I love the title Warren Wiersbe gave to his commentary on the book of Philippians. He entitled it, “Be Joyful, it Beats Being Happy.”
Warren Wiersbe was right. When the Bible talks about joy, it is not talking about being happy. Happiness is linked to our circumstances. If things are going well, we’re happy. If things are not going well, then we’re not happy. But joy is something quite different. It is an inner confidence that all will ultimately be well because our circumstances are in the hands of a loving God.
In Galatians 5:22 we are told that the fruit of the Spirit is love and joy, among other things mentioned. These are qualities of life that the Holy Spirit wants to produce in us. The second thing listed right after love, is joy.
The word “joy” is a word that means “cheerfulness” in the sense of being calm with delight. It comes from a primary verb that means “to be cheerful,” which is the word used by the Greeks when they greet one another. As a salutation, then, it means “be well; be glad” (or Hi there! How are you?) It’s a wish that the person would be calm and filled with delight. Well, in the New Testament this word is used to describe a response to life that recognized God’s control over all things. It concentrates on end results – that all things will work together for good to those who love God (Romans 8:28).
Consider the athlete who endures long, hard workouts and a strict diet. He is looking forward to the game or contest ahead, hoping to become a winner. The goal of winning sets a tone of joy, even in arduous times.
Now we can have that same confidence because, in Christ, we’re looking forward to winning. As James said, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials,” knowing that God is working for our good (James 1:2-4).
“The fruit of the Spirit is…joy! Now you know the real meaning of the word.
So remember: Be joyful! It beats being happy!