The Pursuit of Happiness  -  Joy

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Everyone endeavors to achieve happiness, but not all agree on how happiness is realized. The lifestyle of the rich farmer — “take thine ease, eat drink, and be merry” — is attractive. Others may think it lies in having power, like Pilate who said, “Knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee, and have power to release Thee?” (John 19:1010Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? (John 19:10)). Without multiplying other pursuits men endeavor for their enjoyment, let us observe what made the Lord Jesus rejoice. While He was on earth, we may observe that in the four Gospels there were two things that made Him rejoice. First, He rejoiced that God was honored, and, second, that mankind was blessed (see John 4:3636And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. (John 4:36)). Never did He rejoice because of what He obtained or because of His beneficial circumstances. He was rather known as the Man of sorrows, as He is now the Man of patience, waiting for the coming kingdom when all will rejoice together. Yet in His time of affliction and sorrow, He did rejoice, and so may we.
Hannah
Throughout the Scriptures, there are many couplets of joy; the first is found in the prayer, or song, of Hannah. “Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord, mine horn is exalted in the Lord: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in Thy salvation” (1 Sam. 2:1). This double mention of rejoicing is according to the pattern we have observed in the Lord Jesus. First, she rejoiced in the Lord, and then in His salvation to mankind. The experience of receiving a son through the Lord’s promise and then dedicating that son to serve Him opened her heart to know the Lord. It enabled her to rejoice in Him. This rejoicing has nothing to do with circumstances but is in the Lord Himself, though a series of circumstances was necessary to make her rejoice in the Lord. We might refer to it as a vertical form of rejoicing, while rejoicing in the Lord’s salvation is horizontal; it relates to circumstances on earth.
In the measure that we pass through difficulties in our lives, it is good for us to remember the case of Hannah, realizing that present circumstances are building blocks to make us rejoice in the Lord. Our rejoicing in His salvation is complete as regards our souls, but as regards our bodies, salvation will be realized in a coming day when Christ comes. Like Hannah, who upon receiving the promise of a son was no longer sad, we by faith in the Lord’s promises can sing during our journey.
The Seventy Disciples
When the seventy disciples returned to the Lord after having accomplished many miracles, they rejoiced that the devils were subject unto them. The Lord turns their souls to a better motive than overcoming Satan’s power. He said to them, “Rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:2020Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20)). The blessing of mankind was in His heart. At that moment, the Lord Jesus opens His heart for us to see more of what caused Him to rejoice. “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight” (vs. 21). The Lord delights in blessing those who have the least, even the babes and unwise. What love and grace!
Sacrifices of Joy
The Apostle Paul, writing from prison to the Philippians, gives us four double examples of rejoicing. The first cause of rejoicing has to do with the preaching of the gospel. He earnestly desired the blessing of souls through the preaching of the gospel. His desire exceeded the evil speaking that encompassed the preaching of those that sought to add affliction to his bonds. Being evil spoken of was nothing to him, so long as the gospel was preached and the Holy Spirit was active. Even if it meant he would be evil spoken of because of the way some preached, yet he would desire that Christ be preached. He says, “What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice” (Phil. 1:1818What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:18)). While it meant he would have to suffer more because of their devious methods of preaching, he would both rejoice at that time because the gospel was preached for the blessing of souls, and he would continue to rejoice because in the future day those saved would be with the Lord.
The next cause of rejoicing of which Paul speaks similarly has to do with the outcome of the way the Philippians preached the gospel. He writes to them of how they had appeared “as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life, so as to be a boast for me in Christ’s day, that I have not run in vain nor labored in vain. But if also I am poured out as a libation on the sacrifice and ministration of your faith, I rejoice, and rejoice in common with you all. In like manner do ye also rejoice, and rejoice with me” (Phil. 2:14-1814Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain. 17Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. 18For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:14‑18) JND). He would be like a drink offering (libation) of wine poured out in joy over their sacrifice to God in the preaching of the gospel to others. In the coming day of Christ, when He appears, they would rejoice together with Him. In whatever measure that sacrifices are made for Christ, there will be joy, both now and with Christ at His appearing.
We see in the next example how Paul’s joy was bound up in seeing the Philippians rejoice. Epaphroditus was sent by the Philippians to help Paul at Rome. In Rome Epaphroditus became sick and nearly died; however, the Lord raised him up. The Philippians were concerned about his condition. Sending Epaphroditus back to Philippi in good health would cause the Philippians to rejoice. Any sorrow Paul would have at Epaphroditus’ departure would be well compensated by the Philippians’ joy at seeing him again. “I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when you see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such in reputation: because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me” (Phil. 2:28-3028I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. 29Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: 30Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me. (Philippians 2:28‑30)). When each one seeks the good of the other, there is rejoicing.
In the last chapter we have that short little verse which speaks volumes and is often sung in happy chorus. “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice!” This rejoicing lifts our souls above all circumstances to occupy us with the person of the Lord Jesus. His delight is in us, and we may delight in Him. Time and circumstances will never change the One who is the Same, yesterday, today and forever. May our hearts never be removed from the enjoyment of Him. He, though in heaven, has a heart that corresponds to it in joy.
D. C. Buchanan