“Rejoice always.” These are the words of God to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 5:16. Christians should be the happiest people on this earth! No, not because their lives are easy; but, because their source of joy is greater than every other source of joy!
So where does the Christian’s joy come from? Why is it greater than every other kind of joy? The difference is seen in its duration and its quality – that comes from an entirely different source!
The Source Of The Christian’s Joy
The source of the Christian’s joy is God. Jesus Christ has brought true joy into the world. Therefore, after Jesus was born, Luke 2:10-11 records this statement made to the shepherds by an angel of the Lord: “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Surely, true joy would be found through this Savior, Jesus Christ – and only through Him!
God provides all spiritual blessings “in Christ.” Apart from Jesus Christ is spiritual death (see Ephesians 2:1-3). However, “in Christ” we are blessed with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3). Paul, then, goes on to explain (in verses 4-14) some of these spiritual blessings – including being the children of God and obtaining the forgiveness of sins!
Being “in Christ” means that we are no longer dead in our trespasses and sins; but, alive to God (see Ephesians 2:1-13)! We no longer are separated from God through our sins; but, we enjoy peace with God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ! Therefore, Paul wrote: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Romans 5:1-2 explains that since we have been “justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
1 Peter 1:3-9 speaks of the “living hope” that Christians have “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven” for them “who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Then, Peter says, “In this [hope] you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.” And, even though we do not yet see Jesus, since we believe in Him and trust in His promises, we can “rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” – receiving the end of our faith, the salvation of our souls!
So, because of all of these great blessings and promises in Christ Jesus, Christians have a joy that is unmatched by any earthly joy! True joy, therefore, only results whenever an individual truly recognizes what is valuable in life and devotes His life accordingly. For instance, Jesus taught a parable concerning a man who found a treasure in a field and hid it. Then, because of his joy over what he had found, he sold everything he had in order to buy that field (Matthew 13:44). This, Jesus said, is like a man who discovers his opportunity to be part of the kingdom of heaven! Likewise, whenever individuals in the book of Acts heard the gospel preached and were obedient to it, they went on their way rejoicing (see Acts 8:38-39 and Acts 16:31-34).
The Duration Of The Christian’s Joy
Earthly sources of joy (i.e. joy based on earthly pleasures, riches, and circumstances) are only temporary. They only last as long as the sources of the joy. That is, joy based on wealth only lasts as long as an individual is wealthy. Joy based on earthly pleasures only last as long as the pleasure is being experienced. Moses realized this. Hebrews 11:24-26 reveals that Moses chose to suffer affliction with God’s people rather than enjoy the riches and treasures of being in Egypt, because he recognized that the earthly pleasures of sin were “passing pleasures”!
While the joy of those who rely on earthly things will fade whenever their lives end or the earthly things are taken from them, the Christian’s joy will last because his/her joy is based on the promises of God for eternal life in Heaven! Therefore, Jesus taught that we should not lay up treasures upon this earth (because they will be taken away from us); but, that we should lay up treasures in Heaven (which will never be taken away from us) – see Matthew 6:19-21 and Luke 12:13-21.
The Quality Of The Christian’s Joy
Earthly sources of joy are dependent upon earthly circumstances. An individual whose joy is based on earthly things (and not on God) will not be happy if his/her earthly circumstances take a downward turn. For instance, when an individual’s happiness is based on wealth and he/she loses that wealth, his/her happiness also vanishes.
However, because the Christian’s joy is rooted in God and God’s promises, he/she can be truly happy in whatever circumstances he/she experiences. For instance, whenever the apostle Paul instructed his fellow Christians to rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4), he was a prisoner for preaching the gospel, unsure if he would continue to live or if he would die (see Philippians 1)! Also read the following passages with a focus on how Christians can be joyful – even when their earthly circumstances are less than favorable: Matthew 5:10-12, Acts 5:40-42, Romans 5:1-4, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, 2 Corinthians 6:10, James 1:2-4, and 1 Peter 1:3-9.
Clearly, the Christian’s life is a different kind of happy life. It is not a life that is happy because of a participation in worldly things; but, because he/she is devoted to living for God and hopes in God’s promises! So, the Christian rejoices when he/she gives up everything in order to follow the Lord (Matthew 13:44). He/she is satisfied with whatever God blesses him/her with (Philippians 4:10-13). He/she is “blessed” (happy) when he/she is poor, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting, merciful, pure, peaceful, persecuted, and giving (see Matthew 5:3-12 and Acts 20:35). Certainly, this is not how the world desires to find happiness. But, the Christian has recognized that true happiness only comes from following the Lord and having the peace of God which surpasses all understanding (see Galatians 5:22-23 and Philippians 4:6-7)!