Joy And Shame, Cross And Throne 

“who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the righthand of God’s throne.”  Hebrews 12:2

The Christian life is to be a life of joy. Yet the living of this life brings circumstances that are less than joyful and many times are downright depressing. How do we find joy in this turmoil? And how do we maintain it? Looking to Jesus and learning from our great cloud of witnesses should help us.

who for the joy that lay before Him

Jesus had a mission to bring glory to the Father by dying on the cross for us. His mission entailed leaving the glories of heaven for the cruel, crude realities of earth. He was misunderstood and misrepresented, and eventually mocked, beaten, whipped, and crucified. Yet these circumstances contained joy. How?

Jesus’ joy came from bringing glory to the Heavenly Father not in circumstantial comfort or advancement. Jesus’ joy was rooted in the eternal not the temporal. Jesus’ joy focused on spiritual realities not fleshy remedies. Jesus’ joy was about His relationship with the Heavenly Father and the opportunity to bring us into that.

Joy is what we delight in or take pleasure in. Sadly, most of us only know joy in worldly things. When life goes right, feels good, and works out for us then we feel joy; but we miss the greater joy and the bigger picture 

The bigger picture is God’s glory. We have reduced God to an impersonal force or some superhuman being who is at our beck and call or an irrelevant religious object, but God is not to be treated like that. God has created us and the universe we live in. God has loved us with a deep and sacrificial love. God desires our friendship, so much, that He has communicated His ways and provided a way to Him. God is far beyond our comprehension yet He has revealed Himself in ways we can understand. 

God is what our life is all about. Knowing God should bring us joy and knowing that He has a plan to make us more like Him so that we can live with Him should make us ecstatic. This life is where God is doing this, making us more like Him through our experiences. 

endured a cross

Jesus went to the cross with all of its pain and terror. He did this with the joy of what would come from it. He did it to reconcile us to Him. Like a mother struggles through the pain of labor for the joy of holding her baby, we can struggle through the “crosses” of this life for the joy of being nearer to God.

despised the shame

Jesus thought less of the curse, other’s opinions, or cultural taboo than the glory of our salvation. Galatians 3:13 speaks of the curse of hanging on a tree… Jesus did that. Why? Jesus “despised” or “thought less of” what shame he would experience in comparison to glorifying His Heavenly Father. Many times we highly value the shame or taboo over obedience to God and in doing so, we despise God and His love.
Think of the “shames” or ridicule that we put greater value on than obedience and boldness for the gospel…

Jesus faced greater shame than we will ever know but always kept God’s glory greater than that shame. 

has sat down at the righthand of God’s throne

This should bring to mind the word RESTORATION. Jesus was restored to:

His rightful place in heaven

His relationship with the Father 

His completed work to restore us to God 
Jesus did what He did to do a specific work…

1.  He pleased the Heavenly Father 

2. He worked out the way for our salvation 

3. He brought restoration 

We must first receive and believe this then we can follow His example…

1. Live in joy by living to please the Heavenly Father 

2. Live in joy by sharing the gospel message with others

3. Live in joy by hoping in our day of complete restoration or glorification 

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”    Romans 8:18-23


Sustenance or Suppliment?

​keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith,

Hebrews 12:2

We run and quickly run out of gas because we are not filled with the right fuel.
“Keeping our eyes on Jesus” means that He is our source or what causes us to do anything. He is the source or author of our faith. It is because of Jesus that we believe and have new life. If we try to life this life on any other fuel or source then we will go kaput!

We run and run in the wrong direction because our focus is on the wrong thing. “Keeping our eyes on Jesus” means that we run toward Him as our goal. He matures us and grows us as we are conformed to His image or life and ways. When we run toward or focus on other things, they let us down and confuse us. God knows what is best for us and that is knowing Him and being like Him. All the other pursuits and obsessions end in disappointment and frustration because they cannot ultimately satisfy and give us meaning. God is the ultimate and most awesome, therefore, He is the only true fulfillment or goal.

We run and run into trouble because we run for the wrong reason. If we live the Christian life for selfish or worldly desires then we will be sorely frustrated. God’s work in us is not for worldly advancement or profit. When we seek to be Christians to get more of this world or puff ourselves up or to enhance our own comfort then we find that Christianity is lacking. God is making us like Him and causing us to grow in greater affections for Him, therefore, our comfort and pride are often distroyed.

When we run the Christian race and feel inadequate, that is an opportunity to readjust our gaze. What are you focused on? What is your goal? When you align your gaze on Jesus then He becomes your adequacy. 

When we run the Christian race and feel we have lost control, that is an opportunity to readjust our gaze. What is it you want to control? Why do you want control over this? Why do you feel God doesn’t have this? When you align your gaze on Jesus then He is in control. He has the power, authority, and means to get done what needs to get done.

