Living a joyful life requires learning to embrace humility, considering others above ourselves, and embracing God’s mission for our lives as our definition of success. Making a commitment to live joyfully does not mean that you feel joy all the time, or life becomes this wonderful ever-joy-filled journey. It is a determination to find the paths and ways of joyful living, applying them, and experiencing a joyful life prompted by who we are and our choices. In this episode we continue to discuss the path of joy as revealed in the New Testament book of Philippians.
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Living Joyfully Through Embracing Humility
Joy is one of those topics I sometimes want to talk about, and I sometimes do not want to talk about. If I am feeling joyful, I want to talk about joy and living the joyful life. If I feel joy has been drained away and I am struggling, then I do not want to talk about joy. Authenticity is facing the challenges we all have, and addressing truth and our struggles to live out the truth. This is where we help other people, in the authenticity of our own struggles.
Making a commitment to live joyfully does not mean that you feel joy all the time, or life becomes this wonderful ever-joy-filled journey. It is a determination to find the paths and ways of joyful living, applying them, and experiencing a joyful life prompted by who we are and our choices.
As I’ve mentioned before, after the first two months of the grief process I returned to the study of scripture and I was directed by the Spirit to dive into the book of Philippians. The truths from this book helped me to rebuild a sense of joy in my life, and continues to do so.
Who we ARE, our being, is more important than our DOING. Another way of saying it is, who we are is more important than the things we accomplish. A man or woman who accomplishes much, but their being isn’t aligned with God’s purposes for their lives, will not experience joy or true happiness. This is why there are so many people in the world who seem to have everything, but they are lacking inner peace and joy.
Throughout my life and leadership, I’ve watched people build incredible and successful organizations having great impact. I’ve watched on more than one occasion, a primary leader be found out to be seriously flawed, to be shamed and disgraced by long-term disgraceful actions later found out.
More than once I wanted to emulate a leader who I later found out was unworthy of emulation.
Again and again we’ve embraced the premise that who we are, our right being, is more important than the things we accomplish. If we accomplish great things, but lose our soul in the process, then the accomplishments are worthless.
I know this is a strong statement, but the Bible puts it this way:
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV
“Success” isn’t all of the things we accomplish, “success” is having the right attitudes and the right motivations that come out of who we are in the presence of God.
I wanted to be a leader because I realized early on I would not be able to accomplish the things God had placed in my heart unless I was a good leader. I pursued knowledge and understanding so I could be a good leader. At some point, in studying leadership, I decided that entrepreneurialism was a good output of leadership, so I studied entrepreneurialism. I am glad I did because I am much better for it.
Some of the ideas I’ve been exposed to are wrong, some of the ideas and thoughts were good. Secular entrepreneurs see outcomes of primary importance. I see the right heart, attitudes, and motivation before God to be of primary importance.
Philippians 2 describes the heart and humility of Christ as the example we are to follow. This is key to following the path to joyful living. Here are some things we take from Christ’s example that will help us press beyond the tough stuff and experience the joy of living, leading, and loving.
First, you find joy when you consider others as more important than yourself.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4 ESV
As I’ve studied secular entrepreneurs, I’ve discovered some (not all) of them do everything from selfish ambition or conceit.
God’s primary interest is not with organizations, companies, or churches, God’s primary interest is with the transformation of people, individuals.
This statement could bear a lot of qualification, but God’s primary interest is not with organizations, companies, or churches, God’s primary interest is with the transformation of people, individuals. This is the heart and example of Christ.
Yes, we are to manage our own interests, particularly when our own interests are passions given us by God to steward, but we are to also consider the interests of others.
I have an emerging conviction that we cannot know God, we cannot know Christ, through ONLY spending time in his presence, in his word, praying, reading, and studying. We must also demonstrate the heart and humility of Christ towards others to really know and understand the Christ life and spiritual leadership.
God is concerned with each of us as individuals. As a business leader, God is more concerned with who you are than the company you are building. You can be successful in building a great organization and funding a lot of important initiatives and making people’s lives better, but as it relates to you, God is more concerned with you as an individual.
As a leader, when I make decisions effecting the lives of others, it is never about what is best for the organization or church, it is what is best for the individual, because God cares about people.
