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Thursday, 12 January 2012

Happiness, and Joy.

Okay, I confess.  Having caught part of an episode of the TV series Spooks, while waiting in the A&E Department of Glasgow's Western Infirmary (my mother-in-law was the patient), I started watching it, from the beginning, online.  It's my kind of programme - and I was as up-to-date with N.C.I.S. (and N.C.I.S. - Los Angeles) as I could be!

In the episode I watched last night, I heard one character make a statement that I thought was worth writing down.  She said, "Happiness isn't about getting what we want; it's about appreciating what we have."   That's worth reading over again - slowly (if I was preaching, I would certainly repeat it, very deliberately!).

This morning's Today programme, on BBC Radio 4, informed listeners that a survey by the Children's Society of the Church of England had concluded that a stable family relationship is more important than material possessions for the 10 out of 11 children who claimed that they are happy!

I found that to be very interesting.  Marriage, of course, is what the Archbishop of York, Rev Dr John Sentamu, who launched the Report, referred to as "the bedrock of society".  I was disappointed that such a leading evangelical preacher seemed to be equating "non-traditional relationships" with the traditional, Biblical concept of one man and one woman, for life, to the exclusion of all others.  However, in what many - myself included - have termed "the consumerist society" with its apparent emphasis on materialism, it is good to see that appreciation of the stable family that I have is more important than getting the material possessions that I want!

The Bible doesn't speak a great deal about happiness.  Indeed, there is only one reference to that word - in Lamentations 3:17.  Even 'happy' is not all that common - and it only occurs twice in the new Testament (although the word "Blessèd" may also be translated as "Happy").

What the Bible does major on is a related, but different, concept - that of 'Joy'.  Joy is something that is totally independent of situation and/or circumstances.  Shortly before His arrest, passion, and crucifixion,Jesus said to His disciples: "So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you." (John 16:22).  This was Paul's prayer for the infant church in the great metropolis of Rome: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, ..." (Rom 15:13).  Somewhat starngely, to most "western" minds, James encourages his readers to "Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4).

This is the joy of which some of us used to sing: "I've got that joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart."  It's the joy that helps to sustain my brothers and sisters in the persecuted church who look "... to Jesus the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb 12:2).

Happiness is a great thing to have, and appreciate.  But the bottom line is that it doesn't hold a candle to real, God-given, Holy Spirit inspired, Jesus honouring JOY!   By the way, that's also an acronym for how we may know real joy.  It's by putting Jesus first; Others second; and Yourself last!

What a difference it would make, to society as a whole, if every disciple of Jesus was to do just that!

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