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Growing up in the church during this “most wonderful time of the year”, there were some key songs that were always sung around Christmas. One song in particular is “Joy to the World.” What an amazing song! I have always love singing it as I have matured over the years. I have spent more time contemplating the words of the many songs that we sing because I have learned about the words and phrases in various songs. I tend to have a greater and deeper singing and worship experience.

In “Joy to the World” I tend to focus on the word JOY. As I was learning more about what the Bible said about “Joy,” I was also drawn to what the Bible says about “Happiness.”

The dictionary definition of happiness is “a state of well-being…a pleasurable or satisfying experience.” 

A dictionary definition of the word rejoice, which is related to the word joy, is “to feel great delight; to be glad.”

 

DEFINITIONS:

  • Happiness: The Bible Sense Lexicon states – “enjoying, showing, or marked by joy or pleasure”
  • Joy: The Lexham Bible Dictionary states –“joy is more a state of being than an emotion; a result of choice.”
  • The key differences between happiness and joy is: Happiness tends to be achieved externally while joy is something achieved internally. 
    • A good example is that one can feel happy receiving a Christmas gift or achieving some special award. These things, as important as they are, are external. They are surface-level in our lives. It is not something that is deep but, rather, superficial. It is not of spiritual significance, but of fleshly significance.
    • Joy is something deeper. We feel joy internally. For the believer in Christ, we feel joy (deep within) when we worship God and when we remember what Christ did for us on the Cross to save us from our sins! A good verse that speaks to the “depth” of joy is this one:
      • John 15:11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

DIFFERENCES:

  • Joy is in the heart. Happiness is on the face.
  • Joy is of the soul. Happiness is of the moment.
  • Joy transcends. Happiness reacts.
  • Joy runs deep and overflows, while happiness hugs hello.
  • Joy is a practice and a behavior. It’s deliberate and intentional. Happiness comes and goes blithely (casual and cheerful indifference) along its way.
  • Joy is profound and Scriptural. “Don’t worry, rejoice.” Happiness is a balm. “Don’t worry, be happy.”
  • Joy is an inner feeling. Happiness is an outward expression.
  • Joy endures hardship and trials and connects with meaning and purpose.
  • A person pursues happiness but chooses joy.

(Read More in this article by Compassion International)

The article continued to say this:

Happiness:

  • Experiencing happiness depends on external factors.
  • Even though we may seek it, desire it, pursue it, etc., the feeling of happiness is not a choice we make.
  • Happiness doesn’t bring joy, and joy isn’t the byproduct of happiness. 

Joy:

  • Joy is a choice purposefully made.
  • Joy is grander than happiness. 
  • Joy is a fruit of the Spirit.
  • When we find joy it’s infused with comfort and more often than not…it is wrapped in peace. 
  • Joy is an attitude of the heart and spirit, often synonymous with but not limited to following Christ Jesus and pursuing a Christian life.

 

DISCUSSION:

An article that I read on Christianity Today by Glory Dy, had these subheadings pertaining to Happiness and Joy:

Happiness Is Bliss, Joy Is Selfless

  • Happiness is something that can end once it is felt. It does not sustain.
  • Joy is something more selfless, which means that you have joy when it is not for mere personal gain. 

Happiness Is Pleasure, Joy Is A Sacrifice

  • Happiness is rooted in some form of pleasure.
  • Joy is a sacrifice. When you think of others rather than yourself, it means you have joy in your heart. Joy does not only think of pleasure, rather, what is right and moral in the eyes of God.

Happiness Is Achievable on Earth (Albeit, temporarily), Joy Is a More Spiritual Connection with God (Joy is a fruit of the Spirit!)

  • “Happiness is only achievable on earth, while joy is spiritual and only achievable through the love of Christ.” – Glory Dy
  • Happiness can have a dark side.
  • Joy stems from what is pure and good.

Happiness is external…Joy is internal!

 

STEWARDSHIP APPLICATION:

Now that we have some understanding between these two terms, let’s look at the stewardship connection. You want to pursue happiness in this life?  Let’s look at someone who did, what they pursued, and their conclusion. Solomon pursued happiness to the maximum extent as seen in Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles. So, what did Solomon pursue?

  • Wine – (Prov. 20 and 23)
  • Women – He had over 1000 wives!
  • Money – Just the gold coming to Solomon (yearly) was worth around 200 million dollars (Remember, that is just the gold!).
    • “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them? The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep. I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner,” (Ecclesiastes 5:10–13, NIV84)
    • “Better one handful with tranquillity than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:6, NIV84)
  • FAME & POWER – Fame and power did not bring peace. In 1 Kings 11:40, we read that Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam because he was a threat to him and his kingdom.
  • POSSESSIONS – He said, “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.” (Ecclesiastes 2:10a, NIV84)  
    • He had animals of all kinds –  (2 Chronicles 9:21)  
    • He had possessions of all kinds (Ecclesiastes 2:4–8) 
  • AND…Much, much more!!!

Solomon was in a position to pursue happiness to its maximum degree, and that’s exactly what he did. But the books of Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles all reveal the reality of Solomon’s pursuits. Solomon stated, “All is vanity and striving after the wind” (Eccl. 2:11). Solomon used the word “vanity” or “meaningless” approximately 30 times in the book of Ecclesiastes!

Solomon’s pursuit of happiness was temporary, fleeting, and even damaging to him!

  • “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Everything is meaningless!” (Ecclesiastes 12:8, NIV84)
  • “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, NIV84)

I like what the old hymn “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.” It says, ”the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of His Glory and Grace.” How beautiful. 

I would not do justice to this discussion between happiness and joy without a quick touch on this verse:

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11, NIV84)

Paul here speaks to “learning” to be content! Learning is part of our sanctification process. We must learn contentment, not by aggressively chasing after the temporary things in life, but by pursuing God who is forever, and keeping His commandments.

 

Next Steps

 


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