January 28, 2013

We are just a couple weeks into the new year as I write this.

Doubtless many times over we greeted someone with the greeting, “Happy New Year!” Now, to wish someone happiness for the coming year is a good and encouraging thing. But, to be precise, it overlooks another important part of a great reality. Specifically, I like to make a distinction between happiness and joy.

Happiness, to me, represents the sense of well-being that comes from good “happenings”. That is, we are happy if things are going our way circumstantially: the job is going well, the kids are healthy, we just got a raise or we just had a great Christmas gathering with the family. Joy, by way of contrast, is based upon the conscious realization that God is in control at all times: when things go well and when things don’t go so well: we just lost our job, the kids have a dread disease or we had a total meltdown at the family Christmas gathering.

Our lives are somewhat a blend of good and bad circumstances. When good things happen, we may give thanks to God (We should!) but when bad stuff comes along, we’re quick to get down on others, ourselves or even God. Joy encompasses all of life, the good and the bad.

God Provides Joy To Us Whatever Comes Our Way.

Paul mentioned “joy” in some form 15 times in his letter to the Philippians. Noting his circumstances, this takes on added significance. He had been under arrest for several years, unjustly accused by his enemies. He was dealing with unscrupulous lawyers and leaders who slowed down the legal system to keep him out of circulation. He doubtless had poor health and eyesight; lingering physical problems from past mistreatment. In addition, he had less than unanimous support from the churches as he gave his life in service to them.

Yet, over and over again, he spoke of the joy he had and wanted them to enjoy. Obviously, this joy wasn’t based on his good circumstances, but upon his faith in the goodness and providence of God, his Father. This joy isn’t the exclusive possession of a select set of spiritual giants. It isn’t something we can work for, earn or deserve. It comes to any child of God who chooses to believe that his Father really does love him, has his best interests in mind and is smart enough and strong enough to truly be in control.

That is profoundly simple yet extremely difficult for all of us. When the events of life don’t go our way, we are tempted to forget, or to stop believing that God is still on

the job and hasn’t fallen asleep. He is fully attentive to our needs and is working out his plan for us. A suggestion for the New Year: read the Book of Philippians and let God speak its truths into your life. This would be a good, no a great way to start the year.

– Article by Ken Sheppard, Director of Mentoring for the Master’s Men ministry.