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Evangelicals & Joy vs. Happiness

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit, indeed, is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41)

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20)

Sometimes, God providentially drops a topic into an Evangelical blogger, seeking to bring all things captive to the Word of Christ's lap.

Today is one of those Christ-inspired moments; at least, that is my fervent hope as I seek to hear my Savior greet me with “Ricky, Well Done!”

Twice in recent days, I have heard reports on the state of happiness in America. Dr. Albert Mohler (see attached link) reported a recent Wall Street Journal survey reveals that America has slipped from the top twenty world rankings on the state of happiness. It is so bad America trails countries like Costa Rica & Lithuania. This is all remarkable when one objectively looks at the state of living between the three countries.

Regardless of the validity of the survey responses, I believe the topic of joy vs. happiness needs to be biblically discussed and understood.

I don’t usually get my theological understanding from Gospel singers. Still, I do note that Kirk Franklin has a beneficial line in one of his songs: Happiness is based on happenstance.

At varying times throughout every day, as well as in life in general, think with me, if you will: are you happy?

Case in point:

I traveled over 250 miles to watch the Chicago Cubs lose 11-2. I am most certainly not a happy camper, especially as my beloved Cubs have started the season 0-2.

Update: on my return trip home, due to my admitted poor planning, I literally coasted to the only available EV charging station. I left the hotel with 143 miles, so I naively assumed that would be enough to get me to the nearest Bu-Cees, but boy, was I wrong by 30 miles or so.

My brakes went out on the car. Right as I am trying to get the vehicle to June before I am financially able to buy another, Lord willing. As a quick aside, I am leaning heavily toward purchasing an EV.

Update: The repair shop just called me to tell me it would be 1500 to deal with the issues.

I have a major decision whether to repair sprinklers in my lawn or not at a considerable expense.

I could go on and on, and hopefully, you get the point. Happiness is fleeting, and it can change on a dime; literally in an instant.

All it takes is just one phone call, seemingly out of nowhere, to unalterably change your destiny.

Yet, when Evangelicals grasp the biblical definition of joy, Evangelicals understand we are dealing with a whole different animal altogether.

Even though no Evangelical will do so perfectly, enabled by the Holy Spirit, we can rest and abide in joy even with all of life’s hardships.

It may take us a second [think the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak], but when we compose ourselves and remember the soothing words of Jesus Christ, we can experience real, authentic biblical JOY.

That is why I believe it is paramount Evangelicals learn to practice the principle of preaching the Gospel to themselves.

The author escapes me at the moment, and time does not permit me to research it, but he wrote an excellent book detailing the principle of Christ-followers preaching the Gospel to themselves.

Preaching the Gospel is simply the practice of claiming the Bible’s wondrous promises to oneself. I commend the following Bible verse that so many Evangelicals can hold onto as we face the crucibles of this sin-cursed world.

Nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39)

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, declares the LORD. (Isaiah 54:17)

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

As I sit here charging my rental EV, I am ever mindful that Christ never promises happiness in this world. Just this morning (Sunday, March 31st), I frantically had to find an EV charging station, but when I ground my thinking, I can, again and again, come back to the theological reality that nothing in this Satan-influenced world can objectively negatively impact my joy!

Now, this theological truth and practice can never resort to easy believism or escapism. No, you know as well as I that this life will repeatedly punch us in the gut, often at the most importune time.

I had not planned for a 1500 car repair expense, so I will have to adjust my budget and forecast for the future, but it is only money, and I am still getting better than I deserve. I am still eternally saved and secure, but that does not equate to a bed of ease and no hardships along the way.

Regrettably, more pratfalls will be part and parcel of my future, however long that future for me may be. I accept this cold reality because I inhabit a sin-cursed world in which I am a heavy contributor.

Thus, I believe that is why the Evangelical, when thinking biblically, longs for eternal felicity with the Savior. Only then will we, as Augustine said, find our rest in thee.

I know I am not alone in this vexing struggle with joy vs. happiness. Happiness is fleeting and elusive. Not so with joy! It is a sure and steadfast promise from Jesus Christ Himself, whom the Bible tells us cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18).

This practice of preaching the Gospel to oneself is precisely how Job can triumphantly proclaim:

Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face. (Job 13:15).

I wish I could speak as one of God’s prophets and prophesize Peace, but I cannot and will not do. Trials and tribulations are the Evangelical’s meat and drink until Christ returns. So, you and I just have to put on our big boy and girl pants and face it. Thankfully, we do not have to do so alone. As we finish another Resurrection Sunday season, it should compel us all the more to lavish praise upon Jesus Christ for His Atoning work.

As usual, let me know what you think. Until then, keep your hands to the plow and seek to serve for an audience of One.

With fear and trembling,

Ricky Kyles Sr. DEd.Min

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