As we continue to look at joy this week, it is important we make one distinction: joy and happiness are not the same thing. They are vastly different. Happiness come from momentary pleasure in a situation that is pleasing to you. It is temporary and fleeting, a mood. Joy on the other hand comes from contentment and truth. It is a lifestyle. The joy of the Lord comes from knowing who is Lord of your life and that salvation can be found in Christ alone.
This distinction is important because God expects us to live in joy but not in happiness. It would be inappropriate and unrealistic to be “happy” all the time. Just a quick glance at Jesus’ ministry on earth and we see lots of times Jesus was not happy. John 11:33-35 tells us Jesus wept over the death of his friend Lazarus. In Matthew 21: 12-13 we read about Christ being filled with righteous anger and flipping over the tables of the money changers in the temple. Jesus was not always “happy” on earth, and God doesn’t call us to be “happy”. But he does call us to live joyfully.
God never once instructs us in scripture to be happy. However, there are 21 Verses in the Bible that call us to “Shout for Joy”. Joy is also listed as a fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. As we discussed in a blog post a few weeks back, the fruits of the spirit are actions/lifestyles that will be evident in the lives of those who love Jesus. If we truly love God and allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, the fruit of the spirit – including joy – will become a part of our lifestyle.