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. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. . . (Hebrews 12:1-3)
Again, God, this is not a passive faith. Again, through this apostolic letter, you call us to action: lay aside distractions, lay aside sin, run the race. In the verses that follow you give us more specific descriptions of what you mean by laying aside hindrances and sin and running the race. You tell us to struggle against sin, to submit ourselves to your shaping and realignment, to strive for peace with all people, to strive for holiness, to remove bitterness, to refrain from sexual immorality and to refrain from ungodliness.
Again, God, you call us to a life of action — so much more than “belief” — a life lived deliberately, intentionally, purposefully in submission to you. To help us in this call you, through this writer, direct us to “look to Jesus”, to consider him, to fix our gaze on him. You remind us here that Jesus persevered in obedience to you, Father, and endured hostility, pain, shame, and death with his eyes set on you and on the glory of his mission. You remind us here that Jesus was able to do it because he remained focused on “the joy that was set before him”.
For the JOY that was set before him!
It was looking ahead at joy that enabled Jesus to persevere. Perhaps we need to know more about that joy as we commit to persevering as well. And then as we read farther in the chapter you give us a glimpse of the joy that Jesus saw:
. . . you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24)
Mount Zion, the city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem, countless angels gathering in celebration, people’s names written in the Book of Life, you yourself present, your people freed from sin and condemnation, shed blood that brings eternal life, and Jesus in his eternal place as glorious mediator between God and Man , who through his suffering and obedience even to death has opened the door forever and ushered us into this joyous scene.
For THIS joy that was set before him!
Oh, God, give me an understanding of this joyous consummation. Let me taste that joy and know its goodness. Let me taste it now and long for it to come in its completion. Keep it ever before me that I may persevere, that I may live out my faith in everything I do as long as I live. I offer an active, obedient faith to you, Father, as my acceptable worship.
For you have made the joy set before Jesus, the joy set before me. Jesus has opened this joy to include me. His joy is now my joy. Your joy is now my joy. For this joy I will lay aside distractions and sin. For this joy I will run with perseverance.
You have set joy before ME and I am grateful.