“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV
Hebrews 12:2 is one of my life verses, and is the basis along with Psalm 34:5 for my personal tag line – Eyes on Jesus and Shine. I’m not a runner nor am I a wanna be runner. Competition does not course thick through my veins.
In the above scenario, I identify much more with the spectators, as I much prefer to cheer others toward the finish line. However, truth be told it is because I have participated in a 5k and a 10k that I appreciate the training, the endurance and perseverance it takes to not just run, but successfully cross the finish line.
When I think of running, joy is not what I first associate with the activity. My first thoughts are of pain, breathlessness, aching muscles, discipline and sweat. My second thoughts have more to do with my many excuses for not attempting this activity. Yet some of you reading this may understand completely the joy of running the race and feel all the more inspired to keep running. Amen! Please know I am in the great cloud of witnesses cheering you on to victory.
So then why would I hold these scriptures so near and dear to my heart and look to them as an example for living the rest of my allotted days on Earth?
The simple reason is two-fold. First, it is because Jesus set the example by focusing on the JOY of honoring His Father by completing the mission for which He was sent to Earth. Second, my life is an adventurous mission filled with all types of challenges, which I would not have chosen for myself, and I have been given an invitation to participate with Christ in persevering to the end.
Have you ever wondered what the writer of the book of Hebrews could possibly mean by the phrase, “for the joy set before Him (Jesus) He endured the cross…”?
I ponder these words often. And I have come to think that the joy set before Jesus was not just obedience to the Father or winning the victory over death. I have come to solidly believe that the JOY set before Jesus for which He was willing to endure the cross was us.
Wait. Did you skim over that last word?
The JOY of winning back the human image bearers of God was enough motivation to persevere, to endure the agony bodily, emotionally and spiritually and not be deterred by the whole shameful experience of it all.
“The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.”
Luke 1:35-38 NIV
To take such delight in the end result that I would be willing to obey, endure pain, and persevere in sacrifice this, for me, is the meaning of JOY. Whenever I think of joy I think of it in all caps because JOY to me is an exclamation of victory regardless of the circumstances!
At this time of year, I most often reflect on Mary and the JOY set before her to birth the Savior of the world. The challenge was great and her willing obedience cost her dearly. And yet, having been blessed myself with the opportunity to persevere through labor and delivery of two precious sons, I do understand taking such delight in the end result that I would endure to the end.
“When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.”
Luke 1:57-58 NIV
As a mother, I have received my own special vantage point from which to understand JOY. Through my own experience it is easier for me to comprehend the joy of Mary and her cousin, Elizabeth, in knowing they were chosen to participate in God’s grand rescue plan.
Obviously motherhood is not the only vantage point from which to experience JOY. God in His goodness and Sovereignty has offered to all people unique experiences and challenges for their one life. We each have opportunity to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us…”
I believe that God when He designed each one of us knew the exact details which would create the JOY set before us. I believe He intricately set the great cloud of witnesses in each of our lives and I believe He purposefully marked out the course most perfectly designed for each one of us. And I believe that each and every one of us has been offered a royal invitation to participate.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.””
Luke 2:8-12, 15 NIV
Would you like to receive your invitation? Would you take it and open it? Would you say yes to participating with God in His victorious rescue plan?
There’s great anticipatory JOY awaiting you as you say yes. For when you say YES to God’s Holy invitation, the Holy Spirit will come upon you and accomplish in you and through you the completion- the victory- of the race marked out just for you!
Eyes on Jesus and Shine