Pr Victor G is known widely for his intimacy with God. Recently on a tour in Malaysia, he shared about the essence of what it means to have intimacy with God. He shared that in any relationship there are certain aspects that exists in a strong and intimate relationship.
One of the many blessings that God has prepared for his children through our relationship with Him is His joy (John 15:11). To better understand this biblical joy, sometimes it is helpful to know what joy is not. And in order to achieve that, the word ‘happy’ will be used here as a comparison. So often these two words are understood to be fairly similar in that it is usually a person’s elated state of mind resulting from good and favorable events. Due to its similarities, these two words can at times be used interchangeably without even altering its intended message. But from a biblical point of view, the meaning of these two words are quite different and is helpful to know why.
The first time ‘happy’ occured in the Bible was found in Genesis chapter 30. This was the story of Jacob and his two wives; Leah and Rachel. It was customary back then for any woman who is capable of bearing more offspring as this would result in her receiving additional favor from her husband. And on the contrary, barren women are usually despised or frowned upon as if she was cursed.
Somehow it was during Leah’s birth to her sixth child, that perhaps she felt so elated that she named the child ‘happy’. The Hebrew word for happy is in actual fact ‘Asher’. This incident seems to suggest that in order for someone to be happy, something externally good has to take place. Another verse that would support this idea comes from Deut 24:5 where the law states that for any soldier who has just gotten married, he is then exempted from 12 months of military service with one condition; to bring happiness to his wife back home. Surely the wife is now happy, as her husband is spared from war and potential harm or death.
Joy on the other hand is rather different. James 1:2 tells us that joy is not determined nor diminished by external factors (i.e. trials of many kinds). In other words, the world may be crumbling around us and yet our joy from God is securely anchored in us. The Apostle Paul’s life has wonderfully demonstrated to us this biblical joy. In Phil 4:11-12, Paul reinstates that regardless of any situation he may find himself in (wealth or poverty, well fed or in hunger), he has found the secret to live a life that is content.
‘I strongly believe this contentment has got much to do with the joy that is in Paul’s life. So frequently we are reminded by Paul, especially in the book of Philippians to rejoice, where joy is accepted to be the central theme in the book of Philippians. In other words, joy is not undermined by external factors but rather an inner security, assurance and comfort that comes from our relationship with our Creator, made possible by this person Jesus Christ who now calls us friend (John 15:15),‘ Pr Victor shared.
‘Coming back to the word happy, it is important to clarify that it is not wrong or bad in life to be happy. This is a God-given emotion for humanity; should something good take place, we ought to go ahead and be happy. It is NOT a sin to be happy. But one of the things to be wary about when it comes to happiness is the unfortunate ‘hijacking’ of this word by the world in today’s society. So much emphasis is now placed on being happy that it has taken center stage in many people’s life. Major decisions are now made based on how happy one feels or can be. Should anything that causes us a little pain or discomfort even if it is meant for good it is carelessly avoided or shunned. For many people, feeling happy is a quick fix to what is already a difficult and challenging life.’
Without due diligence, it is easy to be indoctrinated by this wordly idea, allowing it to dictate our lifestyle and even clouding our life’s ultimate purpose which is established by God. For some, happiness is achieved via the gaining of monetary wealth, while others perhaps through fame or stature.
‘Make no mistake that these things in the world do offer some form of happiness,’ Pr Victor imparted. ‘But all of them do have one thing in common, should anything untoward happen to our wealth, fame or success, so goes our happiness. Therefore, it is not uncommon to hear of people jumping off buildings during an economy crisis. For them, when all their money has gone down the drain, so does their happiness. Hence there is nothing more in life to live for and ending it seems to be the only viable option. This idealogy is not only saddening but alarming. As believers, we are affirmed by God that there is more to life that just being happy.
‘We thank God that He has prepared for us something much more secure and dependable, especially in times of trouble and need. Perhaps it is also for this reason that the word happy has only been mentioned about 30 times in the entire Bible, whereas the word joy, over 300 times! This is a strong indication for us to know where to place our focus on in life; on what is repeatedly emphasized in the Scriptures.’
It is important to be reminded that this amazing and reliable joy stems from a strongly established relationship with God as described in John 15:1-4 mentioned earlier on, and not a wishy-washy type of relationship. From within this well-established relationship is consistency. And from this consistency one finds him/herself constantly immersed in God’s presence. It is in His presence that this joy comes about (Psa 16:11 ‘For in His presence there is fullness of joy’). Giving us strength (Phil 4:13) to overcome anything that the world has got to throw at us.
The third and final point in Pr Victor’s message is found in John 15:10. In this verse it says ‘If you love me, keep my commands’. In any relationship that is working and growing, it will always be mutual and reciprocal. Since God has given us so much (i.e. eternal life through his Son Jesus Christ), the least we could do is to obey His commands. This obedience is not our way to salvation but rather the outworking of our inner gratitude for something that He has already so richly blessed us with.
Of all the many commands mentioned in the New Testament, should one be picked as an illustration, it would aptly be the Great Commission (Matthew 29:19-20). Simply because our journey on earth ‘really begins’ when we first meet Christ and ends when He returns, and between those two events is the obvious Great Commission; one that has been entrusted to ALL believers and not just a selected few to carry out. Fulfilling this command ought to undergird all our major decisions in life. The priority in life is to serve God and reach the unsaved.
All that God has given us are resources that we ought to wisely invest towards the expansion of His Kingdom. While fancy cars, big luxurious houses, frequent holiday trips are nice and enjoyable, they are NOT our priorities.
‘There’s nothing wrong to have these things in life, but if much is accumulated at the expense of the poor and needy (1 Tim 6:17-19) and negligence of our responsibilties as Christ’s disciples, then we know when that Day arrives, all will be made accountable before God for all that we have done on earth. As how it is frequently expressed in today’s generation, Y.O.L.O. (You Only Live Once), so let us all make it count for God. For on that Judgement Day, none can plead for a second chance!’
NOTE: All photos kindly provided by Pr Victor G.
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