I don’t know about you, but I could always use more joy. Sometimes I read verses and wonder how James counted it all joy when he fell into various trails (James 1:2) or how Paul rejoiced in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4). Then a friend gave me a recipe for joy that required me to set my priorities straight.
Here’s the recipe:
When we live this way, we experience joy like God intended. The Bible instructs us how to prioritize our lives. Mark 12:29-31 says, “Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (NKJV)
Here’s how I see that broken down:
J – Jesus
The first commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. When you focus on loving God first and seek to build His kingdom above all, it gives perspective to life. Maybe your boss says mean things. Remember, he’s just your earthy boss. God is your ultimate boss. Perhaps your family or friends are unkind. Seek to honor God first, and rejoice in His love for you.
O – Others
The second command says to love your neighbor. This extends beyond people who live next door. As Jesus shared in the story of the Good Samaritan, our neighbor is anyone who needs help. We are to honor others above ourselves. It is usually easy to love our friends and families, but harder to love the person who cuts us off in traffic. We are to yield even to them, and trust God to get us to where we are going safely.
Y – You
Though you come last, you aren’t excluded. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31a, NKJV) Sometimes you can try so hard to serve God or help others, you neglect yourself. This doesn’t honor God because if you don’t care for yourself, you have nothing to give to God or others. However, you come last because if you only look out for number one, you won’t build God’s kingdom. Instead, you’ll build a sand castle that will dissolve when the first waves come ashore.
As you see, if you mix up the order, you don’t get JOY. If you put yourself first, then friends and family, with Jesus as a distant third, you have YOJ - “You Own Junk.” You might get lots of stuff by putting yourself first, but you wind up with junk in the end. Invest in what lasts forever—Jesus. You can’t take it with you when you go.
If you put others first, then Jesus, and yourself, you get OJY. “Orange Juice, Yeah!” Orange juice may be distilled sunlight in a drinking glass, but it’s not joy. Your family and friends are important, but Jesus said in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” (NKJV) This sounds harsh, but Jesus is saying our love for God must be so great that our love for our family looks like hate in comparison. That’s a strong love.
Another option is Others, Yourself, and Jesus – OYJ. “Oh, yay – jumping!” You may enjoy a trampoline park, but it will leave you bouncing around with no solid ground. Your life’s foundation needs to be Jesus. If you trust in your own strength or your friends, you will fail. You don’t know all that God does.
The last option is JYO – “Just You Only.” Yes – you love Jesus, but focus on what Jesus can do for you, not how to life out your relationship with God. If you are only a spiritual taker and have no outlet, it makes you spiritually backed up. Find ways to share your lessons from God. When you explain what God is teaching you to others, it helps you better understand the truths yourself.
As you see, the only way to get real joy is by prioritizing - Jesus, Others, You!
Joanna Eccles has led Bible studies for over ten years and completed the year-long C. S. Lewis Fellows Program. She is passionate about discipleship and helping people know God better. Joanna enjoys coffee, traveling, and reading, and currently lives in Virginia.