Joy > Happiness

Day 10 - April 2 / Pastor Scott Winchester

Romans 14:17

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

A few years ago we worked through a sermon series called The Pursuit of Happiness, which was based on the Sermon on the Mount content found in the gospel of Matthew. One of the recurring themes in that series was that happiness and joy are two different things. Happiness is a feeling we have when things are going well or we have a reason to be excited about something. It tends to be based on our relation to external conditions and is often very transitive. In fact, it can be quite fleeting.

Joy, on the other hand, is something deeper; it’s a state of being which is less dependent on the ups and downs of life. It’s foundational. In Romans 14, the apostle Paul is addressing some of the heat that’s being caused by Christians who disagree on matters of conscience, and he reminds them that the kingdom of God is not about those things, but rather the fruit of the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:21b.-23). Joy, then, is found in the fellowship we have with the Holy Spirit. While in our natural state (separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus), this is not an obtainable experience. So in a sense, true joy is still something external or “alien” to us. But once the Spirit enlightens our minds and renews our wills, and we are brought into the kingdom through our justification and adoption, the Spirit seals us “for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30), guaranteeing our inheritance. These truths should cause us great joy, not only in what they produce, but the fact that (unlike happiness) this new condition will endure forever.

The New Testament records the many experiences Paul went through, and let’s be honest…a lot of them were brutal. The book of Acts records his conversion, and Jesus plainly states, “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:16). This is the same Paul who found abounding joy in the Spirit. Yet Paul’s very Christian existence was one marked by ordained suffering. Was Paul happy all the time? Probably not. Suffering is real hurt and real struggle; it’s not academic. And yet he tells us plainly in his writings that joy is obtainable in the Holy Spirit. I know the church needs to hear this right now in the face of much uncertainty. I pray that our joy would be deep and contagious.
Prayer Points:
  • Praise God for his eternal being from which immeasurable blessings flow!
  • Confess to God those times where you have tried to staple “happiness” in the place where true joy should be
  • Thank God that the joy of the Spirit is not something you have to try to muster up, but a fruit of your union with him
  • Ask God to increase your joy in him, knowing that simply by asking him you are already entering into it!

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