You all have probably seen this acrostic of joy before:
And, while serving the Lord and others does bring joy, service and ministry is not the source of our joy. But before we get into that, let's go over what joy actually is.
How would you describe it? What does it look like? It's probably important that we know what it is because God commands it of us in Philippians 4:4. :) Is it that feeling of "delighted contentment" that you get when you're together with your family huddled around the Christmas tree? Or maybe the excitement you feel when you learn that your family is going to Hawaii for a week (now that would be awesome!!!)? Or maybe even the satisfaction you feel about getting an "A" on your test? I once heard someone describe joy as "an emotional response to something that brings great delight and excitement." I think that's the idea people get in their minds when someone says, "joy." That just leaves one question in my mind: Is there a difference between joy and happiness? And, if so, what is the difference? Well, I think many of us know there is a difference between them, but pin-pointing the difference is a little harder. Let's go back now to the source again and see what the Bible says.
Philippians 4:4 "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!"
Philippians 3:1a "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord."
Galatians 5:22a "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace. . . ."
Both verses say that we are to rejoice in the Lord. So, the source of our joy should be from the Lord. Joy isn't being "glad" when something bad happens, when you have a terrible day, or things just don't go your way. Joy is totally separate from circumstances. It's based on god's unchanging promises and knowing your relationship is right with Him - no matter what's going on in your life.
Unlike joy, however, happiness is the result of favorable circumstances. When things go your way, it's easy to be be happy; but rejoicing in the midst of trials is something that can only come from God. This is why joy is such a great evangelistic tool! When non-believers see our joy - through annoyances, through troubles, through misfortunes - they will know that the joy isn't of ourselves. Our joy is in the Lord!
So how do we get joy? It's one of the fruits of the Spirit and therefore a gift from God, but that doesn't mean we just sit around waiting for it to come! Though God is the One who brings it into our lives, we have to work and spend time in His Word, and get to know God. Remember, though, that it's not a knowledge about Him that brings joy, but our hope and relationship with Him!
Our rejoicing in the Lord is commanded! Did you notice that? God not only commands it, but He says we are "always" to rejoice. Wow! That means every day, every minute, anytime I'm thinking or working, whenever I talk. I know that this is not true of me! I would encourage you all, along with myself, to make a more conscious effort to place your joy in the Lord. "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord."