This Christmas, I have been trying to center on what it means to have “great joy” in a world that seems to be more focused on finding happiness.
Did you know, that depending on your translation, the Bible uses joy (or rejoice) over 300 times? Happiness (or happy) is only used about 30 times. There has to be a distinction between them, but what is it? When Jesus was born, God sent a large group of angels to the shepherds who were to spread this “good news” (evangelical) to the whole world. And this good news would bring “great joy” to everyone.
Luke 2:10 “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’”
To have a joyless faith in Jesus is a contradiction in terms! Jesus came to give us joy! Joy is a much deeper word than happiness because joy is more of a spiritual action of the heart. And yet, what is it that humanity pursues the most? Happiness! Wikipedia reveals that; “The American Dream" is rooted in the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims that "all men are created equal" with the right to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." And yet I would rather pursue joy because happiness is dependent on certain happenings around you in order to be content, such as your mood, which can be either good or bad. To be happy is to be dependent on whether or not it is raining or if it is sunny and warm. Happiness also depends on having enough of the right food to eat or having a nice car, a nice house or the latest in tech toys. On the other hand, the “great joy” that the angels are talking about in Luke 2:10 is a deep-seeded joy that is not dependant on circumstances. In fact the Scriptures tell us that “great joy” can play a large part in developing our character even in times of trouble and trials.
James 1:2-4 “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
Writer Heidi Joelie believes that “joy is a deep security based on our knowledge that God loves us, will take care of us, and has saved us through Christ (Ephesians 1:13-14)". And just because you don’t feel joyful right now that doesn’t mean you do not have a relationship with Jesus or that you are a bad Christian. Life (can be) pretty bleak sometimes, but joy is not based on feeling; it is based on knowing. Remember that your Saviour, Jesus Christ, loves you enough to die for you, and you will never be given more than you are capable of handling (1 Corinthians 10:13). This “deep joy” God’s Word talks about comes from having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This joy is not dependent on anything around you because it comes from the Spirit who plants it in your heart at the point of your salvation.
Jesus came to bring us this “great joy” to all people, not just some. Yet this joy is elusive to those that have chosen to reject the One in whom this great joy is found. In other words there is no possibility of receiving this brand of great joy without having a relationship with the personification of Joy itself---Jesus. This is the joy of Christmas!! Let us live in it.