Radical Joy: When Happiness Just Won’t Do

By Clayton Reed

Two men. Totally different takes on life. One man was a king. His name was Solomon.

Solomon set out to try everything at least once. If he saw it, he tried it. He built an empire and experienced every pleasure. He was financially, relationally, and experientially on top of his world. He was a man who had everything his heart desired.

Yet Solomon said his attempt to have it all was “vanity.” He writes in the book of Ecclesiastes about how his pursuit led to nothing but emptiness. He hated life.

The second man was a prisoner. His name was Paul. Paul was on top of his world, but then his world got turned upside down. His beliefs led him into suffering, prison, poverty, and pain. He lost everything. In a pit like that, you would expect to find a bitter, angry, and broken man.

But – just as unexpected as the despair of Solomon’s heart – we find Paul had a heart full of hope. He wrote about being contented and full of joy – from his jail cell!

So what did Paul have that Solomon couldn’t buy? JOY.

Now understand, joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness comes from the Latin word “hap” which means “chance” or “happenings.” “Happiness” is more of an emotional response to what happens, a result of pleasurable activities or results. Happiness is a fleeting emotional feeling based on positive circumstances.

Joy, on the other hand, is inner delight derived from a close relationship with Christ. Happiness is produced by situations and circumstances, but joy rises out of relationship. No matter what life brings my way, if I have a relationship with Christ, joy can flood my soul. It’s what the Bible calls “peace that passes all understanding.” Happiness can be manufactured, for a while, with pills, pleasure, people, and places. But eventually the well of happiness comes up dry, when the “new” wears off and the thrill diminishes.

Joy is not the absence of sadness or cheeriness in the midst of difficulty. Joy is much deeper. Joy is a spiritual quality that sustains us in the midst of life’s challenges, as well as life’s good times. Joy is less a feeling based upon our experience and more of a lifestyle that comes from experiencing the transforming power of Jesus Christ.
That’s how the Apostle Paul could be full of joy, even in prison. His joy was based on his relationship with Christ. Paul knew Jesus!

Over the next eight weeks at Southlake Baptist Church, a new sermon series will take us on a journey through Philippians, the “JOY” book of the New Testament, and help us learn how we can have joy in the midst of our difficulties and in spite of our circumstances.

August 15 – Joy in Humility
August 22 – Joy in Sanctification
August 29 – Joy in Service
September 5 – Joy in Loss
September 12 – Joy in Pursuit
September 19 – Joy in Godliness
September 26 – Joy in the Unknown
October 3 – Joy in Need

Join us for a life changing series that will help you find hope, peace, and joy – even when all the indicators of your life point to despair.