Posted on Sunday, May 01, 2022 by Scott Savage
“I just want to be happy.”
“They make me so happy.”
“Are you happy with your new job?”
“Are you happy with your decision?”
We live in a culture obsessed with happiness and the pursuit of happiness. However, there is now research to verify what many have suspected for a long time. Making happiness your number one goal is counter-productive. In 2015, psychologist Iris Maus discovered that the more value people placed on happiness, the less happy they became. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you know that Jesus never promised us happiness. In John 16, He promised us that we would have trouble. But, in the same conversation where He did not promise us happiness, He promised us something better and richer - joy.
When Jesus sat down to share the Passover with His 12 disciples on the night before He was crucified, He promised them access to His joy.
In John 15:11, Jesus said, "I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!"
Jesus is The Joy of creation. An overflowing joy is possible in human existence.
According to Galatians 5, that joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s life in us. According to James 1, that joy is even possible amidst trials and adversity. That joy is available wherever we are today.
But, how do we find that joy?
The joy that gave birth to creation is found in a deep, abiding relationship with Jesus.
In John 15, Jesus told His disciples where to find joy:
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”
The word “remain” in that passage is a translation of the Greek word Meno. This word appears 15 times in John 15 and forty times in John’s Gospel. It’s a significant word!
Most often translated as "remain" or "abide," the full definition of the word is "an inward, enduring personal communion."
Just as happiness is not found by pursuing it directly, joy is not found by pursuing it. Joy is the outcome of our inward, enduring personal communion with God.
I’m someone who tends to be very goal-oriented. I make goals in late December for the new year. I carry around a planner which prompts me to establish my three most important goals each day. I have a task manager on my phone and my wife and I share a list-making app where we make grocery lists and packing lists.
I do my best to live a very intentional and focused life. However, my approach to life fails me when it comes to achieving joy. According to Jesus, there’s just one goal, not three. No list to keep, no complex plan to make.
All I need to do is cultivate an inward, enduring personal communion with God. That’s the pathway to joy.
If this is true, then how do we move from where we are to overflowing joy?
First, take Jesus at His word that true joy is available to you wherever you are today. In your life, have you given up on joy? Have you struggled to find joy and settled for less? To experience joy, you must believe Jesus when He says it’s available to you.
Second, tend to your connection with Jesus. The word used in John 15 refers to communion with Jesus. Communion is a collaborative project. We have to tend to our connection with Jesus. If we sense distance from Jesus, it’s because we’ve allowed something to get in between us.
Third, treat your connection with Jesus as the most important thing in your life - because it is! Not only is communion with Jesus the one pathway to complete, overflowing, and eternal joy, your inward, enduring personal communion with Jesus is something no one else can care for but you. You cannot delegate, outsource, or optimize this relationship - no one can “remain” in Jesus for you but you. This is why my friend, Steve Carter, often reminds me to “keep the remain thing the main thing.”
@Crowder sings about this reality in his song, “God Really Loves Us.” He reminds us that “His mercy is enough. His grace is sufficient. So come when you’re needing forgiveness or healing.” Jesus has what we need!
While pursuing happiness or joy directly is futile, what is interesting is how they come as outcomes of another pursuit. Philosopher John Stuart Mill once wrote, “Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their happiness.”
If you will abide in Jesus and fix your mind on Him, He will ensure that you are filled with His joy - full to the point of overflowing.
Scott Savage is a pastor and a writer with the coolest last name ever. He leads Cornerstone Church in Prescott, Arizona. Scott is married to Dani and they are the parents of three “little savages.” He helps hurting people forgive others through his Free to Forgive course and you can read more of his writing at scottsavagelive.com.
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