HollywoodThen Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” – Matthew 16:24-26 (NLT)

Many people are on a quest to find what the world defines as “success” and “personal happiness.” Our culture provides countless models of wealthy, famous, well-dressed people who project that if we can just become like them, we’ll be happy. But what Hollywood and professional sports often project as “winners” are really unhappy and unfulfilled people.

Look at the suicide rate, drug abuse, and divorce rate among the rich and famous. It exceeds that of the general population.

The Bible has a different message. It says that we find happiness by following Christ into the life He has planned for us. The way to be happy is really to be joy-filled. Happiness is an emotion that comes and goes with our circumstances. Joy is something that is identified with our life’s goals and our vision for the future.

The way to be a joy-filled person is found in the above Bible verses. Jesus gets right to the point by saying to the believer, “If you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” He wasn’t talking only about physical death, (although in some parts of the world, that is a reality to believers); He was telling us that we must submit to God our will, our plans, and our future.

The all-knowing, all-powerful God has a special plan for each of us. When we gratefully walk in the direction He has planned, we will find fulfillment and true happiness. That doesn’t mean that we can’t set goals and work toward attaining them. Instead, we make our plans and set our goals always seeking God’s guidance and walking obediently as each step becomes clear.

Let’s seek a life that models joy by remembering what the Psalmist told us, “Light shines on the godly, and joy on those whose hearts are right.” Psalm 97:11 (NLT) “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” Psalm 37:4 (NLT)

Personal Application

What are the things in your life that bring true joy? A joyful heart is focused upon things like family, friends, and things with an eternal purpose. In what ways do those things bring you joy?

When you are struggling to find joy in your life, remember that your past doesn’t define your future – through the grace and direction of God you define it.

Christ reminds us to meditate upon His word: Enter into the joy of the Lord (Matt. 25:21), My joy may remain in you (John 15:11), May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing (Rom. 15:13).

Jim Grassi, D. Min.