As a leader, when I make decisions effecting the lives of others, it is never about what is best for the organization or church, it is what is best for the individual, because God cares about people. When I make decisions in my role as a leader, I am not making a decision on the basis of what is only best for me or the organization, but I am considering the affected individual with the heart and humility of God.
Several years ago I observed the consistent actions of a large church pastor. I was never personally associated with the church or the pastor, but I observed actions. A lot of people got thrown under the proverbial bus for the sake of the growth of the organization. I decided in that moment that if that is what it took to build a huge church, then I would pass on it, because I would rather reflect the heart and humility of Christ.
Can we build a large and effective organization while demonstrating the heart and humility of Christ? Of course, if that is the directive of God, of course. It takes a specially empowered individual, submitted and surrendered to Christ, to consistently demonstrate the heart and humility of Christ while their leadership duties are accelerating. The key is maintaining a posture of humility before Christ.
We find a deep joy in living, leading, and loving when we consider others above ourselves. This is the attitude of Christ and is the example we are to follow.
Second, you find joy when you take yourself out of the center.
My hardest first step in healing and finding joy on my journey of grief was when I came to chapter 2 or the book of Philippians and realized that which had happened to me was not about me.
When you go through crushing difficulties, at first it has to be about you. You need to heal. You need to focus on shielding your wounds until they can scab and scar over. It is necessary, so I cannot say it can never be about us because sometimes you have to heal. But I remember coming to the place of being healed enough that I had to accept and embrace the reality that I had to take myself out of the center of my story.
There is only one center and the center spot belongs to Jesus. This is foreign to those who do not know Christ, but after years of following we discover, the center belongs to Jesus.
My loss was about me and my family. My pain was about me. I specifically remember how difficult it was to embrace the thought of allowing my pain to be about something other than me. This had happened to ME. I was affected by this more than anyone else, that was true.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8 ESV
The heart and humility of Christ was demonstrated most effectively in his becoming obedient to the point of death. It clearly was not about him, but about what was needful to bring redemption and transformation to others.
“…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 ESV
My joy is not in what I must endure, the joy is that which is set before us that motivates us to consider others and to fulfill the mission and purposes of God on our lives.
My joy is not in what I must endure, the joy is that which is set before us that motivates us to consider others and to fulfill the mission and purposes of God on our lives. We look to the joy that is set before us, we endure the things we must endure. Hebrews 12 said that Jesus despised the shame, he did not take joy in the shame he endured, but his joy was found in obediently trusting for precious outcomes.
I do not desire to speak for anyone else, but when I was able to make my loss about something bigger than just me, a joy began to emerge.
Third, you find joy in living when you embrace success as fulfilling God’s mission.
The greater the seed, the greater the harvest.
The more precious the seed, the more precious the harvest.
Jesus set the example of emptying himself of power, of letting go of being in the form of God, of humbling himself and taking the form of a servant rather than his rightful position of omnipotent God.
Jesus released a lot. He humbled himself from the highest position to the lowest position.
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11 ESV
The pendulum swings from extreme to extreme. Because great seed was sown, great harvest resulted. Because great obedience was demonstrated, great authority was granted. Because great sorrow sowed seeds of perspective, great joy came.
“Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” Psalms 126:5-6 ESV
In the depths of sorrow we learned to put Jesus in the center and make it about him and God’s agenda. As a result we reaped a joy greater than we could have imagined.
It is a scary cause and effect. Because we have sown in tears we will reap in joy. Because we have sown precious seed we will reap a precious harvest. Because we yield our power and position, another day will come when we will find the greater joy of being exactly where God wants us.
Calibration Tools… Calibrating Your Life and Lifting Those You Love and Lead
- Do you / can you consider others before yourself? How have you done that? How do you need to improve upon your thinking of others and considering the individual, sometimes even above the group?
- Have you embraced the thought that it’s not about you? Have you considered God’s plan that transcends just you, your needs, your comfort, and you being in the center?
- How do you view success? For a precious harvest you have to trustingly sow precious seed. What are you sowing today that will bring forth a precious harvest tomorrow?
Joyful living, leading, and loving comes through following the example of the heart and humility of Christ. We do not wake up one morning with the altruistic horsepower to demonstrate the humility of Christ, it comes through much surrender and practice. Today, lets begin with the simple awareness that we will experience joy as we, in increasing measure, follow the example of Christ in sowing powerful and selfless seeds to experience a precious harvest.
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