It's not all about you

Do not merely look out for your own personal interests but also for the interests of others.  Philippians 2:4

The verse is familiar. The concept is, too. But the actual application is often as foreign as it could possibly be. When the rubber meets the road, we are too often just plain selfish.

It is counter intuitive - God's Word usually is! It seems that the way to be happy is to please ourselves. To pursue the fulfillment of what makes us happy. To have what we want. To do as we prefer.

But the truth is, that path leads to misery, not joy. Pleasing ourselves is like an insatiable monster who keeps demanding to be fed...the more you feed it, the more it demands. And the gladness that seemed to be promised never comes.

Our flesh screams to be satisfied. Whether it is physical (food, comfort, etc) or emotional (praise of men, being valued, etc.) or material (things!), we are constantly being tempted to think "if only _______, then I would be happy". But the _______ is never enough. That hour of "me time" begs to be repeated frequently. That compliment from a friend doesn't fill up the void of insecurity. That expensive new house now needs new furniture. Instead of feeling the glad satisfaction we expected, we find ourselves frustrated, discontented, restless.

Anybody else know what I mean???

What's the solution? 

Not "martyrdom"  - where we begrudgingly sacrifice all we want on the altar of serving others. And make sure "others" know we are doing so! That's not service - that's actually pride -- because we are still seeking to please ourselves by trying to look good!!!

And I know we can slip into a place of depletion where we give and give and give until we are depleted. In those cases, I wonder if we are actually "giving" for selfish reasons instead of heeding the voice of our Father and giving as He directs....

The verse does not tell us to completely abandon our own interests. We are still to feed ourselves, get enough rest, replenish our minds and spirits and hearts, We can still enjoy the good gifts from our Father. 

Just not to the exclusion of the interests of others!

The Greek word that we translate "look out for" literally means " to aim for, to seek as a goal". When I think about it that way, it seems to me that what Scripture is urging us towards here is a mindset. Do we set as a priority the meeting of our own needs above those of others? Or are we willing to trust God to supply what we need (including time for replenishment!) and make it our aim to see that the needs of others are prioritized?

That, dear friends, is a key to JOY. The happiest - most JOYFUL - people are the ones who give and serve. I have found that to be true personally. The best times for me are when I am doing just that.

Not trying to make myself happy by pleasing myself but rather dying to myself and meeting the needs of others.

If you find yourself in a joyLESS place today, I urge you to ask God to show you some needs to meet. It might be a place to serve in your church. Maybe in the nursery or at the welcome desk. It might be in your community, at a retirement center or in an afterschool program. It might be globally, on a missions trip across the pond. I guarantee you there are plenty of needs to be found!

Do something out of your comfort zone. Something that requires something  beyond what you are currently giving...something that places your own personal interests behind those of another.

And do it long enough to get happy!