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Happy or Joyful…Must We Choose?

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The Bible says we are to find our happiness (our delight, our joy, our gladness) in God…who He is, what He has done, what He promises, and all He provides. But when we seek that happiness, we sometimes find people (even “theologians”) who quickly explain that the happiness we are seeking is not Biblical.

There is considerable confusion about the words “joy” and “happiness” among Christians. Some believe you should be “joyful” (a deep emotion and response to God) but not “happy” (considered a more shallow, frivolous emotion and response to circumstances). Is joy superior to happiness?

In the Bible, joy, happiness, gladness, and merriment are often interchangeable based on the original language (Hebrew, Greek) and are often mistranslated “blessed”. Being happy and being joyful can be the same experience. Both happiness and joy are found in God through Christ by the Holy Spirit.

The angel announced in Luke 2:10:  “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day…”  (The Greek word for great is megas: This good news is megajoy…the best news ever.)

Another example is found in 2 Chronicles 15:15 (GNT) – “All the people of Judah were happy because they had made this covenant [with God] with all their heart. They took delight in worshiping the Lord, and He accepted them and gave them peace on every side.”

You would be shocked if I told you who wrote the following erroneous, unbiblical statement in a very well-known and highly recommended book: “It is an insult to use the word happiness in connection with Jesus Christ.” Such careless understanding of the original language and word meanings misleads people. 

Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan preacher, said, “Persons need not and ought not to set any bounds to their spiritual and gracious appetites. Rather, they ought to be endeavoring by all possible ways to inflame their desires and to obtain more spiritual pleasure.”

There is such a thing as worldly “joy”: “There is pleasure in sin for a season…” (Hebrews 11:25) but the way of death results from it. On the other hand, spiritual joy and happiness found in Psalm 1 is the offer God makes to His people.

A.W. Tozer: “…For a long time it has been drummed into us that if we are happy, God is worried about us.  We believe He’s never quite pleased if we are happy.  But the strict, true teaching of the Word is that God takes pleasure in the pleasure of His people, provided His people take pleasure in God.”

The first principle of happiness:  As we obey God, happiness belongs to the believer. (Proverbs 28:14)

Applying the truth of happiness and joy to our lives:

  1. Solomon chose joy and wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:12 – “I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves [in God] as long as we can.”
  2. God grants us the resources for joy (2 Peter 1:2-4) and gives us freedom to choose how we will think and act (Romans 12:2).
  3. Happy people practice and act upon their happiness. Paul, speaking of spiritual gifts, wrote: “…let us use them…the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:6-8)
  4. Philippians 4:8 says to “fix your thoughts…” which means we must train our brains toward happiness and joy.
  5. Practice deliberate, Biblical thinking rooted in the scriptures and careful interpretation of the scriptures as opposed to the opinions of men.

Will you choose, practice and claim for God’s glory your God-provided happiness and joy, or will you continue to seek a “deep joy” and miss the “abundant happiness” that is so closely related?

Author RANDY ALCORN is credited with much of the material above. I recommend his book Happiness published by LifeWay Publishing.

Larry Shields
Associate Pastor of Administration
Posted by Larry Shields with

How Do I Share My Testimony With Others?

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One of the most intimidating and neglected activities Christians find difficult is presenting the gospel to others, including sharing our own personal testimonies. While presenting the gospel is something every disciple of Christ should know how to do as part of our Great Commission given by Christ in Matthew 28:18-20, sharing our testimony can become second nature and have great impact on any who are considering Christ. Let’s look at three simple points we can share when sharing our testimony/telling others about how we came to know Jesus.

Our testimony should always begin with, “My life before Christ.”  Unveiling our personal longings or needs that drew us to spiritual things and God often connects with the personal longings the person you are sharing with has. Perhaps a great sorrow or loss made you aware of your need. It could have been a life failure, addiction or sense of helplessness. It may have been a gnawing emptiness inside that accompanied an otherwise seemingly good life. Perhaps it was a longing for a deeper relationship of love, acceptance, hope and grace. As people are considering Christ there are many avenues of need the Holy Spirit can use to cause them to identify with you and their similar need.

The second area of our testimony should be, “How I came to Christ.” This includes the details of what happened. Was it at a camp, a church service or in bed late at night that you heard and responded to the invitation of God for a personal relationship? Did it happen in an unforgettable moment, or was it over a period of time that you realize God sent Christ to save you, or a gradual surrendering. Some people believe in a moment and are saved. For others salvation is eventually settled, leading to assurance in their hearts, culminating with a desire to publicly profess their salvation through baptism. This second part of our testimony tells how we settled this decision and the actions we took.

The last area of our testimony should be “My life now.” It is the story of how we are different, changed, new and following Christ. This is perhaps the most powerful and meaningful part of our testimony.

Those three areas comprise a strong personal testimony. You can write it out, hone it and practice sharing it. It should only be 3-6 minutes. Extensive details are not as important as your story smoothly flowing through the power and process of God calling and leading you into relationship with Him through Christ. With that in mind, let me share my testimony.

My father left our family when I was approximately 5 years old. I can remember “my hero” holding me and telling me I would always be his “little man,” that he loved me, and yet that he needed a change in life. He moved to Alaska and I did not see him for the next 8 years. Though he sent many gifts while homesteading, such as furs, totem poles and such I longed for relationship, love and guidance. At the age of 10 my mother remarried and I will never forget my stepfather’s words. He said that, although he would care for me, it would never be the same kind of relationship as a family that lived in God’s perfect plan of one mother and one father. My stepfather knew my need for love and shared that there was a Heavenly Father who loved perfectly and wanted a relationship with me. He went on to explain that God the Creator actually wanted me as a son, and would always be there relationally to counsel, guide, comfort, instruct and be with me. That was exactly what I had sought  for years. My mother began going to church with me for the first time while she was dating my future stepfather. In a service one morning I walked the aisle as a 10-year old and entered into a personal relationship with the living God through confession of my sin and receiving Christ Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I placed my faith in Jesus, and in His death, burial and resurrection as the payment for my sin so I could be unconditionally adopted by God into His eternal family. That has now been over four decades ago. As a father, counselor and pastor to many people seeking relational love, acceptance, forgiveness and grace from God and others, the predominant ongoing motivating factor in all  areas of my life is my Heavenly Father. He has been there every moment for me.  He has taught me His wisdom. He has allowed me to help others. He has blessed me, my ministry and especially my marriage and family more than I could ever have dreamed as a lonely, wounded and searching child. My goal in life is to introduce people, not to religion, but rather to a relationship with the living God, His Son and the Holy Spirit.

That is my testimony. It hasn’t changed in over 40 years. It is as alive, fresh and powerful to me and to those I share it with today as it was forty plus years ago. 

What is your testimony? Do you have one? Take the time and write it out. If you have a testimony, are you getting out there and sharing it any opportunity you have? People can argue religion. People can argue doctrine. People can have positive or negative attitudes toward church and God (based on how those have been defined and perceived through the years). But no one can argue or challenge your personal story. Told with confidence and unapologetically it can be one of the most powerful tools in fulfilling the Great Commission. I challenge every believer to set a goal of asking God to give you countless opportunities and the boldness to share your testimony. If you cannot write one out I urge you to find a church leader or staff member to talk to about your situation in Christ (I love visiting with people about this). You have everything to gain or lose by settling this. We have had many people this year settling their salvation and story/testimony. May God’s will be done and His story be a bright light in your life!

Craig Lile
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