By Bob Stacy
I sat alone on a camp bench thinking about the sermon I would preach that evening. An hour before I had spoken to the youth about the joy of the life of Christ. As I sat there deep in thought, one of the campers approached me and said, “Smile, Mr. Stacy. That’s what you told us to do.” Looking up at him, I replied, “I was just thinking of something that didn’t make me smile.” As many do, he had confused a smile with being joy-filled.
Happiness Versus Joy
Happiness comes from the root, happen. And happiness depends wholly upon what happens. If I’ve planned an outing and I get out of bed in the morning and hear rain, I won’t be happy. If struck by a tree limb as I walk outside, I won’t be happy. If my dog dies, I won’t be happy. Happiness is fleeting. It can change from day to day, from circumstance to circumstance, from moment to moment.
Joy, on the other hand, is something Jesus places in the hearts of his children. It doesn’t change because of circumstances. It is a permanent possession. And so even though I may not be happy, I may always be joy-filled—especially if I’m “poor in spirit,” if I’m a “peacemaker,” if I “hunger and thirst after righteousness,” and if I share with the Lord in persecution.
“Rejoice and again, I say, ‘Rejoice.’”
Rain on the day of a planned outing, a bump on the head, the loss of a pet, or the diagnosis of a rare disease—none of these will make me happy. But blessed by God, I may retain my joy even in the midst of such disconcerting happenings. That is why Paul could write from the confines of a prison, “Rejoice in the Lord always. And again, I say, ‘Rejoice.’” That is why in whatever circumstances I may find myself, I may “rejoice in the Lord.” I may not be happy, but no person or circumstance can rob me of the joy Christ has given me.
Bob Stacy is has served as preaching minister in a number of churches, as founder of Christ In Youth and as a professor of Bible and ministry in three colleges. He and his wife Nell are presently serving the Spring Hill Church of Christ in Middletown, Ohio.