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A Life of Unchanging Joy

Excerpted from “Grace and Power” – W. H. Griffith Thomas (1916)

“In Your name they rejoice all day long” (Ps. 89:16). We must not forget, though it is often repeated in our ears, that there is a vast difference between joy and happiness. Happiness depends upon what happens, upon circumstance, the “hap” of life. Joy is independent of circumstances and is connected with our relationship to God. Happiness is very much like the surface of the sea, sometimes turbulent, at other times calm; joy is like the bed of the ocean, which is untouched by anything on the surface. Joy, referring to our relationship to God, is threefold. There is joy of retrospect, as we look back at the past; there is joy of aspect, as we look around on the present; there is joy of prospect, as we look forward to the future. There is the joy of memory, the joy of love, and the joy of hope. There is the joy of the peaceful conscience, the joy of the grateful heart, the joy of the teachable mind, the joy of the trustful soul, the joy of the adoring spirit, the joy of the obedient life, and the joy of the glowing hope.

“In Your name they rejoice.” That is where we get our joy – “in Your name,” in the revelation of God. The name of God is all that is known of Him. Wherever the word name occurs, it never reveals a mere title or epithet but a character, the revealed character of God. In proportion as we get to know this “name” and what it means in all the fullness, we shall have joy, which will thus depend not upon ourselves but upon God.

“In Your name they rejoice all day long-“ in other words, under all circumstances. That is what Paul meant when he said, “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4). He did not say, “Be happy in the Lord always.” He knew very well it was impossible. We cannot be happy always. If we have anything troublesome in our circumstances, if we have any bodily pain, if we have any mental or social anxiety, we cannot possibly be happy. The apostle Paul was not very happy when he called himself sorrowful, but he said, “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10). While we cannot be happy always, we can rejoice always, because we rejoice in the Lord always. Our joy is independent of happiness, of what happens, it is associated with God.

This, too, is a need of the Christian life, one that ought to be considered again and again, the need of unchanging joy. If in our daily life we do not realize what this means, we are lacking in one of the essential features of biblical Christianity.

Words of Grace for Strength

If there is anything we forget to do as members of the body of Christ, it is to be joyous in all things. We are often so caught up in trying to stay happy or become happy again that we do not have the time nor inclination to be joyous. Yet it is to joy that we are called, no matter the circumstances of life. In fact, we are called to joy especially if the circumstances of life are working against our happiness.  My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials – James 1:2. It is because of what we have in Christ that we can call up unlimited reservoirs of joy, for what we have in Him, who we are in Him and where will one day be with Him overcomes the present troubles of this world. There is joy in knowing we can show the love of Christ, and our faith in Christ to others during times of trials and trouble. To Him be all the glory, and we have joy in knowing Him and saying this.

But to be joyous requires a focus on Jesus, or the unhappy circumstances of this world will sweep you away. It is no wonder Paul calls himself sorrowful in 2 Corinthians 6:10. Just read of his trials in the passage in 2 Corinthians 11:22-33 to see what he had to be sorrowful about. Yet he endured, because he had joy in the Lord. Paul finished his race running as to win; he fought the good fight because he was focused on Jesus, the source of his strength and the reason for his joy. Too often today people in the Church forget the joy (which is eternal) because they are chasing the happiness (which may only be in the here and now). There will be pain, suffering, hatred and persecution of believers by an angry and unbelieving world. Jesus told us so. And that is nothing to be happy about, so isn’t it better to focus on the joy and let the happiness come as it may (as He wills)? The circumstances of happiness can shift from moment to moment, but our joy in the Lord is unchanging if we just embrace it.

A fool can be happy (and fools often are) without realizing the feeling can be momentary and fleeting. We can know the rock solid foundation of Jesus Christ on which we can build in joy, knowing the lasting nature of that which the Lord blesses and accepts as His own. Our joy is knowing that through the merits of Christ we are clasped firmly in His and the Father’s hands, and nothing can pry us from that for all eternity. Nothing can change that, so our joy is unchanging. Come what may in this world, we will stand in His eternal presence one day for ever. The song is called “Joy to the World” but the joy is only in those who know the risen Christ and have accepted Him as their Lord and Savior. Joy everlasting, joy unchanging.

Are you considering it all joy today?