Hebrews 12: 1 – 2 (NIV) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 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, 2 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.
As I biked through the rain with my girls to drop my oldest at school several years ago, it got me angry and upset. But as those feelings rose, so did a Scripture: “for the joy set before Him”. I couldn’t recall the full verse at the time, but these six words reverberated within me.
When I got home, I couldn’t wait to turn to the full Scripture and soak in it. I thirsted after “the joy”. And it brought me to Romans 5: 20 – 21 (The Message):
All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end.
The joy set before our Saviour – His beloved children freed from sin and death and restored unto Him – was and is our invitation into “a putting … together” and “life – a life that goes on and on”.
Now, I know that rain was God’s gift of cleansing, sent to heal me. To wash away my sin and pain, to create in me a clean heart and to renew a right spirit within me. To transform my mind and heart to believe that every moment given unto me is a gift. A gift to glorify the One in whose image I am made and who delights, not in my sacrifice, as I hold tight to a pseudo-control in anger and pain, but in His mercy. A mercy that enables my obedience to His Word to me to “rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
I heard Him saying:
“Look up, behold Me before you. I have come to lead you forward, deeper and deeper into my JOY: wholeness and life abundant everlasting.”
If you look at the context of this joy, it is birthed in suffering, as Christ “endured the cross”. But look at the Greek root of this word hupomeno “to abide under, to bear up courageously” (under suffering) and you find the strengthened form of “to abide” (meno) (Thayer and Smith, 1999). And when you look at meno (“to abide”), you discover that this “abiding” is a gift from God, the Spirit of Truth. Romans 8: 3 – 4 (The Message) explains that:
“The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.”
I can embrace “the joy set before” me, because my Saviour is embracing it within me, leading me forward into it. My hope, “the joy set before Him”, is being birthed from the Spirit within me. It is He who sees the wholeness and life that awaits me, whose “assurance in things unseen” unburdens the weight that presses down upon me. It is my Saviour within me.
“God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are”, walking into good and hard circumstances with us, birthing and growing our “unbelievable inheritance” from within:
Romans 8: 15 – 17 (The Message): This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!
Ever so patiently, my Saviour is teaching me the “unforced rhythms of grace”, as He opens my eyes to rejoice in Him. As He compels me to open my hands and heart to receive the hidden manna in His sovereign plans and purposes that have often far exceeded the discomfort of a simple rain shower. Plans and purposes that have been sent to humble me, to lift my fears and free me from my striving in pride, to cause me to rest: to abide in the labor of my LORD in and through me.
Do you also long to receive God’s cleansing rain afresh today, that the light of His love might shine brightly upon and through you? Then, I invite you to join me as I pray.
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.
Thank You for Your mercy toward us. Thank You for making Your home in us and moving us, through Your living Word, to make our home in You. Give us a thirst and hunger for Your Word, oh LORD. And open our hearts to receive the precious convictions of Your Holy Spirit as they come, that we might repent of our sin and be washed clean to receive the light of Your face shining upon us. For we long to rejoice in all circumstances, to taste of Your grace in the rain that falls. In Jesus’ mighty Name, Amen.