This is the 7th post in the series A January of Unwrapping Hope.
Hebrews 12: 1 – 2 (ESV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
This morning I biked through the rain with my girls to drop my oldest at school and it got me angry and upset…but as these feelings rose, so did a Scripture: “for the joy set before Him”. I couldn’t recall the full verse, but these six words reverberated within me.
When I got home, I couldn’t wait to turn to the full Scripture and soak in it. I thirsted after “the joy”. And it brought me to Romans 5: 20 – 21 (The Message):
All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end.
The Joy set before our Saviour was and is our invitation into “a putting … together” and “life – a life that goes on and on”. And in Him this too is our JOY. Why would I let the weight of circumstance and the sin of anger steal my JOY?
“Look up, behold Me before you, Anna. I have come to lead you forward, deeper and deeper into my JOY: wholeness and life abundant everlasting.”
If you look at the context of this joy, it is birthed in suffering, as He “endured the cross”. But look at the Greek root of this word hupomeno “to abide under, to bear up courageously” (under suffering) and you find the strengthened form of “to abide” (meno). And when you look at meno (“to abide”), you discover that this “abiding” is a gift from God, the Spirit of Truth. Romans 8: 3 – 4 (The Message) explains that:
“The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.”
I can embrace “the joy set before” me, because my Saviour is embracing it within me, leading me forward into it. My Hope, “the joy set before Him”, is being birthed from the Spirit within me. It is He who sees the wholeness and life that await me, whose “assurance in things unseen” unburdens the weight that presses down upon me. It is my Saviour within me. “God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are”, walking into good and hard circumstances with us, birthing and growing our “unbelievable inheritance” from within:
Romans 8: 15 – 17 (The Message):
This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!
It’s taking time, but slowly my Saviour is teaching me the “unforced rhythms of grace”, as He opens my eyes to Hope: “the joy set before Him”, which trumps every single circumstance my earthly body finds itself in.
Matthew 11: 28 – 30 (The Message)
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”