I have vivid memories as a 9 year old girl of my first lesson on experiencing the JOY that comes from knowing Jesus Christ. On this particular Sunday morning, my Sunday School teacher told us that we could always find JOY in our lives if we would follow a very simple formula. Her words still echo in my heart –
Always put Jesus first
Always put Others second
Always put Yourself last.
Even after 51 years the first thing I think of when I hear the word JOY is this early lesson of my youth.
Although this formula may sound very simple, life experiences have taught that it is not an easy formula to keep. It does not come naturally to put others before ourselves. Each of us inevitably desires to be put first by others. To have others do things our way or listen to our opinion or our feelings is sometimes extremely important or so we believe. We want others to acknowledge when we hurt, or when we are in need of some sort of support, and many times we might even get upset or angry if we are not placed before others in our lives. We often hear or say ourselves, either in word, tone or deed, “What’s in it for me?”
Yet, when we look at the example that Jesus set for us, we do not find a single time in his life that Jesus put himself first. Following God the Father was always the first priority in the life of Jesus. Spending time with God and fulfilling God’s purpose in His life was Jesus’ life purpose. He always took time to be alone with His Father. Loving and helping other people was always Jesus’ priority. Even as he hung dying on the Cross, He prayed for those who persecuted Him asking God to forgive them. He was willing to give His life so that you and I can receive the grace of God through his death and gain eternal life with the Father.
Oh, if we could keep these priorities aligned each and every moment of each and every day, how blessed we would be to have every moment of life be JOY-filled. For it is in these moments, when our hearts are focused first on Jesus, acknowledging that He is the sovereign Lord and asking Him to give us His heart of love and service to others, that we are able to focus on giving and helping others. It is then that we can experience the greatest JOY of life as we allow His Holy Spirit to work in and through us.
What a wonderful truth of life. Even more amazing is the fact that we can experience this JOY in the midst of the most difficult times in our lives.
For it is when we turn our eyes to Jesus that we receive an eternal perspective of life. It is then that the trials of the moment, that may seem so large and overwhelming, seem to vanish in light of God’s eternal promise to us. It is then, although tears of sorrow may roll from our eyes, JOY will resonates in our heart as the Holy Spirit fills us with His presence. It is then that we can truly experience worship of our Lord. It is then that we can experience His Holy Spirit flowing through us on His way to bless another. It is then that we are filled with a JOY that is known only when Jesus is the source. It is then that we know we are following a simple order of life – Jesus, Others, Yourself – that always results in JOY in our moments of life.
Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.
2 Corinthians 6:10