On Sunday morning, Jurie shared a powerful message about the meaning of this passage:
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, emphasis added
The focus of the sermon was that very last sentence. Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him. What is this joy? This passage sheds some light:
[Jesus said], “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”John 12:27-32, NIV, emphasis added
What was the joy set before Jesus? Two things: the glory of the Father, and our relationship with Jesus.
Throughout the letters in the New Testament, the authors speak of joy. It’s interesting – as often as not, their joy comes from the faithfulness they see in other people. Consider Paul’s joy:
I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.
For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.2 Corinthians 7:3b-7, NIV, emphasis added
Here’s what Paul says to another of the churches he served:
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, NIV, emphasis added
There’s something powerful here. When people ask us why Christians claim our ongoing joy, I think many of us would say that our joy comes from the knowledge that we’re going to Heaven. Some would say our joy is in our relationship with Jesus and His grace and mercy poured out on us. Neither of these answers is wrong, but both Jesus and the apostle Paul are showing us another opportunity for joy – one some of us could be missing out on.
I was a teacher at a local Christian school for five years. I taught 6th-12th graders across my time there, covering forensic science, earth and space science, chemistry, some physics, environmental science, and other electives. It was an amazing experience.
During my first year teaching, I met a young man in one of my 8th grade classes – here, we’ll call him “R.” R was very troubled that year, struggling with his parents’ divorce and father’s remarriage, along with questions about God vs. science, the nature of faith, his own learning differences, and his place in the world. He declared himself an atheist with great pride. Having been an atheist myself, and having had so many of the same struggles, I really connected with R. He had ups and downs all year, sometimes sinking into a deep depression, other times coming to my classroom buoyed up by a new TV show or game or science fact he’d learned. He would talk with great enthusiasm about the things he believed or found interest in; again, I relate.
One of the lessons I taught every year during earth science was about different Christian views of creation. It was the only lesson where I dug deep into the relationship between faith and science. R had more questions than anybody else – he (respectfully) challenged my thought processes, the theories I presented, and the logic of the arguments. I could tell that his wheels were turning.
Later in the year, the school held an 8th grade retreat, where 11th graders and school staff would spend time with the 8th grade class, creating a bond between the incoming freshmen and incoming seniors for the following year. One of the activities was that each 8th grader received one or more letters from their parents, where the parents wrote of their hopes and dreams for these students. It was a powerful time, and one that brought most of the students to tears. After he received his letter, R walked off by himself and sat under a tree. He looked heartbroken. When a couple of us teachers approached him, he said that his mom had written of what she sees God doing in his life. He said, “I don’t know what that means. I don’t have that.” We talked with and prayed over him for a while, planting a few seeds, giving him some food for thought.
The following day, during open mic time, just before we were to return to the school, R stood up at the microphone. He said, “As most of you know, I’ve been an atheist.” He talked for a little while, and then he said, “I’m ready. I want what y’all have. I want to pray to receive Christ.” Then he bowed his head, and he prayed. The entire room said, “amen,” and then burst out in deafening cheers. The joy in the room had actual weight. One of the other students grabbed the mic and said, “And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is the answer to my biggest prayer this year.”
Many have asked us at 5twelve, “Why is your mission statement, ‘To see people telling stories of Jesus changing lives through them’?” Here’s why: when Jesus changes lives through us, our joy is complete. Our faith has moved beyond the one-on-one joy that comes from a relationship with Jesus – it has become a faith that produces fruit – a faith that brings joy to others. Our joy then is in imitation of Jesus’ joy in our salvation, or Paul’s joy in the faithfulness of those with whom he shared the gospel.
Don’t be afraid to share Jesus with people. Pray for Jesus to show you who He wants you to reach out to today. When the Spirit leads, go pray for someone, or tell them your story, or ask for theirs. Build relationships that can grow deeper, so that those who know you also know Jesus. Then come back and share your stories; we want to celebrate your joy!
Do you have a story of life change? We would love to hear it. Let us hear how God is transforming your life and the lives of those around you through the power of Christ. Drop us a line at [email protected] or submit a form using the button below! We’ll get in touch and work with you to share your story.