A good many of us probably take the opportunity that comes with each January 1st to make a list, mentally or one slapped to the fridge, of our desires for the coming year – things we want to accomplish, priorities we may need to organize or re-organize, finding new life in ourselves by searching out our “happy place”. I’ve made resolutions consistent with all of these things before. I want to feel better physically, I want to feel more joyful, I want to love others from a more genuine place in my heart.
While resolutions, or #goals, can give us some motivation and provide a bit of focus in our overly saturated lives, I’m afraid I’ve been very quick to overlook where I need to start for any of them to be successful. The one and only thing that really needs to be at the forefront and up on that fridge as a reminder if needed – “Find Jesus”.
I recently started reading a book called “The Joy Project” by Tony Reinke and have found it to be brutally honest as to how we, as broken people, function in terms of finding joy and chasing happiness. How we so often seek joy and happiness in various forms outside of and completely apart from God. This book goes into great detail about rather than us finding joy – joy finds us. Many theologians are quoted, some fairly complex thoughts are discussed, and I’ll be completely honest – several pages I had to read over and over again just to begin to make sense of it, but by continuing on a beautiful story ensued, perfectly summed up by this closing section:
“In Christ, the title to eternally unending joy is already yours. Christ is yours. Embrace God’s Joy Project – designed by the Father, paid for by the Son, applied by the Spirit – as work all accomplished to draw you into the joy of God. Fight your way to embrace this truth with your mind and heart, enjoy it and turn it back to God in praise. Strive to enjoy the foretaste of joy in life now. The day of great joy God has ordained for the future is here, and it’s here for you. A day is coming when the history of this fallen world will be summed up, and God’s glory will be fully manifested before our eyes, and we will see with pristine clarity the goal of God’s Joy Project – our joy for his glory.”
Our happiness and glorifying God are perfectly intertwined, yet speaking for myself, I tend to separate the two with alarming ease. Whatever “this” is that would make me happy at any given moment is where I tend to set my gaze regardless of whether it glorifies or, in some cases, even saddens Him – if I want it and think it would make my life more joyful, even if only temporarily, He has taken second place. It seems a simple concept, but when we step back to remember that our joy and glorifying God are not mutually exclusive, we begin to see how anything we strive for is dependent on one and only one thing. Jesus. Some legitimate things I would like to see improve in my life:
- I want to love others more genuinely – I need to find Jesus first.
- I want to be broken free from the areas of sin that grip me – I need to find Jesus first.
- I want to feel better, feel happier more often – I need to find Jesus first.
The list of goals is practically endless, and it can feel daunting in that way when you want to make changes in your life, but Jesus is it. Finding Jesus will make all the difference in every possible way. Every detail of our lives is dependent on Him, His love and concern for us and ultimately for God’s glory. To know Him as my Savior absolutely instills an immense amount of joy right there, and that’s just the beginning! Rather than letting resolutions and goals control me in this new year that we have just embarked on, I’m handing them over to Jesus, because I want to experience joy in a way I haven’t always before – seeking first to glorify Him rather than immediately focusing on the details of my desires. I know that He is capable of fulfilling our lives beyond what we can conjure up for ourselves anyway and in allowing Him to do so, room is made for true joy to find us. A joy unlike any we could possibly search out for ourselves.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’
26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning. (ESV)