Thursday, February 22, 2018

Lent Words Day 8: Joy

Joy seems like an odd word for the Lent season with its emphasis on repentance and sacrifice, mourning our sin and fasting. But the writer of Hebrews gives us a different picture of joy than ones we might imagine.

"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.Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
Hebrews 12:2-3

Jesus endured the suffering and shame of death on the cross because He was looking ahead to the great joy that was before Him: The joy of being seated at the right hand of the Father, as well as the joy of fulfilling the Father's will. Paul says this of Jesus in Philippians 2:8-11:

"And being found in appearance as a man,

    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death
        even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father."

And earlier in the book of Hebrews it says,
You made them a little lower than the angels;

    you crowned them with glory and honor
    and put everything under their feet.”
In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
Hebrews 2:7-9
Joy is not like happiness. Happiness is often based on our circumstances. Good things happen and we are happy; bad things and we are not happy. But joy is a state of mind that comes from the confidence and hope we have in our relationship with God through faith in Christ. Joy is evident in our lives despite our circumstances. So, in times of suffering we can still have joy, because we have a higher hope. We, like Jesus, can look at the circumstances in our lives and go through hard times and have joy because of what we have to look forward to. We will be in glory with Christ. 

"But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." 1 Peter 4:13

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." 2 Corinthians 4:17

I can easily grow weary and lose heart. I get discouraged because of circumstances, being hurt, people letting me down. In the context of today's passage in Hebrews Paul is using a race as a metaphor for the Christian life. The way we don't lose heart or grow weary, especially in hard times, is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. To look at Him with undivided attention; with a steady gaze. In a race, when the runners look at those around them or look at things off the track, they get tripped up. They have lost focus. It is the same in our life. Don't get tripped up and take your eyes off of Jesus - don't focus on other people, or circumstances, or even your own perspective. Keep your eyes on Jesus. He is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. 

I cannot read this passage without thinking of the refrain from "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus":

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

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