Pure Joy or Mere Happiness?
“To pursue joy is to lose it. The only way to get it is to follow steadily the path of duty, without thinking of joy, and then, like sheep, it comes most surely unsought, and we “being in the way,” the angel of God, bright-haired joy, is sure to meet us.” ~Alexander MacLaren
“The Lord has done great things for us,and we are filled with joy.” Psalm 126:3 (NIV)
Look carefully into the Word of God and you will notice that scripture teachings on the topic of HAPPINESS point to our trust and relationship with God.
“He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he” Proverbs 16:20 (NKJV)
A dictionary definition of happiness is “a state of well-being, a pleasurable or satisfying experience.”
The definition of the word “rejoice,” from which our word “joy” comes, is “to feel great delight, to welcome or to be glad.”
Depending on the translation, the Bible uses the words “happy” and “happiness” about 30 times, while “joy” and “rejoice” appear over 300 times.
Happiness is short-lived because it depends on things outside of ourselves. Joy comes from within and is based on our relationship to Christ. The Bible does not command us to pursue happiness or even seek it out. Happiness is an emotional response to and the result of God’s goodness and blessings. However, JOY is very apparent in the Bible and this joy comes through God and God alone.
Yes, there are good times and bad times in life. During bad times we experience emotions of fear, sorrow, and depression. In good times we experience emotional happiness and pleasure, but this is not the supernatural joy God speaks of in James 1:2-3. The difference between happiness and joy rests in our focus. We can be joyful in the midst of great adversity because our focus is on God and in the blessing of sharing in the fellowship of His sufferings. Feelings of happiness are absent when we are experiencing pain, sorrow, and tribulations.
Happiness is a self-centered emotion. We experience happiness when we receive a gift or experience something apart from acknowledging God for the blessing. We can even be pleased for somebody else yet remain self-centered in our happiness: “I am happy because you are happy.”
When we receive a blessing that produces a happy feeling AND we turn our focus to God, acknowledging and thanking Him for the favor and benefit, joy is experienced. Pure joy comes by giving God His due. His desire to fellowship with us…. His creation, and build an intimate relationship full of intimacy should leave us awestruck.
Presently, there are some popular church leaders who teach that worship should be for our own happiness and benefit, that when we are happy God is happy. We may experience spiritual joy while praising His name but our motive behind worship should never be self-centered. We ought not think of how our time of praise will benefit us, it should be for God’s pleasure alone. Thinking about our time of worship as a means to profit is hedonistic.
“This is a hedonistic view-a doctrine that teaches that the chief end of life is one’s personal pleasure-to worship God or attend church for what man can obtain in return.”
“If we participate for a pragmatic benefit—to say, ‘Just worship because look how much better you’re going to feel’—that is minimizing the worth of a holy God and making self the benefactor of worship, when worship is simply the glorifying of God entirely,” he outlined.
Complete joy comes from God. In times of selfless worship we will receive joy because our focus is entirely on God, but never when our focus is on ourselves. And yes, there are benefits that come as a result of our worship, for the Word says He inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3) and that if we draw close to Him… He will draw near to us(James 4:8). Time spent with God will always bring forth a deeper and more intimate relationship with the Creator.
“Give to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come into His courts. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth. Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns; The world also is firmly established, It shall not be moved; He shall judge the peoples righteously.’ Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; Let the sea roar, and all its fullness; Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord.” Psalm 96:8-12 (NKJV)
When we enter into the awesome throne room of God and witness His power and might, we should be filled with reverent fear. This holy and righteous fear should purge us of all self-focus. Why? Because the Creator of the universe is omnipotent and fearsome in His might yet still, He appreciates the songs of praise offered by that which He created.
Our God seeks a pure heart. A pure heart is not a selfish or self-centered one, nor do the pure of heart look for gain and prosperity while worshipping their Savior. Because God has done great things we are filled with joy and that joy is indeed our strength.
Let us then decide to magnify God with the sole purpose of glorifying His precious name. Let us lay aside all self-interest whenever we enter into His courts of praise. May our heart and mind be completely focused on giving Him pleasure, without a thought to our own happiness. Shall we simply adore Him and the glory of His splendor? It is here where joy is found, and joy trumps worldly happiness every time.
“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is the great God, and the great King above all gods. In His hand are the deep places of the earth; The heights of the hills are His also. The sea is His, for He made it; And His hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.” Psalm 97:1-7 (NKJV)
“Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name;Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” Psalm 29:2 (NKJV)
“But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel.” Psalm 22:3 (NKJV)
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me.My heart leaps for joy,and with my song I praise Him.” Psalm 28:7(NIV)