When I was a kid, we used to sing a song to the tune of “Jingle Bells”. It said, “J-O-Y, J-O-Y this is what means. Jesus first, yourself last and others in between.” For some reason, that song has stuck with me through the years. I don’t know if my children’s pastor made it up or not, but there is a lot of truth in that song. It simply lays out the plan in the Bible to finding joy. As simple as that plan is, it’s so hard for us to do and accomplish.
Paul’s letter to the Philippian church spent a great deal of time trying to get them (and us) to realize this truth. In chapter 2:3-4 he wrote, “Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” Everything he told us right there goes against human nature and with God’s nature. For that reason it is difficult to do.
Zig Ziegler put it this way, “If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.” I started asking myself, “What do you really want?” I started listing material things, job titles, income levels and how I wanted others to think of me. Then I asked myself, “What is that you want that you think those things will bring?” All of a sudden, I started looking into the core of who I am and into my innermost needs. What I found was a lot of selfishness.
Paul and Zig both knew that when we focus on others, we begin to be less selfish. We begin to act more like Jesus. Our wants change and when those change, our lives change. We begin to see how truly blessed we are in our own lives when we help those less fortunate. Suddenly the desire to acquire more things starts to subside. Titles don’t matter anymore. Achieving a high income is no longer your motivating factor. Pleasing God is.
Once we start pleasing God, helping others becomes a part of who we are. Joy is the byproduct of that change. Joy has nothing to do with circumstances. It’s not an emotion, it’s a part of your character. It’s who you are. I’ve personally found it to be a source of strength in trying times. When depression tried to grab hold of me, joy pushed back. When bitterness tried to plant roots, joy made the soil infertile. It didn’t change my circumstances, it gave me hope in them.
If you are searching for joy in your life, follow the steps of that little song. Put Jesus first in your life. In everything you do, see if it honors Him. Then, look around you and see who you can help get ahead. Find ways to help others. When you do those two things, you’ll find that your deepest needs are being met. The fiber of who you are will reflect Christ and you’ll be a light in a dark world because joy shines through the darkest night.