believe that there are three different types of joy that is circulating around in our world today that we need to know about.  Two of these joys are mirages or imitations that a lot of folks believe they have gained or have experienced because of their labors in the world.  They believe that the pinnacle of their happiness is great joy, yet that type of joy, I warn you, is either empty or half in part.  

Again, I tell you that there are three different types of joys that circulate in our world today.  

1.  A joy that is empty (or hollow).  As soon as you hit this shell (or experience this moment) it vanishes into nothingness.

2. The joy that is half in part.  This moment of joy lasts a bit longer than hollow or empty joy, but it eventually goes away and leaves you searching to find joy again. 

3. The joy that is full.  The product that comes from abiding by the Lord.

There are many people who do not abide by the Lord that will tell you that their joy is full, but frankly, they’re speaking about something they do not fully understand.  They have defined joy by their possessions or by whoever may be a part of their life. Most definitely, these things can certainly allow you to experience great happiness but they are not equal to what Jesus defines as “the Father’s love” – true joy.  

Jesus tells us that the joy He has comes from Him abiding in the Father’s love (John 15:10).  Therefore, if joy is the Father’s love, then to obtain that joy you must go to and be a part of Him (abide by Him).  In order for us to become partakers of Jesus’ joy we must be willing to be obedient and keep Jesus’ commandments.  (Obedience and our willingness always seems to come up when we speak about the Lord.)  If we are capable of doing this very thing, Jesus tells us that His joy will remain within us and our joy will be full.

A joy not like you have come to think of it

A joy that is full is very different from the way that we think of joy.  We think of joy like we think of temporary happiness, but a joy that is full is a joy that is always there – it is everlasting.  I believe that many of us are able to become very happy just by living in the world. Because this joy comes from the Lord, it takes on the same characteristics of the Lord.

For example, our God can never die – He is eternal.  His joy, therefore, is something that cannot die. What this means is that His joy is something that cannot be killed.  If you abide in Christ, and His joy is inside of you, that means that there is nothing of this world or anywhere else that can kill your joy.  Does this mean you’re going to be happy every moment of everyday? Absolutely not!

You could find yourself having some of the worst days of your life, but because your joy is full, you still continue to plow forward with a peace of mind.  It could feel like the world is starting to pile on you with all it can, but because your joy is full, you will still find a way to rest easy.  You see, this joy is the type of joy that fills you with confidence and hope that no matter what, you are going to make it!  I tell you, that is a great type of joy to have in this world that takes hope away from many people.   

The joy that remains in us gives us great hope in our Lord.  We know that no matter what, God loves us and that the Lord is keeping us through all things.  You see, I don’t love the Lord because He makes me happy, but because He gives me great joy to keep moving forward on this journey.  I have seen the joy that the world produces and I have seen what it does for others; it cannot do for you what the joy God gives you can do.  Happiness produced of this world, is not equal to the joy that my God can give you.

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