fruit of the spirit

Joyful Endurance

“We look away from the natural realm and we fasten our gaze onto Jesus…His example is this: Because his heart was focused on the joy of knowing you would be his, he endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation…” (Hebrews 12:2)

Many people in my family are fast and athletic, but not me. I’m slow and uncoordinated. In spite of this, I joined the track team my senior year in high school and ran the two-mile event. I don’t know what it’s like to come in first place to the cheers of adoring fans, but I do know what it means to endure until I finally finished the two-mile course.

Running a two-mile race is hard. Running a marathon is harder. In Hebrews 12:1, life is represented as a marathon. Just like a marathon, life requires endurance.

When we fix our gaze on Jesus, we run our races well. “We look away from the natural realm and we fasten our gaze onto Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:1). When we ignore Jesus, our example, and look instead on the circumstances of our lives, we struggle to endure.

Jesus didn’t focus on his circumstances. He endured by focusing on joy. “…Because his heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be his, he endured the agony of the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2).

When Jesus was going through the agony of crucifixion, he didn’t focus on the pain. He focused on the joy he would have in the future when his pain secured our redemption. He joyfully endured his painful present because he was confident of his joyful future.

The Greek word for “endured,” in Hebrews 12:2 is, “hupomone.” It doesn’t describe a grim, hopeless, resignation-to-an-unpleasant-situation kind of endurance. On the contrary, it is a picture of triumphant endurance, like a marathon runner who endures while looking forward to victory. Hupomone endurance is a joyful endurance filled with hope.

“So, consider carefully how Jesus faced such intense opposition…so that you won’t become worn down and cave in under life’s pressures. After all, you have not yet reached the point of sweating blood in your opposition to sin” (Hebrews 12:3). We’re told to, “carefully consider,” what Jesus endured. We haven’t endured anything compared to what he went through.

What agony can we endure? Most of what we face in our lives pales when compared to the agony Jesus went through. If he could find joy in the midst of his unimaginable pain, we can certainly find joy in our circumstances.

Joy is continuously available to us. As we steadily fix our eyes on Jesus, we grow in the joyful endurance needed to finish our race in triumph.

Lord Jesus, thank you for giving me your joy. Thank you for your example of focusing on joy even in the midst of pain. Help me endure difficulty with hope and joy, knowing it is only for a season. Fill my heart with joy that overflows to the people around me. Use my joy to draw others to you. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Today’s Reading: Hebrews 12:1-4