“Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” (Philippians 2:2).
Tackling self-improvement projects can lead to increased feelings of contentment. Getting outside more often or losing those stubborn pounds can create a sense of satisfaction. Unfortunately, there’s also a downside to adopting New Year’s resolutions. Failure to follow through on goals gets to be frustrating.
One simple suggestion can be a powerful solution. This New Year, focus your joy from Jesus on other people in your life.
The world’s happiness solution
One problem with so many worldly standards for finding happiness is that they are self-focused. Bookstore shelves are stacked with self-help advice. Blogs are stuffed with happiness hacks. But conventional wisdom isn’t always wise. It measures success by what people have achieved. By default, we get things and use people to reach goals. The problem is the more we get wrapped up in ourselves, the more miserable we get.
It brings a smile to my face when modern writers discover ancient advice. One “happiness expert” advocates this formula: Happy people love people and use things; unhappy people use people and love things. He invokes a teaching of Augustine, the ancient Christian theologian, that to be happy a person “neither loves what he ought not to love, nor fails to love what he ought to love” (On Christian Doctrine, Book 1, Chapter 27).
Our spirit-worked joy
While it is encouraging to read ancient advice repackaged for a contemporary audience, Scripture provided plenty of examples before social scientists stepped in.
God’s people experience joy by focusing on other people. Paul expresses this generous concern in his epistles. He repeatedly begins his letters to fellow Christians by thanking God for them. “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you” (Romans 1:8). It’s not a mere formality. It is a response to God’s grace given to brothers and sisters in Christ. “I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:4). Paul experiences genuine joy over what God has enabled him to share with fellow believers. “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel” (Philippians 1:4,5). Joy in Jesus doesn’t end with the gift of gospel-produced faith. Paul’s joy remains focused on the spiritual welfare and growth of fellow believers: “Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” (Philippians 2:2).
As our world struggles with an increase in mental health problems and a rise in loneliness, God’s people have a powerful weapon. While our society trends toward isolation and looks into the future anticipating negative outcomes, God’s people are powered by gospel promises.
Jesus came into our messy world and chose to show love for flawed humanity when we were unlovable by human standards. Jesus is still at work, sending the Holy Spirit to comfort us and cause us to grow. An appreciation of God’s gifts and a focus on the people around us can lead to Spirit-worked joy.
This New Year, resolve to see the people God has placed into your life. Pray that God opens your eyes to see people who are struggling or hurting, alone or isolated. Reach out to them with the grace given you in Christ Jesus. Offer encouragement from the Savior who always cares, the Savior who is always there.
Share your joy in Jesus this coming year.
Author: Jeffrey Enderle
Volume 110, Number 1
Issue: January 2023