Monday, June 20

The Joy Set Before Us

This is a reworking of something I posted back in the olden days when I first started blogging.

When times get tough--and don't worry, they will--we are not left to flounder. We've got help. We have a leader who has shown us the way through our suffering by his own example, and who stands at the finish line of our life's race as an inspiration for us to keep on running the race. In Hebrews 12, we are encouraged to persist through our struggles by
....keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up. (verses 2)

The phrase "for the joy set out for him" is an ambiguous one. The word translated "for" (anti) can also mean "instead of," and if that's what is meant here, then the text would be saying that Jesus chose the cross "instead of" the joyful bliss of remaining in heaven. But anti can also mean "for the sake of," and that seems a more suitable way to take this word in this context. Jesus looked beyond the cross to the joy of bringing "so great salvation." The pain and humilitation of the cross were willingly accepted by him because his suffering was the means to something glorious--the joy of "bringing many sons [and daughters] to glory (Hebrews 2:10)."

Those of us who follow Him can consider what He has done for us as incentive to continue to be faithful throughout our struggles. When we are tempted to give up on the race because we've grown weary before the finish line, we gain strength in knowing that we are not unique in our suffering, for our very own leader kept on enduring in obedience--obedience "even to death on a cross (Philippians 2:8)." We keep on running toward our prize even though the path of the race takes us right smack dab into the middle of difficulty, because our Savior also kept on running toward his prize when he knew that achieving his goal of "so great salvation" for sinners would bring great suffering and shame for him to endure.

Moreover, just as his suffering was working something wonderful, so is our suffering. Our suffering has meaning, too.
Endure your suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons.....he does so for our benefit, that we may share his holiness. Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it. (Hebrews 12:7a, 10b,11)

Christ's suffering was working a great salvation; our suffering is working the fulness of our salvation: the fruit of peace and righteousness. God's aim in our suffering is that we should "share in his holiness." This is the joy set before us: We are being remade in the likeness of the one we follow. We are one of his sons and daughters being brought to glory.

Therefore, strengthen your listless hands and your weak knees (Hebrews 12:12)

It is because we keep our focus on the captain of our faith and his example for us, and because we know that our suffering bears good fruit, that we can buck up and keep on running the race, enduring the difficult process for the sake of the joyful product, just like our captain did.

All verses quoted from the NET Bible. The NET Bible is available for free download at www.bible.org.
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