Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
November 22, 2015
Forget about being happy
Does God want you to be happy?
No sir. No way.
But God is love so surely he wants you to be happy.
No, happiness is not one of his goals for you.
But look at all the wonderful songs we sing about being “happy.” There is the old gospel song titled “O Happy Day.” And in the beautiful song, “His Eye is On the Sparrow,” there is the memorable chorus, “I sing because I’m happy.” I will admit those are good songs and I like them. But though such songs work against my argument, I remain convinced that happiness is not what God wants for you.
Let me explain. The word “happy” has become a shallow, almost meaningless word. It represents the “good feeling” that you can obtain from material things. Certain cars, clothes, food, cosmetics and gadgets can make you “happy.”
This kind of happiness has no lasting value. It is like a vapor, here one minute and gone the next. A milkshake can make you happy for a moment but its sweet taste is soon forgotten. A new Lincoln automobile can make you happy for a spell – until you see a friend driving a sleek Cadillac. Suddenly you are unhappy with your Lincoln.
Like every normal person you seek pleasure and enjoyment in life, yet the rewards of both are fleeting. You may enjoy a sporting event – unless your team loses. You may find a degree of pleasure in a movie or a play. You may find delight in a trip to the mountains or the beach. Some experiences may give you a warm feeling of gladness but it too will soon evaporate. What you long for, and what God wants for you is what the Bible calls joy.
Though you might suppose the words joy and happiness are interchangeable, but happiness is not a synonym for joy. Most dictionaries, for example, use other words than happiness to define joy. Some of those words are gladness, delight, mirth and cheerfulness.
One helpful definition of joy is this: “Joy is a state of mind and an orientation of the heart, a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope.”
The word joy appears in some translations of the Bible more than 300 times. The word happy does appear in the Bible but only about 25 times.
What the Bible means by joy can be learned by examining some of the scriptural uses of the word. For example, Jesus said there is joy in heaven when one sinner repents. The Apostle Peter said believers can experience “unspeakable joy.” John said the scriptures were written so that the joy of believers could be “full.” Paul explained that joy is a fruit of the Spirit.
Biblical joy is solid, dependable and enduring. It is much more than a laugh or a smile created by something that brings you delight. But joy will make you smile and if you have it inside, other people will know you have it. Your demeanor will reveal it because it is a cheerfulness of your soul, your deep inner self.
Joy is not temporary; it does not vanish overnight. It stays with you when times are tough. Suffering cannot rob you of your joy. Joy strengthens your inner being, providing you with the courage and fortitude to face adversity. Shallow happiness offers no such help.
Interestingly, the sound of the words betrays their true meaning. “Happy” has a hollow ring to it while “joy” has a strong, genuine sound. Speak both words aloud and you will see what I mean.
Jesus is the ultimate source of joy. He told his disciples he wanted his joy to be “in” them and for their joy to be complete. Once you get hold of this Jesus kind of joy, you will want more. And you will not want to lose it.
You obtain this joy by letting the Holy Spirit control your life. When the Spirit is in control, the fruit of the Spirit is produced in you and one of those fruits is joy. You cannot produce joy yourself; you can only receive it as the Spirit of God releases it in your heart.
As a child I was taught to sing this chorus, “If you want joy, real joy, let Jesus come into your heart.” There is solid truth in that children’s song. When you let Jesus take over your life, he fills your heart with his joy, a spiritual joy like no other. Things can make you happy for a season but only Jesus can give you lasting joy. He can take you beyond happiness to true joy.
Forget about being happy. When you have the joy of the Lord, you have everything you need – and you won’t miss the things that used to make you “happy.” + + +