This summer, as I trained to run my second half marathon, I learned many lessons about myself and my life. Thanks to memorizing scripture through AWANA as a child, the following scripture passage is deeply etched into my soul, and became a close friend over the summer.
Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1-2
While I want to break down every word of this passage for you, and share how it has taught me this summer, the theme of this blog is Joy, so let’s focus there.
who for the joy set before him.
We’re talking about Jesus here. The passage calls him the author and perfecter of our faith. The man who not only authored The Way, but who showed us how to perfectly live The Way. He’s the subject of this passage. Let’s skip ahead: endured the cross, despising the shame.
He suffered through the cross. Not just the physical piece of wood, but the entire process. Not only did he suffer through metal spikes being hammered into his naked body, but he endured it. Grab a dictionary and look up the word endure (seriously. the following definition just isn’t enough). One definition I found says “to undergo great pain without giving in”. So this Jesus dude, didn’t give in to the physical pain. Now, just in case you’ve never ran a 1/2 marathon, please take note at this point that training and running the race is painful. It’s nothing compared to Jesus’ story, but my sore muscles remind me of the physical requirements of a race.
What’s next? despising the shame. Shame. What does that word mean to you? When have you experienced the feeling of shame? Don’t lie. You have felt shame. Whether it was from a punishment when you colored on the walls at age 3, or when that girl you chased after for so long told you she was never interested to begin with, or when you were tricked into believing a lie. What did you do with that shame? Did you despise it? I love this strong word. Jesus didn’t dislike the shame, or ignore it, he despised it.
Let’s put these together to get back to our theme. Jesus endured the physical pain of the cross, despised the emotional shame of being condemned, and he did it…for the joy set before him.
Let that soak in. Stop reading for a few seconds and just repeat that, if you need to. We’re in no hurry here.
While I run, I’m preparing myself. Preparing my body, my mind, my spirit for the race marked out for me. So easily, I become weary. Training for and running a race is not an easy task, it’s not like brushing my teeth in the morning. This race, this life, is a challenge. When I fix my eyes on the end goal, which is Jesus, running the most difficult race in the world suddenly becomes possible. Jesus never once lost sight of his end goal. His end goal was the joy set before him. The joy of you, the joy of me, the joy of sitting at the throne of God. He was able to endure the pain and despise the shame because he was sure of his joy.
Don’t lose your joy. Don’t take your eyes off of Jesus. Fix your eyes on a man who has seen joy and knows it deeply. This race has been marked out for us, and when our eyes stay fixed on Jesus, not only can we run with perseverance, but we can run with joy.
What is it that convinces you to take your eyes off of Jesus? How would your life be different if you shifted your focus away from the distractions and towards the perfecter of your faith? Are you running with joy?