For the Joy Set Before Him (Hebrews 12:1-3)
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but the COVID shutdown was good for me. Because we were both stuck at home, Tammy and I got to spend a lot of time together, and we grew closer; we also got an uninterrupted summer with our son Wilson before he moved out on his own. Because the gym was closed, I had to be inventive with my exercise routine, and I started biking to get outside, and I absolutely fell in love with it; now, that the gym has reopened, swimming is back to my main exercise, but I bike every day I can.
Maybe you’ve had something bad turn out for good in our own life. Maybe you got laid off and were able to find a different and better opportunity. Maybe you faced some tragedy, and you drew closer to your loved ones. Maybe you faced an illness and you set an example for your doctors and nurses.
Jesus saw good come from bad. The author of Hebrews faced two issues as he wrote his Epistle:
- The Christians to whom he wrote wanted to go back to Judaism; he reminded them of the superiority of Christianity.
- The Christians to whom he wrote were growing wearing in suffering.
- They were facing persecution, and they were on the verge of abandoning the faith to have an easier life.
- “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb 12:3).
Throughout chapter 12, the author wrote about the suffering the Hebrews were facing, and he sought to encourage them to continue their faithfulness. He held up Jesus as an example of endurance in the face of suffering, and he told the Hebrew Christians: “Joy follows pain.”
Scripture (Hebrews 12:1-3)
The author pictured the heroes of the faith he mentioned back in chapter 11 as sitting in a stadium cheering on the Christians as they ran in the famous Olympic games. He urged his readers to rid themselves of every sin hindering them—viz., falling away from Christ to go back to Judaism and discouragement because of persecution—and to focus their eyes on the goal, i.e., the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the goal, for he “endured the cross, scorning its shame.” The cross was extremely gruesome and painful—One had the flesh of his back ripped open by the flogging (folks often lost so much blood from the flogging that they went into shock), spikes were driven through the wrist (considered part of the hand in antiquity) and that would sever nerves, thirst would be unimaginable because of the loss of blood, muscles would cramp, and the person slowly suffocated through the positioning of his body. The cross was shameful—One was crucified without clothes for all the world to see, the cross was reserved for criminals, and Roman citizens could not be crucified because it was so horrible.
Jesus went through all of that because there was joy at the end. He received joy when he “sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The Hebrews could endure persecution as they looked at the way Jesus handled persecution.
“Joy follows pain” in your life, too. Therefore:
Take a look at the joy to come.
When you’re struggling against sin or with sickness or with work or with your family, look at what God is going to give you: “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor 4:17).
Spend some time this week looking at the glories of heaven that are going to come for you. If that doesn’t encourage you as you face the struggles of this world, nothing will!
Remember joy will come.
After you examine the Scriptures to see the glories of heaven to come, don’t forget that God will give you that joy. “In the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time” (Tit 1:2). God has promised eternal life, God does not lie; therefore, eternal life is going to be a reality.
Understand joy may not come in this life.
Yes, God promises you joy in place of your struggles—yet, that joy may not come in this life. You may have a rotten and horrible life on this earth—only God knows what lies ahead for you. However, joy will come after this life. Think about Lazarus—he was a sick beggar who was covered with sores and he was hungry. However, after he left this world, Father Abraham said, “Lazarus received bad things [in his lifetime], but now he is comforted here [in Paradise]” (Lk 16:25). It’s possible that you may never see joy in this life, but God will give you joy when your lifetime is over.
May God bless you!
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.