One Sunday a few years ago, my pastor asked us this question, â€œWhat bring you joy?â€Â He related Websterâ€™s definition as â€œemotion evoked by well-being, success, good fortune, and the prospect of possessing what one desires.â€Â So just stop a moment and give the first three things that pop in your mindâ€¦1) â€¦. 2) â€¦ 3) â€¦
The answers from the congregation were varied.Â â€œa childâ€™s laughterâ€, â€œa hole in oneâ€, several â€˜churchâ€™ answers like â€œspending time with Jesusâ€ and â€œsharing about Jesusâ€.Â The list went on for about 5 minutes or so with Pastor encouraging us to give an â€œAmenâ€ if we also â€˜votedâ€™ for an item on the list!
Pastor then shared Hebrews 12 with us.Â As I have often done with the many wonderful sermons and teachings that I have received from God through others, I want to share the message but I also want to share how the message impacted my spirit as well.Â So I am going to relate this Scripture as an outline of thoughts to consider:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
1) let us throw off everything that hinders and
2) [let us throw off] the sin that so easily entangles, and
3) let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
4) Let us fix our eyes on Jesus,
a)Â the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him b) endured the cross, c)Â scorning its shame,
d) and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV, my emphasis and formatting)
I am a disciple of Jesus.Â I am surrounded by many, many other disciples.Â I â€˜hang withâ€™ them!Â I have their example, support, encouragement â€“ so throw off the â€˜junkâ€™ that drags me down and holds me back from what/who is really joy!Â If something or someone drains the joy out of me or holds me back, entangles me in its tentacles (like an overgrown octopus!), Throw it off! Dump it! And keep going. Keep on the path that God has given me to run.Â Each of us has a race to run.Â Each of us has hills and mountains to â€˜sweatâ€™ as we climb them and they come at different times.Â We also have plateaus and slippery slopes.Â With Godâ€™s help, may I run the race like a marathon, never giving up but relying on my â€˜coachâ€™ and on the cups of cool water and Gatorade along the way that the Holy Spirit holds out to me.
Jesus is in front of me as I run this race.Â He is there to be my coach, my cheerleader, my teammate!Â And hereâ€™s where the joy comes in!
Jesus â€“ God in the flesh â€“ went through the suffering, the humiliation, the death â€“ for me â€“ for my sin!Â And He thought of it â€“ as joy!
â€œFor I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.â€Â John 6:38 (NIV)
It is joy to Jesus to be obedient to the Fatherâ€™s purpose and plan.Â Jesus receives what He desires â€“ the Fatherâ€™s â€œwell doneâ€.Â He knows true joy and that is what He wants for me.
â€œI am the vine. You are the branches. He who remains in me, and I in him, the same bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man doesnâ€™t remain in me, he is thrown out as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, you will ask whatever you desire, and it will be done for you.
In this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; and so you will be my disciples. Even as the Father has loved me, I also have loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love; even as I have kept my Fatherâ€™s commandments, and remain in his love. I have spoken these things to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be made full.â€Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â John 15:5-11 (WEB, emphasis mine)
Complete joy, without any lack or end to it, that is what I find when I am obedient to the Fatherâ€™s will.Â When I consider Jesus and follow His obedient path to true joy, then I will not become weary and I will not lose heart.Â Letâ€™s think about that today.