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Joy is a state not a condition. That is the first thing that you must recognize when embracing good in your life. Material things do not determine happiness. The dictionary defines joy as an emotion of happiness.

The world – and sadly, many in the church – have propagated the myth that happiness is found in prosperity, in promotion, in power. How often have you heard, “If you follow God, all your problems will go away”? Or, “God wants to make you rich”?

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That doesn’t quite square with Jesus words to his disciples in Matthew 16:24: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”  Thus, American Christians, having been fed a steady diet of false expectations, are not conditioned for the hard times. When something comes along that threatens the good life, we throw our hands up and scream, “Wait, this isn’t fair!”

Now is where real faith enters – faith that God knows what He is doing and has our best interests at heart. Faith that nothing we endure is outside of His will. Faith that looks for happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment in a relationship with God.

This is also where real joy begins. Joy in trials. Consider the words of James to the early church, which endured bitter persecution. He said, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2). Paul experienced that joy. Writing from prison, Paul encouraged the believers of Philippi with a letter whose theme is “Rejoice.” He spoke as if joy were optional, a choice. Something you choose to do in spite of your circumstances. The truth is that life isn’t fair. You know it. I know it. Things happen that knock us off of our feet. But we have a God who promises to lead us by the hand, to wrap his arms around us, and to work out our life for His glory.