In our study of Philippians, we have established that the theme of Paul’s letter from prison is joy from God that enables us to enjoy whatever life brings. Some 19 times in 104 verses you will find words like “joy” and “rejoice”. Sadly, however, Christians who should be cheerful are often cheerless and here are 11 causes that are all bad teaching:
- God is not a happy God. The loving, unified Trinitarian God of the Bible is happy and made us to enjoy the world. No one was unhappy until Satan and sin crashed the party and in heaven, God and His children will be happy, and every day will be a good day. Furthermore, there are some 60 Scriptures in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) that describe the full range of emotions that our God, Jesus Christ, experienced on the earth, including joy (Luke 10:21).
- God cares about your holiness, not your happiness. There is no reason that we cannot have both, like peanut butter and jelly. God wants us to be both holy and happy. Unholy people tend to be unhappy as they feel the weight of their sin. Holy people who walk away from their sin should not be surprised to find a skip in their step.
- Joy is not an emotion or a feeling but a mindset. Sometimes, we are wrongly told that joy cannot be an emotion because we cannot command or control our emotions. That is simply false. The fruit of the Spirit includes love, joy, and peace which are possible if we surrender our emotions to God just as we surrender our thoughts to God. Joy is a mindset that we can use to command our emotions to obey the Holy Spirit.
- It is selfish to seek happiness. To be sure, every other person who cheats on their spouse says they just want to be happy so this can be abused by the godless. But it can also be used by the godly to seek the Giver of good things through the gift He gives. Conversely, sometimes unhappy people are the most selfish and always moaning about how miserable they are in an effort to rob others of their joy.
- Joy and happiness are very different things. This is an error in much Christian teaching. In his book Happiness, Randy Alcorn points out that joy and happiness appear together in around 100 Scriptures. Additionally, there are some 2700 verses in the Bible that speak of joy, rejoice, gladness, feasting, happiness, delight, celebration, and cheer, among others – using these words interchangeably.
- To choose joy when life is hard is disingenuous and faking it. It is possible to be sorrowful yet rejoicing, something that the new Testament tells us nearly 20 times. In addition, we are told in Hebrews that Jesus endured the cross for the joy on the other side and he was not denying reality, ignoring His pain, or faking it when He died for our sins.
- Joy is not for all personality types. Even if the test says you are a J-E-R-K personality type, the fruit of the Spirit is commanded to every personality type and sometimes we need to repent of our personality and have joy like Jesus.
- Cheerfulness is childish. One report says that kids laugh an average of 400 times a day and their adult counterparts laugh only 15 times a day. Jesus had kids run to be with Him, which is not something they did with furrowed brow religious neat nicks who were as fun as a day at the dentist. When Jesus says we should come to Him as little children, a bit of chuckling and skipping is appropriate and not childish but rather child-like.
- We should enjoy the Giver, not the gift. People who say this must be a real bore at Christmas or a birthday party. Imagine the grandparent showing up empty-handed and telling the kid they don’t need a new bike or cake to be happy because their grandparents should be enough to make it a happy holiday. Sometimes the best way to enjoy the Giver is by enjoying their gift which is why a kid should get the love of their grandparents and a bike along with a cake to increase their joy.
- Joy comes after this life, not in this life. Both are true. Life has some wonderful days where you are the windshield, and other days where you are the fly. The times of joy in this life come down from heaven as sneak previews and free samples of the joy that fully awaits us eternally.
- Joy is impossible in this fallen, broken, hurting, anxious, stressed world. Joy does not come from this world. Joy comes down from God in Heaven for us to enjoy this world. Without God’s joy, we cannot enjoy. This explains why some of the richest and most famous people are fully miserable, and people who are full of the Spirit are cheerful even when their fridge is empty because their soul is full. This world is such a mess, you won’t make it through without some joy and thankfully that is why Jesus came – to bring joy to the world! This is God’s Christmas gift for you to unwrap and enjoy this holiday season.
Which of these wrongful teachings have you believed?