James E. Woods

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The Joy Set Before Jesus!


The Joy Set Before Jesus!

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
— Hebrews 12:2

When a person initiates a new, huge endeavor, his passion to succeed in that endeavor strengthens him to keep his eye on the goal in front of him. For example, as an athlete starts a race, his desire to win that race helps him keep his eyes fixed on the finish line. While constructing a building, workers who keep their eyes on the architect’s finalized rendering are encouraged to sustain the momentum of the building process. While writing this book you hold in your hands, I encouraged myself by keeping my sight fixed on December 31 — the last Sparkling Gem I knew I would write for this volume. With every new daily entry I completed, I moved closer to that goal, and it gave me courage to keep writing. As a result of my writing and staying on track, you are reading this devotional today.

But what do you think Jesus focused on when He was hanging on the Cross and enduring the agony and shame we discussed in the last three days of Sparkling Gems? You can imagine that He must have had moments when He thought, I don’t have to do this! I could call on legions of angels to deliver me! I could come down from this Cross! What do you think motivated Him to remain there until the job was done?

Hebrews 12:2 tells us very clearly: “…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

 

This verse says Jesus focused on “the joy” that was set before Him as He endured the Cross. Just like a runner focuses on the finish line, like a builder forges ahead to view the completed project, and an author anticipates the last written page of a book, Jesus was looking forward to “the joy” of finishing. I’m sure that as Jesus hung on the Cross, He looked out across eons of time and saw the faces of people who would be saved because of what He was doing. He saw you, He saw me — but what else did He see that motivated Him to stay faithful to the end?

The word “joy” in Greek has a definite article, which means this wasn’t just joy in general, but it was a specific joy. What was it? The verse goes on to describe that joyous “finish line” that Jesus set His face like flint toward: “…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus had His eyes of faith fixed on the empty throne at the right hand of the Father that was reserved for Him once His victory was complete. Upon that throne, all enemies would be His footstool, and He would commence the next part of His high priestly ministry to intercede for everyone who would ever come to Him in time of need (see Hebrews 4:16).

Jesus had His eyes, His heart, His mind — His whole being — fixed on that highly exalted place. That was the joy set before Him. When sin and hell were defeated and Jesus was resurrected, that was the seat of authority He ascended into Heaven to occupy. And ever since that time, from that highly exalted position, Jesus has been serving as Lord of the Church and as the High Priest and Intercessor for every believer.

What is the goal in front of you that keeps you motivated to move ahead even when things are difficult? If you have no goal, it’s likely you’ll give up. That’s why it is so important to know exactly where you are headed, what will happen when you get there, and what kind of victory you’ll experience when you attain that long-awaited position. Just as Jesus needed a joyous outcome to be set before Him, I guarantee that you need one too.

  • What are you building with your life?
  • What keeps you motivated to stay on track?
  • What will it look like when you finish it?
  • What are you “writing” with your faith?
  • What will the final chapter of your life look like because you’ve done what Jesus has asked you to do?
  • What is the specific joy that is set before you?

Sometimes when you are working hard to do what God has asked you to do, it can seem overwhelming, but progress is gained one step at a time. The increments of forward movement might seem tiny, but no matter how big or small the steps, you can know that you are inevitably progressing toward the goal that God has set for your life.

When I was a young man, God showed me the purpose of my life, and that purpose has been in front of me ever since. In times of hardship, I’ve kept my eyes focused on that goal, because fulfilling that divine purpose is what my life is all about. Sometimes it seemed like all I could do was take baby steps — yet each step has been a step in the right direction. That’s the way I’ve lived my entire life focused and moving in the direction of the purpose God has revealed to me.

If you get your eyes off the goal and start focusing on how small your steps are along the way, it is probable that you’ll get discouraged and give up before you arrive. So today I want to encourage you to lift your eyes and look beyond to the joy, the victory, and the fulfillment of what God has planned for your life. Even Jesus needed a goal to help Him stay focused as He underwent intense suffering and hung on that Cross.

So today I exhort you to make a fresh consecration before the Lord to submit to His will for your life. Then exercise your authority in Jesus’ name and resist the devil (see James 4:7)! And as you move forward in obedience to the Lord’s voice, keep your eyes of faith fixed on the prize Jesus has set before you. That is what will sustain your determination to stay in place and stay on track until you can finally shout that you’ve reached your God-ordained goal!

MY PRAYER FOR TODAY


F
ather, I thank You for the example of faithful endurance Jesus displayed when He suffered the pain and the shame of the Cross for me. Jesus kept His eyes fixed on the joy set before Him, knowing He would occupy His seat at the right hand of the Father reserved for Him once His victory was complete. When You raised Jesus from the dead, Father, You raised me up also to be seated in Him. Lord Jesus, I worship You, and I fasten a steady gaze on You so that I will finish my course with joy to the glory of God!

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY


I confess that I am focused on the goal of completing God’s plan for my life. I realize that I am not my own, but I belong to God. Therefore, I draw upon the mighty strength that is available to me in Christ — and by the help of His Spirit within me, I move daily with unwavering devotion in the direction toward the prize of fulfilling my divine purpose as God has revealed it to me.

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER

  1. What has God set before you as the main project or goal for your life?
  2. If you don’t know the purpose for your life, have you ever asked God to show it to you? According to James 1:5 (see February 17 and 18), God will answer this very important question for you if you’ve met His conditions.
  3. Can you describe what a life with purpose would look like to you? How would it change the way you are living if you knew exactly what God’s purpose is for your life?
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