“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 set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
– Hebrews 12.1-2
Joyfulness in all its forms ultimately comes from God, who provides all good and perfect gifts (James 1.17). However, those blessings can become snares and hindrances if we make physical pleasure the aim of our life. All the blessings we receive are intended to point us to another life, a spiritual one, which is hid in the heavenly places with Jesus. We must determine to put away anything that becomes an obstacle to true, spiritual joyfulness; we must lay aside all the weights of worldliness and learn to see the true point of life: to bring glory to God in all we do.
If we begin to focus on joy and happiness here, in this place and this life, then we are going to get neither real joy nor real happiness and we will miss eternity with God. Like Jesus said, we cannot serve God and Mammon (Matthew 6.24). We must never forget God made the world an enjoyable place because of his great love for us, but that enjoyment was meant to point us back to the creator, not to become the chief and primary goal of our lives here. If we turn away from the creator to focus on the creation, we have missed the point entirely of all the good things that God gives us.
Instead, if these things hinder us, if they become like weights tied around the waist of a sprinter, we must cast them off and lay them aside. We must look beyond the things that are to the things that will be. We must look to the things that are eternal not to those things which are temporary. We must get rid of anything that slows us down in the race to follow Jesus.
Jesus, who is the source of and the reason for our faith, had the joy of truly knowing God. Jesus was able to live his life in sinless perfection because he truly knew what awaited him upon his return to the heavenly places. Jesus came to earth not only to glorify God in his life, but to make it possible for us to become a source of eternal glory for God, too.
Jesus knew that he would be crucified and could have stopped it but didn’t. Jesus could have come down from the cross justly because he was not guilty of any crime deserving death. There was no reason for him to be on the cross physically. What joy or happiness could come from enduring such anguish and pain? What gain could he possibly hope to have from such a terrible and painful experience? This is where Jesus succeeded and we so many times fail: he looked beyond the physical to the spiritual, and it was from the spiritual realms that he drew his source of joy.
Jesus wasn’t thinking about the disciples who had run away from him in the flesh when he willingly suffered the cross; he was thinking about the countless disciples who could come to him in the spirit after his resurrection from the dead. He was able to see beyond the moment to the glory that the power of God was working through him. He didn’t see death, he saw life, and life abundantly. He didn’t see rejection and dejection, he saw resurrection. He didn’t see himself alone, he saw himself surrounded by many brothers and sisters, eternally giving glory to the Father in heaven.
Let us be those who rally behind Jesus, we his joy and he ours, as we march together toward our home in heaven.
Father, please help us to see beyond the physical world and into spiritual realities. Help us to focus on the things that will be rather than those things which are. Help us to love you so much that we get great joy from serving you, no matter the cost. Amen.