“…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 12:1b-2 (NIV)
John 1:14 tells us Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what this means in terms of how he walked out his existence on earth. For instance, when Jesus was fasting in the wilderness, Satan challenged him two times with the statement, “If you are the Son of God, then…”, provoking him to utilize his omnipotence. But Jesus refused to do it. He chose restraint in those moments and it intrigues me each time I consider it. If I had access to all the power in the universe, I might not have been so restrained.
Philippians 2:6-8 says Jesus refused to grasp at his divinity while on earth and instead chose to make himself nothing by taking on the very nature of a servant. The scripture says he humbled himself. He chose to live with the same limitations and opportunities all humans are subject to. He chose a life of prayer, humility and servanthood, inclining his ear to the Father and his heart to the Holy Spirit. He moved in faith. When Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us, one of God’s objectives was to show us this life could be lived miraculously by simply hearing God, having faith in what he had said and walking it out obediently. By living like Jesus, we could unleash the power of Heaven in our lives and the world around us.
So it should be no surprise that this is how Jesus approached the cross – listening, believing, obeying. But how did he continue to walk in this disciplined manner while knowing the extreme suffering he was about to experience on the cross? By focusing on joy! The scripture says Jesus endured the cross because he focused on the joy set before him. Romans 15:13 says that joy comes in believing. As Jesus focused on what his sacrifice would mean to God and to the world – souls reconciled, relationship restored and the power of the Holy Spirit unleashed on the earth – joy came and encouraged him through the trial. The joy of the Lord was his strength!
It’s no different for you and me. Jesus showed us how to do it. When we face extraordinary obstacles or a painful valley, we need to take time to tune into what God is saying to us, choosing to trust him and believing in what he is saying to us in prayer and through his Word. We need to walk in accordance with what God is saying, even if we think it might kill us. By focusing on the joy just on the other side of the trial, we will be propelled through. The joy of the Lord will be our strength!