What a familiar phrase … “I just want you to be happy.” Indeed happiness is an elusive quality and most sought after by members of the human race. The Bible speaks of rejoicing, of being happy and experiencing joy. For example, the Apostle Paul wrote … “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice” (Phil 4:4 NIV)! James, in his epistle said … “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2-3 NIV). Perhaps the thought has just crossed your mind – “I think I’ll pass on that one.”
Yet Scripture does not give believers in Jesus Christ impossible instructions since it is possible to experience joy in times of adversity or prosperity. Several things must be considered if a follower of Christ is to have joy and happiness. First, there must be a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through faith in Him, recognizing that on the Cross He paid the sin debt. This is true for every individual including that of this writer and you the reader. Second, there must be rapport with Christ by means of the filling of the Spirit. That is, personal sin which breaks fellowship must be confessed to the Father. John wrote … “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NIV).
The Christian is now in a posture to learn the Word of God as the Holy Spirit mentors his or her thinking to effectively apply what seems to be an impossible command, especially when the circumstances of life are adverse. The apostles are not speaking of outward exhilaration or pretending to be happy, but of an inner joy and peace that passes human comprehension. Recall Paul’s words to the churches in Philippi. Things were not pleasant. Roman persecution was on the rise and both Gentile and Jewish believers were feeling the anger that Satan motivates toward those who belong to Christ.
Yet the Apostle encouraged fellow believers … “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7 NIV). Paul prayed for the churches in Rome … “May the God of hope [confidence] fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope [confidence] by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom 15:13 NIV). Note the necessary ingredient for experiencing this confidence, joy and peace – “as you trust in Him.”
Does Christ not order all the things that come into a believer’s life and are those things not sifted through His love and grace? That being true, it follows that whatever experiences and circumstances God allows to enter into a believer’s life, His grace has already made provision for successfully having inner joy though the external conditions be adverse or not. That truth must become a reality in the life of every believer. No exceptions!
Paul did not like his circumstances and thought that he should be above having to experience certain adversities in life. “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:7-9a NIV). Thus, he embraced by faith God’s promise and concluded … “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:9b; 2 Cor 11:27-28-10 NIV).