I Choose Joy

“Don’t Worry … Be Happy by choosing JOY.”

One of the most overlooked truths of life is that we are constantly a product of our decisions.  Our choices are never in a vacuum, but are open to others.

Recently Mary and I traveled to Ghana to honor the 70th birthday of our ministry director, Rev. Dr. Sammy Lartey.

Although we have been planning this event for nearly one year, Sammy (nor his family) had any idea that Mary and I would be attending.  When the two of us walked in to Sammy’s office there was an absolute display of two of the most wonderful biblical expressions in the world.  I saw the happiness flood over Sammy and was displayed perfectly in his surprise and emotion.  He was overwhelmed that Mary and I had traveled so far “just to share” in his birthday festivities.  In addition to this we witnessed the pure joy on the faces through the hearts of the men who had worked so diligently to make this day become a reality.

This gave me reason to pause and consider the difference between happiness and joy.

The bible teaches us over and over again about the importance of being joyful.  Paul reminded the Galatian churches that joy was a fruit of the spirit, meaning that this experience was a work of God and not the efforts of ourselves.  You and I know that there is a difference in the two, but what is the difference?

I heard someone say, “Happiness is like a thermometer. It registers conditions while Joy is like a thermostat that regulates the conditions.” Joy is inward while happiness is outward.

Each day, you and I take decisions on how we are going to respond the the conditions around us.  We make a choice to react or respond.  Happiness or unhappiness often causes us to react badly.  The longer I live the more I am understanding that my actions are based on little more than attitude and perspective.  If my perspective is right it yields better results.

In the New Testament, again Paul wrote,

“Rejoice in the Lord always by letting your gentleness be seen by all,
because you are anxious for nothing,
but are grateful for everything
as you tell your requests to the Lord.”
(Phil 4:4-6 para)

Once again this is a simple instruction, but is a difficult implementation.  However, this biblical truth has made its’ way into our culture in a number of ways.   In 1988, an American jazz vocalist and conductor wrote and released a catchy song, entitled “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”  that went to number one on the US Pop charts and was named both song of the year and record of the year at the 1989 Grammy Awards.   It reminded us that almost everything in our live’s are determined by attitude.

Bobby McFerrin’s admonition sounds very much like the New Testament.  Over and over again in the pages of the New Testament, the idea of joy is communicated as an imperative, as an obligation. Based on the biblical teaching, I would go so far as to say that it is the Christian’s duty, his moral obligation, to be joyful. That means that the failure of a Christian to be joyful is a sin, that unhappiness and a lack of joy are, in a certain way, manifestations of the flesh.

So what are the steps which we can willfully take in order to give us the best opportunity to live in a position of joy?  Keep that word in your mind.  Joy.

  1. J=Jesus first.  (What am I doing right now that brings honor to Jesus?)
  2. O=others next.  (What am I doing right now that uplifts, encourages, and edifies other people?)
  3. Y= you last.  (Am I truly third?)

I am persuaded that the only way to keep these in perspective is by constantly living in a position of gratitude.  I know you can keep a list of 100 things on your desk for which you are grateful and while I think this is a great assignment for you to undertake but I think it stops short of all that could be.

What if you began each morning, before getting out of bed, just mediating on at least three things you are grateful for that morning?  What if you opened every meeting you have by giving the people around the table an opportunity to share their gratitude in the moment?  I know it is a better way to start the meeting than end it.

Why? Because I have learned it is impossible to be snippy and angry when you heart and mind are bathed in gratitude.

I have a little secret to share with you.  Every time I head to the airport for a flight, I put a rubber band on my wrist to serve as a reminder that I have the opportunity and obligation to let others see the best that is in me.  I know I have the tendency to be ungrateful and joyless when I travel, but I have learned (the hard way) that others are always watching.  Whenever I feel that rubber band I am reminded that I have so much to be grateful for and perhaps through my choices, others will see Jesus in me.

The more I move around the globe I am convincingly aware that nearly all of us living in America only have “first world problems” so my new mantra is “Don’t Worry … Be Happy” that this comes from a heart of gratitude.  Choose Joy Today!