Most of us have experienced what happens to motorists when one of those huge graders goes to work on a highway repair job. When the machine is operating on a busy road, traffic is halted and the cars lined up in opposite directions are allowed to proceed alternately. A veteran operator of one of those big machines decided one day to try to relieve the tension that inevitably results from such a traffic backup. Consequently on both the front and rear of his grader a sign now appears, declaring,
“The Road to Happiness is Almost Always Under Construction.”
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright built a house for industrialist Hibbard Johnson during Wright’s most well known days, around 1937. One rainy evening Johnson was entertaining distinguished guests for dinner when the roof began to leak. The water seeped through directly above Johnson himself, dripping steadily onto his bald head. Irate, he called Wright in Phoenix, Arizona. “Frank,” he said, “you built this beautiful house for me and we enjoy it very much. But … the roof leaks, and right now I am with some friends and distinguished guests and it is leaking right on top of my head.” There was a pause on the line, and Frank Lloyd Wright reportedly replied: “Well, Hib, why don’t you move your chair?”
This week in our Prayer Group our theme was Happiness. Happiness and Joy have virtually the essence of the same meaning and the Scriptures are full of this theme. Galatians 5 says that the fruit of the Spirit is… JOY; and if you think about it, Joy and HAPPINESS and Rejoicing were of utmost importance to the people of God. What I discovered was that the Word of God seems to focus heavily on Joy i.e. Happiness.
The Hebrew language has more words for joy and rejoicing than any other language according to the Jewish Encyclopedia. There are at least twenty seven words in the Old Testament that are used for some aspect of joy or joyful participation in religious worship. Hebrew religious rituals demonstrate that God is the source of joy.
In contrast to the rituals of other faiths of the East, Israelite worship was essentially a joyous proclamation and celebration. The good Israelite regarded the act of thanking God as the supreme joy of his life. Pure joy is joy in God as both its source and object. The psalmist says, “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11
The New Testament stresses this as heavily as the Old did: 1 Thessalonians 5:16 commands us to “Be joyful always” and Romans 12:12 says we should “Be joyful in hope…” and Phil. 4 states “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 It makes me smile to think that he repeated himself like that. Reminds me of how I, as a parent, used to repeat myself over and over again to my kids. We all know that kids have lots of other things on their minds – parents being at the end of the list. Can we identify that with our Christian brothers and sisters.
There are many Christians who struggle with this idea of having “joy” in their lives. Their problem is THEY DON’T HAVE ANY JOY!
The evangelist Billy Sunday noticed this absence of joy in the lives of many people he preached to, and he observed: “If there is no joy in your religion, you’ve got a leak in your faith.” In other words – if there’s no joy in your life – you have a problem. You’ve got a leak someplace and you need to find a way to deal with it.
How many of you have felt as below or know others who have.
Life seems like it’s fallen apart.
They aren’t satisfied with their job… if they even have one.
Their family has problems.
Their health isn’t good
They can’t pay their mortgage
Their car has gone in for repairs for the 10th time this year.
Money, money, money – not enough
They just can’t see a “reason” for being joyful.
And, I can’t blame people for feeling that way. It’s hard to be joyful when life is going against you. It’s hard to be joyful when you’re
… struggling with troubles,
…or overwhelmed by pain,
…or unsure of your future.
Wait a minute ~ there’s a problem with THAT approach to life. If we wait till everything turns out the way we want it to in our lives… if we’re not going to be joyful until all the leaks are patched in our lives… THEN we’re NEVER going to experience JOY. Or, if we do have joy, it will be a rare occurrence.
Jesus Himself warned us that “… In this world you will have trouble…” John 16:33
Now, the good news is this. You don’t have to wait until you’re Happy with your life to have joy and happiness in your life. The kind of joy God wants you to have in your life WILL bring you happiness. But the pursuit of happiness will not always bring you joy.
Remember high school math. Well, this made me remember a little phrase from math class: “All squares are rectangles… but not all rectangles are squares” Remember that? I believe the same kind of concept exists in Scripture: “God’s Joy will always bring happiness… but the pursuit of happiness will not always bring joy.”
Why would that be?
The word happiness actually derives from the English word “Happenstance” which means “something that HAPPENs because of a circumSTANCE”
So, what we think of as happiness is an emotion that is caused by our circumstances. Worldly happiness is almost always reliant upon some situation or event to make us feel good. If something good happens… we’ll feel good. But if something bad happens… we won’t.
By contrast… God’s kind of Joy does not depend upon present situation. In fact, God’s joy often can exist despite our circumstances.
A person once asked his friend… “How are you doing?” His friend was upset about something that had happened in his life and replied “Oh… all right – under the circumstances.” To which the first man replied “what are you doing there? What are you doing UNDER your circumstance.”
God doesn’t want us to be UNDER our circumstances. God wants us to be OVERCOMERS. He wants to give us the ability to have control of our lives. He wants to set us free from the chains and the shackles that life can impose on us.
Jesus said: “… if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36
That’s why Scripture so often tells us to rejoice…even when it doesn’t make any sense.
James 1:2-4: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Peter tells the Christians of his day: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:12-13
What are these scriptures saying???
They’re saying – If the roof is leaking and you can’t get someone to fix it right away… MOVE YOUR CHAIR. Change your perspective. Take some control of your life – by rejoicing.
Galatians 5:22 “The fruit of the SPIRIT is… joy…” In other words… God’s Spirit is the source of God’s Joy. So, the more I’m filled with the Spirit of God… the more of God’s joy I’ll have in my life.
Ephesians says: “…be filled with the Spirit.” How do I do that?
1st – Surround yourself with music that glorifies God… and God will give you His joy.
Ephesians 5:18-19 “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” That’s what Paul and Silas had done in their prison cell. That is what we do daily in our Prayer Room http://thespiritualfamily.chatango.com
2nd – Spend a great deal of your time in prayer thanking God for what He’s done… and God will give you His Joy. I suspect that also was what Paul and Silas were praying about while they were in jail. They were reminding themselves of all the good things God had already done in their lives – the miracles they’d seen and the lives that had been changed.
“…always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20.
3rd –Find a way to serve others… and God will give you His joy. For the Christian, Joy is more than an emotion. Joy is a tool God gives us to overcome our circumstances, to empower us to rise above the pain and the sorrows of this life. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21.
Hebrews 12:2: Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right hand of God’s throne. (paraphrased).
Jesus overcame the pain and disgrace of the cross – He rose above the horror of His crucifixion – BECAUSE He didn’t focus on His present situation. INSTEAD He focused on the JOY that was waiting for Him.
Let us focus on the JOY and Happiness that awaits us; and let us enjoy the happiness while we walk the path to get there.