“That my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11).
Everyone wants to be happy, but each of us defines happiness differently. Some base their happiness level on what they possess. Happiness is a new pair of shoes, a sporty car, the latest electronics, or designer clothing. In their vocabulary happiness equals possessions. Others seek happiness through travel, entertainment, relationships, or accomplishments. They believe circumstance rather than any inner quality brings happiness. Neither viewpoint ever seems to have “enough.” Happiness becomes elusive.
True happiness cannot be bought. Motivational speaker Denis Waitley stated it this way: “Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”
Rather than seeking happiness as the world defines it, we would be much wiser to discover joy as promised in the Word of God. That process begins with our salvation experience (Isaiah 12:3). Joy comes through the power of the Spirit working in our lives.
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13, NKJV).
Biblical joy is not dependent upon circumstances or possessions. In fact, our greatest joy may come during times of trials and hardship. Luke 6:22-23 tells us to leap for joy because we are hated, shunned, reproached, and spoken evil of, for our “reward is great in heaven.”
Joy in tribulation
Paul stated, “I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation” (II Corinthians 7:4). In another place he declared, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (II Corinthians 12:10).
Did Paul view life through rose-tinted glasses, ignoring the reality of the situation? Not at all. He saw beyond the fleeting pleasure of material goods to discover an inner joy that develops as a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
After our salvation experience, we learn to keep our joy vibrant by developing a strong relationship with the Lord. Scripture calls it abiding. In John 15 Jesus refers to Himself as the True Vine. In descriptive terms that the listener could relate to his everyday life, Jesus spoke of the branch only being able to bear fruit as it was attached to the vine. The strength to be productive came from the life within the vine, not from the branch itself. If broken off, the branch soon withered and died, good only to be gathered up and burned.
learning to abide
To keep our branch firmly attached to the vine we must obey God’s Word. “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love” (John 15:10; also read I John 2:3-6).
Abiding can be painful at times, for the gardener must prune back the branches to encourage new, stronger growth. As we walk with God, the pruning process rids our lives of things that would weaken us, causing us to become barren (without fruit), and perhaps to even die.
In his wisdom, Solomon summed it up quite well: “Whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he” (Proverbs 16:20). The secret to true joy comes not from what we possess but from Whom we know and trust.