Phillipians 3:1 (NLT)
A man once told me that he’d broken up with his fiancé because she didn’t make him happy enough. Mind you, he was happy with her; she just didn’t make him as happy as he felt a future wife should.
What this man told me gives memorable insight into how some people view happiness: They believe happiness is dependent upon the people, the things, and the circumstances that surrounded them. Yet, the Bible says don’t settle for happiness; aim for joy.
Joy comes from within; joy is not dependent upon the people in your life, or the possessions you accumulate, or what’s happening at this point in your life.
God says you’ll find joy, when you trust that he’s in control and working to use the good – and the bad – of your life for a greater purpose.
The apostle Paul understood this, writing about joy while in prison, chained to a guard, alone in a foreign city: “Whatever happens, dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord give you joy …” (Philippians 3:1 NLT).
He suggested there are two keys to transforming mere happiness into a deeply-felt, ever-present joy:
First, live each day by grace. Grace means you don’t have to earn God’s love or his approval. And here’s some joyful news: If you don’t have to earn God’s love, then you don’t have to earn anyone else’s love. God offers his love unconditionally, and you can joyfully live in that grace everyday, all day long. Understanding this drains the tension from your life: you can make mistakes and know that you’re still loved by God, who desires a relationship with you over any rules or rituals.
The man who broke up with his fiancé appears to have had difficulty in understanding grace. His love came with conditions – “As long as you make me happy, I’ll love you” – and that means he probably assumes the love he receives from others is conditional too. How can anyone experience joy when they live each day thinking they have to earn love?
Second, stay focused on what’s really important. There are a lot of little things that can steal your joy – but only if you let them. Jesus taught this: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV).
My sister, Chaundel, thought about this Bible passage when she learned her house in Maryville , California , was under 9 feet of water. While she and her husband, Tom, were out to dinner, the local levy broke and flooded the area. Even in her grief, she joked, “We drove our Chevy to the levy, and the levy was dry.”
Looking back on that time, Chaundel says, “God taught us that such a loss really makes you think about what’s important and what’s going to last. Our possessions were wiped out in a matter of minutes, but the important thing is that we were alive and well. Within a year, our house was rebuilt, but we could have never replaced each other.”
Happiness is overrated. On the other hand, joy is often forgotten. Yet, joy will stabilize your life as you embrace grace and focus on the things that are truly important, moving a bad hair day down the list and relationships up to the top. No matter what happens, may God give you joy.
(by Pastor Rick Warren, Saddleback Community Church)