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Welcome to Welling, for your spiritual well-being and your ministry over-flowing. This series is, “Joyfy.”

Joy counter, not a happiness counter– the search for happiness may well be the ultimate purpose of life, “the whole aim and end of human existence,” said Aristotle, the fountainhead of Western philosophy. On the eastern side, we have the Dalai Lama who opens his book saying, “I believe at the very purpose of our life is happiness. We are all seeking something better.”

Actually, to make happiness count, you need something deeper, greater, and beyond. Primarily because we don’t know what happiness is. The more you focus on pursuing it, the less you have it, and the harder it is to find it. The whole human story of happiness says that. You want to pursue it, whatever it is. And when you find it, you’re not sure.

“Happiness is a good bank account, a good cook, and good digestion,” says Jean-Jacques Rousseau in a humorous statement. Here are some ways in which people pursue happiness: We find happiness in the pursuit of things. The most common way is getting something, or giving something, or when you buy something at a good deal.

What about the pursuit of experiences? Whether it’s vacation, or events, listening to great music, doing drugs or alcohol, or– they all claim to have a certain degree of happiness attached to those experiences.

The pursuit of relationships– this is a rather common way– psychologists tell us that’s the deepest way in which the need for happiness can be met.

There’s also the pursuit of accomplishments. That’s an easy list to make– earn a degree, close a business deal, you win a race, you finish a project under budget or on time or even before. That gives you some happiness.

The pursuit of behavior– meeting your expectations, others expectations– that makes you happy. It makes others happy.

The pursuit of ideas, especially in intellectually stimulating environments– the university, the laboratory, the library.

We should also include the pursuit of goals and ideals– the desire to do something good and beautiful and significant to bring happiness to others, often in serving others, serving those in need, making their lives better.

Wherever in the human race– even if people don’t subscribe to life and liberty– they do want to pursue happiness or at least have the right to pursue happiness.

In the literature, happiness extends across a continuum from temperament; genetic factors, which provide a certain set point; to freedoms that people experience– the freedom of choice or freedom of speech and so on.

What researchers would like to do is to see if happiness could be measured in a burgeoning academic field called affective neuroscience. In positron emission technology, they hook up the brain to find out blood flows and relationship between the inescapably subjective to objective counterparts.

So, happiness and unhappiness all over the world– it’s a universal feeling. It’s a personal feeling. Actually, I was in a country which measures Gross National Happiness just like they measure Gross Domestic Product. And in that beautiful land, they have a Gross National Happiness Commissioner who is dedicated to measuring happiness. They told me they can really measure unhappiness, but not happiness.

Here’s the paradox of it all: True happiness can only be found indirectly, not directly. If happiness is a purpose of life, and we have to approach it directly, we’ll end up being unhappy. And so when all these people tell you you’re responsible to create your own happiness and manifest your reality from your inner being, I find them to be extremely frustrated.

They confuse conditions with causes. Subjective well-being is a condition. Causes are entirely different. So what is the cause? And I’d like to give you a short word solution which is higher, deeper, stronger than happiness. So you’ve got three letters that invades your spirit and consumes you when you have it. It’s the word joy.

Joy is an extension. It’s an expansion of happiness. It’s an enhancement of happiness. It’s a different order than happiness. It’s structural analysis is different. It’s possible to discriminate between happiness and joy. It’s not just an emotional well-feeling. It is a volitional well-being. Joy is beyond happiness.

Did you know that happiness can be faked? You can fake yourself. You can fake others. Joy cannot be faked. Joy actually sends signals so that people around you notice something about you that you don’t even know that you exhibit.

Happiness is hollow, shallow, thin. Joy is deep, weighty. Happiness is defined by circumstance. Joy can be found in any circumstance. Do you know happiness can be found in wrongdoing? But joy cannot be found in wrongdoing because it opposes your conscience.

I’ve been to countries where hyperinflation cheapens the value of the currency. One of the countries I went to in Africa, the inflation was 231,000,000%. And yet, even there I found some people with true joy. That’s not my point.

But when they go to market, they have to think of millions, billions, quadrillions. That’s a problem for accounting, and statistics, and computers, and ledgers. So what the government does is take off 10 zeros– or five zeros to make life more practical.

But what they cannot do is cut off the one in the front of the zeros. Because if they took off the one, it’ll be valueless. That’s when the worthless becomes valueless. It’s that number in the front which gives value. Many of you have quantities of zeros in the thousands, millions, billions. Because of your religious traditions, philosophical convictions, and personal persuasions become unmanageable, I want you to focus on the one, the number in the front.

What is the number in the front? Or better, who is the one in the front? In the text that we’re going to be looking at in James chapter 1, he begins with James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. He could have said, “I’m a brother of Jesus.” So then a servant of God and of the Lord, Jesus Christ. The one in front of all the zeros that are being counted was Jesus, God Jesus.

He considered himself a slave of Jesus. In one of the clearest acknowledgments of the deity of Jesus, in full orbed title, he made himself a brother to the audience to whom he was writing. “My brothers and sisters,” he says in verse 2, “a family matter– I want you to count it all joy.”

Joyfy.

Discussion Questions

  • How is happiness found or pursued in the world? Does it last?
  • What is the definition of joy?
  • Are joy and happiness differentiated? In what ways?
  • In James 1:1a, what inherently attaches to the life of James as a servant of Jesus?