Joyfully Serving My Master

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Location: Indiana, United States

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

For the Joy Set Before Me

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3 NASB)

October this year marks a milestone birthday for me. I turn 40. You know, I have never minded getting older, because with age also comes experience, more knowledge, and a deeper relationship with God. One habit that I have developed over the years is that each year on my birthday I set a theme for the next year of my life. Sometimes that theme is a topic. Sometimes it is a verse. It is always something that I know I need to work through with God in order to grow to be more like Christ. And I really enjoy picking out and planning that theme. Of course, it is putting the theme into practice and taking the next step of growth that makes any difference, and that is always the more difficult part of the year’s theme.

This year I’m choosing my theme from the passage above. I started out with just the very center of the passage, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross,” to give me a theme of “for the joy set before me.” But the more I ponder the verses and the rich context of that statement, the more I realize that though the theme “title” may be short just so I can remember it quickly as I go about my day, I need the rest of those verses too.

Why, you may ask, would I choose “for the joy set before me” as a theme for the next year? Well, simply put, it is because I know the self-focused condition of my own heart. I realize that my motives are so often at the very least tainted with pride and a desire for my own glory. How many days do I make supper, clean the house, do laundry, check homework, go shopping and taxi the kids around with a selfish motive? I want my husband to tell me what a good wife I am. I want my kids to think I’m a really great mother. I want friends who come over to think I’m a good housekeeper. I want to be comfortable. I want it to be easy for me. Though what I’m doing may be right and good, in my heart it is far too often all about me. And where does fixing my eyes on me lead? It leads to discontent, complaining, ineffectiveness, and growing weary and losing heart.

Knowing the selfish and proud condition of my heart, I understand that in order to grow in effectiveness, to not grow weary, and to not lose heart, that I must fix my eyes on Jesus and follow His example. His example in this passage is that He endured the cross. He sacrificed Himself to pay for my proud and selfish heart, as well as every other sin that anyone has ever and will ever commit. But He didn’t sacrifice Himself as a woe-is-me martyr, like I so often do. He endured the cross “for the joy set before Him.” Joy. So if I’m going to be like Christ, then any work or sacrificing that I do should be because of the joy before me. What is that joy? It is Christ Himself. He offers me eternal life and abundant blessing in this life too, but the greatest joy resides squarely within the person of Christ. And He invites me to abide in Him both now and for eternity.

I must fix my eyes on Jesus by spending time alone with Him each day. I must recognize that the faith I have not only originated in Christ, but that He also does the work of perfecting my faith day by day. I remember the example that Jesus left as explained in Scripture. Then I enjoy Jesus now and look forward to the joy that lies before me.

So I wash dishes for the joy set before me. I clean up the third spill of the evening for the joy set before me. I lovingly discipline my sinful child for the joy set before me. I choose to lose a bit of sleep so that I can have time alone with God for the joy set before me. I welcome women into my not always perfect home for times of discipleship and relationship building for the joy set before me. I serve and love my husband for the joy set before me.

I think that’s a theme worth pursuing with every ounce of energy I have. And if I do, I will change. I will be a clearer picture of Jesus Christ to the world around me. What a privilege that I have to be able display the image of God as I sacrifice myself in the mundane things of life for the joy set before me. Won’t you join me? I can promise you that the joy that God sets before us is worth it.