The real issue is whether God is the source or just some suppliment to life. Is Jesus what it is all about or just an addition? If He is the source then He demands our constant attention, affection, and aquiescence. 

Take It Off!

​let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us.                             Hebrews 12:1

Think On It…

We have a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, but even closer, we have weight and ensnaring sins surrounding us. The word picture here is of running a race, a marathon, an arduous competition probably much like in those ancient Olympics. This race takes discipline, determination, and training as well as the encouragement and support of the “great cloud of witnesses” but also it takes unrestraint.

The runner MUST be free of anything that will hold down or hold back. Back then, some even ran naked and today they wear the skimpiest clothing and even shave body hair. They do what it takes to free themselves from any hindrances so that they can help their speed and endurance. Their race is trivial and insignificant compared to the “race” of the Christian life; so how much more should we lay aside any encumbrances?

Make It Happen…

Every Weight

What are the weights in our lives that weigh us down? These may not be bad things but good things that hold us down and hold us back in the race.

Working– Activity, achievement, programs, and planning are all good things but they can also distract us from God’s work in us and through us in this race. Our work can be just that, OUR WORK not God’s work. If we are so busy doing, then we can miss out on being. 
God is making us into His likeness. 
This means that whatever work we are doing should have Christ likeness as its function. We are growing in love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. Work is not the goal but the goal shouuld be becoming like Jesus. Therefore, our activities should draw us to God  and display God’s glory, not distract us.

Watching– There are many avenues of watching and enjoying in this world that are good but these may also impede us in the race. We watch TV, movies, sports, art, and other entertainments. Sometimes these use up our time, influence us toward sinful thinking, or distract us from what is best.

Wallowing– Experiencing pain or pleasure is natural and necessary in life. When we lose a friend or loved one, we must grieve. When we are hurt by gossip, slander, or betrayal, we must process this pain. When we are blessed with the good things in life, we must enjoy and appreciate them. But these moments of interaction with the experiences of life can turn into distraction and opposition in the race. 

Relationships can swallow us up.  Our response to people can be a huge weight. From infatuation to infuriation, bonding to bitterness, and codependency to conniption, people can exhaust us and deplete our devotion so that we stop running the race. The affect people have on us must be evaluated. Are we wallowing in relationships to the point of standstill? 

How do we lay aside this weights?

Consider whether your activities, enjoyments, pains, pleasures, and people keep you from hearing God, loving others, and growing in Christ likeness? Is so, it’s time to move from these by the disciplines of meditation on God’s word, prayer, and waiting.
Meditation on God’s word means that we study it, memorize it, and consider how it applies to our situations. It is listening to God’s voice and sifting out the other competing voices. Prayer is talking to God and realizing that He is always with you. Prayer is looking at life together with God by expressing your questions, hurts, requests, and responses honestly and openly. Waiting is that space between the promise and fulfillment. God works on us most in periods of waiting. Waiting is silence when we want to speak, resting when we want to react, and trusting when we want to take over. 

Sin that so easily ensnares 

Then there are the bad things that hold us down and hold us back… temptations, addictions, and habits that are just wrong. These things are so close to us, wrapped around us, and intertwined in us that it is difficult to be released from them. We could list the many sins that are close to our hearts and perhaps there are some that we are oblivious to but the truth is that EVERYONE has ensnaring sins. 
Again, the way to get free of these is meditation on God’s word, prayer, and waiting. This is a heart issue and not something that we can beat on our own strength and devices. We must draw near to God and allow Him to set us free of these intimate shackles.

Cloud Of Witnesses 

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us,
Hebrews 12:1

Think On It…

“Therefore” shows us that Hebrews 12 picks up where chapter 11 leaves off with the the “cloud of witnesses” and their characteristics of faith that challenge us to run the race of life with Jesus in view. 

As you read Hebrews 11 there are several distinctives of these people of faith…

1. Devotion to God– These people wanted to please God even at the expense of troubles, torture,  and terror. 

2. Desire for Homeland– These people had their sights on the eternal over the temporal. This world was not their home and therefore not a place to find ultimate comfort. 

3. Denied receiving what was promised– These people waited and waited and waited until they died. God made promises to them that would be fulfilled in the future and they would only see the seeds. 

4. Deliverance in peril– These people occasionally witnessed God’s hand providing  and protecting them. 

5. Danger in this world– These people were NOT spared struggles or hardship. They were despised but not despairing.

Make It Happen…

So when you are weak, think about these people. Hear their voices speaking to us from their stories in the Scriptures…

God is your glory

Eternal over temporal

God can provide and protect 

I will be despised but not despairing 

You will face struggles in this life, temptations to quit, obsstacles to your faith, and persecution and pressures from others… Remember the cloud! All the encouragement and inspiration you need are already uploaded from history and ready to be downloaded in the moment. You must read their stories and remember their witness:

God is your glory

Eternal over temporal

God can provide and protect 

I will be despised but not despairing