For the Joy Set Before Us

…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2, NASB)

I wonder how often Christianity is perceived from the outside as a cure for life’s ills… how often the weary and troubled pop the Jesus pill expecting to enter into a perfectly pain-free existence only to find that even life with Jesus is not life without problems.

Jesus was Jesus, and He had problems. He was tempted and tried by Satan (Hebrews 4:15). He was betrayed by a friend (Matthew 26:48-50). “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3a, ESV).  “He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5a, ESV). He was a man with “problems.”

And yet, Jesus endured. Certainly, He felt the weight of the Father’s purpose for Him. On the night He was to be betrayed, Jesus “began to be deeply distressed and troubled,” telling His disciples that His soul was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:33-34, NIV). “And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44, ESV).

Jesus could have looked at His present circumstances and bailed. He could have called twelve legions of angels to set Him free (Matthew 26:53). But He didn’t. For the joy set before Him, He endured. You see, Jesus wasn’t looking at the here and now. He wasn’t focusing on the present pain. He was looking ahead to the future gain.

Jesus knew the prophecies and the joy their fulfillment would bring. He knew that His punishment would bring peace. He knew that His death would bring life. He knew that His sorrow would bring joy. Jesus–an innocent man dying a criminal’s death–allowed Himself to be beaten, mocked, scorned, cursed, humiliated… because His sights weren’t set on Calvary’s hill; they were set on what lie beyond.

The life of Jesus was not “problem”-free; and ours won’t be, either. But we can endure. We can trust that God is using our trials to perfect and to complete us (James 1:2-4); we can take comfort in knowing that Jesus advocates for us (1 John 2:1); and… for the joy set before us… we can fix our eyes on a place beyond the problem—a place where Jesus is, seated at the right hand of the Father.

(Note: This entry on the topic of “Joy” was written by me for First Family Church‘s Advent Devotions 2012. I am publishing it here on the same day it appears in the devotional.)