When I taught first grade in a Christian school, one of the first stories in our reading book was about joy. The theme of the story was that joy came from putting Jesus and others ahead of yourself. In other words, J-O-Y stood for Jesus, Others, and You.
We often think that doing things for ourselves is going to bring us joy. Maybe it’s finally taking that big family vacation or buying a newer car or even just a hot cup of coffee and an hour of silence in our own home! But if we look at the truth taught in that elementary school reader, we begin to understand that joy doesn’t come from pleasing ourselves. Sure, it may feel good in that moment – and it’s okay to have all those things I listed! – but that kind of joy doesn’t last.
So what happens when we put Jesus and others first? We take our focus off of ourselves. We find lasting joy as we follow what Jesus has called us to do, and look for ways to meet others’ needs.
In Deuteronomy 28, God is speaking to the children of Israel. He tells them that chastisement will come if they fail to keep His commandments. Part of the reason they’re going to be punished, according to verse 47, is “because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things.”
This verse convicted me. How often do I serve the Lord with joyfulness? When I work in the church nursery or take a meal to a shut-in or sing in the choir, how’s my heart attitude? Do I perform those tasks in His name? Do I see them only as a duty and as something I dread?
What about at home, behind closed doors, where people can’t see me. Am I doing laundry, washing dishes, packing school lunches with gladness in my heart? All of these are forms of ministering to others. We can choose to do them with joyfulness and gladness of heart, or begrudgingly and with a bad attitude.
This is a good place to insert Psalm 100:2. “Serve the Lord with gladness…” Let’s all admit that we’re not going to always (or maybe even often!) feel that gladness in our heart when we’re called to serve someone else. So we remember the whole point of this series – that it’s the Holy Spirit that can give us that joy.
One way of cultivating that joy is to remember all that God has done for us. Note that Deuteronomy 28:47 ends with the phrase “for the abundance of all things.” Can’t every one of us say we’ve been abundantly blessed?
I’ve certainly been guilty of serving in my own strength, with my own agenda, or only because it’s expected of me. But, with the Holy Spirit’s help, I can change that. After all that God has done for me, I want to perform my service for Him with a joyful spirit and a glad heart.
There’s also an old hymn that talks about serving God with joy. I thought I’d share the first verse and chorus of it here.
There is joy in serving Jesus
As I journey on my way
Joy that fills my heart with praises
Every hour and every day.
There is joy, joy, joy in serving Jesu
Joy that throbs within my heart
Every moment, every hour
As I draw upon His power
There is joy, joy, joy that never shall depart.
~Oswald J. Smith
Let’s add some joy to our service today!