Tuesday, January 20, 2009
The Secret of Joy
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4). The secret of joy in spite of circumstances is maintaining a single mind and the secret of joy in spite of people is maintaining a submissive mind. I remember an acrostic for JOY, Jesus first, Others next and Yourself last. This is a tall order to carry out consistently. Let this formula rule in your life and the fruit you bear (Galatians 5:22) will be supernatural joy. The idea of "Selfish ambition" is that of a mercenary, who does his work simple for money, without regard for the issues or any harm he may be doing. Everything he does is for the purpose of serving and pleasing self. This is the basic problem of an unregenerate man, he is wrapped up in himself and has no place in his life for God. Jesus contrasted empty conceit with eternal glory asking "How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?" (John 5:44). The idea of "Vain conceit" is searching for empty glory, driven by empty pride and personal vanity. "Vain conceit" has an appearance but lacks reality. It is a graphic description of the glory this world affords us which to the natural man appears beautiful and desirable, but which is literally empty of any good or any eternal value. We are talking about a highly exaggerated self-view. It is a passion for personal glory which contrasts sharply with humility. A good example of such a person was Diotrephes who "Loves to be first (he sought preeminence) among (the church and) does not accept what we say (his desire for preeminence led him to discount the doctrine taught by John)" (III John 1:9). To live for the empty glory of this day is a hollow pursuit at best. The sad truth is a man wrapped up in himself makes a pretty small package. Rather than operate in the realm of selfish ambition we are to live in "Humility" or lowliness of mind. The Scriptural "Antidote" for selfish ambition is to view others as being better (held above) ourselves. Humility indicates the esteeming ones self as small or recognizing ones insufficiency but at the same time recognizing the powerful all sufficiency of God. This is the exact opposite of what our flesh nature desires to do. John Wesley observed that "Neither the Romans nor the Greeks had a word for humility." The very concept was so foreign and abhorrent to their way of thinking that they had no term to describe it. For several centuries after Christ walked the earth, pagan writers borrowed the term for humility and always used it derogatorily, frequently of Christians, because to them (the pagan writers) humility was a pitiable weakness. Humility is not thinking less of ourselves as much as it is not thinking of ourselves at all. True humility is not putting ourselves down but rather lifting others up. If we focus on lifting others up, putting ourselves down will take care of itself. Should we insist in exalting ourselves the Lord has promised to take care of our humiliation, for He promises to humble the proud. From personal experience I find this to be quite painful. There is a better way "With all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love." (Ephesians 4:2). "You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (I Peter 5:5). In Colossians Paul condemns false humility where individuals in their midst were "Delighting in self-abasement." Their delighting in it means their supposed humility was nothing but ugly pride. It was like that of Uriah Heep, one of the most contemptible characters in English literature, who said, "I am well aware that I am the 'umblest person going." Chapter 16 of Charles Dickens' David Copperfield. A modern psychological (industry) ploy is to attribute many personal and social problems to an individuals lack of self-esteem. The Scriptures, however, urge each of us to have other-esteem. Our real problem is self-centeredness and too much self-esteem. Paul urged us to be lowly-minded, not high-minded, seeing the good of others, not concerned with ourselves. How full is your joy bucket? The joy of the Lord keeps company with the humble. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.