Many years ago I read a wonderful book written by the Dalai Lama, the leader of Tibetan Buddhism, called: “The Art of Happiness.”
Basically, the Dalai Lama shares through his book a series of suggestions based upon the philosophy of his religion that if practiced, can lead a person to live a relatively Happy life. According to Buddhist philosophy, the main aim of life is to escape suffering, and the means by which one can escape suffering is through a life of compassion and meditation.
The goal of Buddhist meditation is to quiet the mind and to gradually learn how to enter into different states of awareness until the devotee reaches union with the impersonal force that creates and sustains the universe. (They don’t believe in a personal god).
The purpose behind transcendental meditation is to take the mind away from giving too much attention and credence to the sufferings of this impermanent and illusory world, and to merge it with the silent, impersonal, and transcendental cosmological force.
The goal is to achieve a state of complete liberation from ego and perfect union with this impersonal force. That state of being or condition is what is known as Nirvana.
Nirvana- is the religious equivalent of Heaven…the only problem is that those who make it to Nirvana, don’t remember when they arrived or even their identities because they cease to be sentient beings.
The book: The Art of Happiness, offers a way to contentment through Buddhist philosophy, but Buddhist philosophy can only promise Happiness during the process of reaching the unconscious state of Nirvana while in the body.
Once you reach Nirvana, you will never again suffer or be happy because you will not be conscious. (that is their concept of liberation)
There’s a big difference between happiness and joy.
- Happiness– is a state of being that feels content and satisfied.
- Joy– is a feeling of exuberant happiness that is experienced when a great need is fulfilled.
For instance, a mother has not seen her grown children for a long time. She has a great need to see them- so she waits for them with expectation. Finally when they arrive, she feels exuberant happiness- or joy, and she feels a desire to celebrate that her need to see her children has been fulfilled.
But after a couple of weeks- although mom is still pretty happy that her kids are at home… she no longer feels the joy that she felt on the day that they arrived.
In this world, joy is as impermanent as anything else- but the JOY that we receive through the Good News of Salvation (Gospel), is as permanent and eternal as the God who saved us.
John 15:11- “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be complete.”
The Greek word translated as “remain” means “to be- or to exist.” In other words, the joy of Jesus is not like the circumstantial and impermanent joys of this world- but instead, the joy of Jesus is a PERMANENT CONDITION.
The reason for that, is because the joy of our salvation is an attribute of God, and all the attributes of God are eternal constants that are unaffected by the cycles and limits of time.
So for instance, in Galatians 5:22-23, it describes the evidence of the presence of God in a believer’s life. The evidence that God is in a believer’s life is the manifested presence of the attributes of God.
Galatians says that the fruit of the Spirit in a believer’s life is: Love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (These are all constant attributes of God)
God is love. God is joy. God is patient. God is kind. God is good. God is faithful. God is gentle. God is in control.
These are all constant attributes of God. JOY is a constant reality that has been placed in our hearts through the Gospel of our Salvation.
So if God’s attribute of joy is constantly in the deepest crevices of our hearts, then why is it that most of us do not feel joyful most of the time? There are many reasons… including the fact that we live in a society that is constantly distracting us by means of impermanent things that promise to fulfill our permanent needs.
When you think about it- even the causes for our stresses are impermanent things that distract us from the permanent joy of God that has already been given to us through word of the Gospel.
Through his word, Jesus Christ places his permanent and constant joy in our hearts so that we can RE-JOICE whenever we get distracted by the impermanent cares of this life.
And this is why the Apostle Paul says: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
The Apostle doesn’t just give the injunction: “Rejoice in the Lord,” but he says: “Rejoice in the Lord, always.”
Some of you might be asking: “How is it possible that one can rejoice in the Lord, always?”
In a transient world filled with impermanent things, one can only REJOICE in the Lord, when we make the resolute determination to do so by becoming constantly conscious of the permanent divine attribute of joy that has been planted in our hearts through the Gospel of our Salvation.
There are several Biblical steps through which a disciple of Christ can learn how to rejoice in the Lord, always.
- To rejoice in the Lord requires that we remember where we came from and our greatest need. * We must meditate on the great seriousness of our former condition as sinners and our great need for salvation.
- To rejoice in the Lord requires that we ponder on the great sufferings that Jesus had to endure on the Cross in order to save us.
- To rejoice in the Lord we must ponder on our new existential condition in Christ, the permanent nature of that reality and the ways in which we benefit.
- To rejoice in the Lord we must consider the future that Christ has secured for us via the Resurrection.
- Once we have understood these things, then the last step to rejoice in the Lord is to offer meaningful and sincere thanksgiving. *The reason for this is because thanksgiving is an expression of sincere appreciation for things received.
One could say that to rejoice simply means to remember that we are saved. This is what Dr. Martin Luther meant whenever he told his disciples to remember that they were baptized…
To rejoice in the Lord, is to bring to memory the permanent things that God has done for us in the midst of an impermanent world.
- To rejoice in the Lord, is to consciously re-connect with the God’s attribute of joy that has been placed in our hearts through the Gospel.
- To rejoice in the Lord, is simply to make the resolute determination as citizens of the Kingdom, to experience in the now the constant, joyful state of being in heaven.
Rejoice in the Lord, always! Again I say, rejoice…
But if you have not experienced the supernatural joy of God then today you can receive that joy by simply turning to Jesus Christ, and receiving the Good News that Christ has reconciled us to God the Father by means of the Cross- and that nothing created can ever separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.