Joy and Endurance

Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless His holy name.Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits. (Ps. 103:1, 2)

Although these are nice words to pray and to sing, have you ever wondered…really wondered…how do we do this?

How do we bless the Lord with our entire being out of the fullness of our hearts while at the same time not forgetting all His benefits when the waves are crashing and the lions are roaring?

How do we – who Paul describes as ones considered as sheep to be slaughtered – move forward in tribulation, in distress, in persecution, in famine, in nakedness, in danger or the sword and become more than conquerors through Him who loved us?

How do we – sheep so prone to wandering – learn to hear and follow the voice of our Good Shepherd – wherever He leads…through green pastures, beside still waters, in dark valleys, through prepared tables that are surrounded by enemies?

How do we throw off every weight that hinders and sin that so easily entangles so that we can run with perseverance the race marked out for us?  

These thoughts have been tumbling in my mind.  As I have been reflecting on these verses, I cannot help but wonder if part of the answer to these questions is found in Hebrews 12:2 where it says of Jesus…

“Who for the joy that was set before Him endured…the cross.”

For Jesus, part of the resin He could endure the cross is due to the joy that was set before Him…

What was that joy?

  • That joy is you and me and the rest of those are saved by grace through faith in the One who has redeemed us. By believing in Him, we are called children of the Most High God.
  • That joy is you and me whom He has loved from before the beginning of time and whom He loves always. Forever. No matter what.
  • That joy is you and me to whom He has made available every spiritual blessing in Himself and who has provided everything that we need for life and godliness.

And you know, without His willingness to “endure the cross” His joy…the fullness of His delight…would never have been realized…

For without Him and the shedding of His blood on the cross, we would have never been saved.

But, oh the cost of our redemption!

I can’t imagine the depths of the struggle in the garden that dark night when in anguish of soul Jesus wept tears stained with blood and cried out, “If possible let this cup pass from me!”

“If possible, let this cup pass from me!”

This was the cry of God Almighty, Sovereign of the universe, Creator of Life…the One who could control the wind and the waves…

This was the cry of the One who could comfort those in the hopeless depths of pain and suffering…

Yet, that night, there was none on this earth who could comfort His soul…

There was no strength on this earth that could empower His soul…

There was no wisdom on this earth that could devise another plan that would accomplish the redemption of the souls of man…

He – the sacrificial Lamb – had to die in order that we – His joy and the fullness of His delight – could be with Him.

He was the only way.

And so, with His eyes firmly fixed on His Father, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. He bowed His heart before His Father and prayed, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”  

And with the joy that was set before Him – you and me and all who have believe in His name – He endured the cross, despising its shame and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

I don’t know about you, but this gives me great hope, for even though I am considered as a sheep to be slaughtered, by fixing my eyes firmly on…

  • Jesus, who has loved me from before the beginning of time and who will love me always. Forever. No matter what.
  • Jesus, through whom I become a “more than conquerors” kind of sheep…
  • Jesus, through whom every spiritual blessing is made available to me along with everything I need for life and godliness…
  • Jesus, who is the sacrificial Lamb and who for joy set before Him endured the cross…
  • Jesus, my joy and the fullness of my delight

And by fixing my eyes on Jesus,

  • I can run with endurance and perseverance the race that is marked out before me…
  • I can bless the Lord with my whole being – and not forget all His goodness to me…
  • I can be a sheep that becomes more than a conqueror through Him who loves me…
  • I can be a sheep who listens to the voice of my Shepherd and does not get entangled in sin and burdened down trying to do a bunch of “good” things instead of doing what is best…loving Him, obeying Him and following wherever He leads me.

The simple truth is that by fixing my eyes on Jesus – the author and finisher of my faith and the controller of everything in between…by learning that His love is better than life so that He becomes the delight of my heart and the joy of my soul…

I can endure…

I can bless Him…

I can follow…

I can be a super conqueror…

Just as He is!

“But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, 

This is gracious in the sight of God.

For to this you have been called, because Christ suffered for you, 

Leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps…

Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising its shame

And is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (1. Pet. 2:20b, 21; Heb. 12:2b)

Lord Jesus, thank-you for your great love for us. It is unfathomable to comprehend that we were Your joy and the fullness of Your delight that You set before Yourself as You endured the cross. Thank-you so much for Your example that we can follow. Thank-you so much that through Your love, even though we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered, we are more than conquerors. Thank-you that You are our Good Shepherd who provides everything that we need for life and godliness so that we can hear Your voice and follow wherever You lead. Thank-you that as we fix our eyes on You…that as You become our joy and the fullness of our delight…that as we discover more and more the depths of Your love that is better than life…we can and we will run with endurance the race that You Yourself have marked out for us to run. Thank-you that because of You I can cry out, “Bless the Lord, o my soul, and all that is within me, bless Your holy name. Bless the Lord, o my soul, and forget not all Your benefits towards me.” O God, help me to fix my eyes on Jesus. Help me to not forget. Refine my heart so much so that I hunger and thirst only after you and your righteousness, so that nothing else compares. Deliver me from the traps and snares of sin, and help my heart to be soft so that when I do stumble I hear Your Spirit convicting my soul and my mind. Unplug my ears that I may hear Your voice. Open my eyes that I may walk by faith and not by sight. Thank-you that You are the director of my steps. Teach me to trust You and to acknowledge You in every aspect of my life for You are my Good Shepherd. You are my God and King. You are my Good Father, and I love You. Amen.