Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.
A teacher had a memorable way of reminding his students what joy looks like in the life of a Christian. He had the word “JOY” hanging vertically on one of the classroom walls. After the letter “J,” he hung the phrase, “Jesus first.” After the “O,” it said, “others second.” After the “Y,” he put, “yourself last.” Jesus first. Others second. Yourself last.
What that looks like is easy enough to understand.
Putting “Jesus first” means that having Jesus guiding our entire life by his Word means more to us than anything. It means that the forgiveness he earned has a bigger impact on our self-esteem than even our worst sin. And that his gracious promises have a bigger impact on our mood than our fears, worries, or frustrations.
Putting “others second” means caring about meeting the needs of others more than we care about meeting our own. It means being patient and kind with those who so far have only given us reason to feel frustration.
And finally, considering “yourself last” means that whatever happens to us on earth and whatever anyone else thinks of us really is the least important thing our heart is ever considering.
The basic principles are easy enough to understand. They aren’t so easy to put into practice.
Jesus himself made it clear to the whole world exactly what place he considered himself to be in—last. The humble Son of God, who guided his entire life according to God’s will perfectly, was persecuted on a cross and insulted in ways that we cannot imagine, really did not consider what happened to him on earth to be as important as the one thing his heart wanted more than anything—YOU—completely forgiven for every sin that would keep you from the place where you will never again mourn, your heart will always be whole, nothing important will ever be missing, and your joy will be everlasting.
The secret to joy rests entirely on what Jesus has already done for us. We help others find that joy by letting the heart of Jesus shine through us.
Gracious Savior, fill me with joy that comes from your perfect work on my behalf, and give me all I need to faithfully share the joy of the Gospel with others. Amen.