For the Joy
Just a few weeks ago I celebrated Easter. As I sat in a Maundy Thursday service and listened to the speaker articulate how Christ suffered such horrific pain and agony for my sins, there was one part of Scripture that impacted me more than anything else that was spoken that evening. It was from Hebrews 12:2: For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross. What a non-intuitive thought! I am sure I have heard this dozens of times, but for some reason on this night I felt this verse would have a lasting impact on how I would view future life experiences.
Jesus Christ gave us such a clear example, enduring to the end, even though the process presented one of the most horrendously painful experiences imaginable. He demonstrated that we must grasp the image of the end result far more strongly than we hold onto any present pain, suffering, or obstacle. If we cannot do this, it is very likely that we will never endure the process long enough to behold the fulfillment of our goals. Jesus also modeled to us that when we cling to the vision, it is even possible to have joy while we are enduring the pain and suffering.
When most people think of the end result, they think of the ultimate end result, which is heaven. While that is certainly the goal that we as believers have, God also has a purpose and an end result for us now—one in which He expects, anticipates, and hopes for us to be actively engaged.
Scripture tells us that we have a purpose while we are here on earth. Yet how many of us have spent time alone with our Creator long enough to discover and grasp hold of that purpose and then take courage and move toward it? Or how many of us take hold of our vision for a brief time, but give up when circumstances become difficult? How many of us never seek our own purpose but instead stumble onto someone else’s path?
Three Obstacles Hindering Your Purpose
I have found, through experience, three main obstacles to divine destiny:
Be strong and of a good courage; do not be afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest (Joshua 1:9, KJV).
This is one of my favorite verses. One of the worst enemies to fulfilling God’s plan for us is fear. Scripture tells us over 300 times not to fear, for God knew that one of Satan’s most powerful weapons against us would be fear. Fear will immobilize us and keep us defeated. Satan used this against me for many years to prevent me from moving in the direction God had for my life. I often thought of fear as something outside myself, but I realized that many of my greatest fears live within me. Satan has a whole ‘fear team’ that he uses: fear of rejection, failure, ridicule, and shame, all to prevent us from stepping out of the boat.
2) Lack of a Vision
If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; but when they attend to what He reveals, they are most blessed (Proverbs 29:18, MSG).
This verse in Proverbs sums up what I have found to be apparent in my own life. When I do not have a vision and cannot see what God is doing in my life, it is easy for the enemy to distract me. This distraction provides momentary fulfillment; yes, for the moment, it is satisfying. However, these kinds of distractions will leave us filling empty, desolate, and unfilled, often preventing us from fulfilling our destiny. The greater danger is that we often fail to see the bigger picture of what God is doing. Without a vision, we are living for the moment and not for the eternal. When we live for the moment, we ‘stumble all over ourselves’ in confusion, and our lives can seem meaningless and haphazard. Jesus Christ had a vision for His life, and it was this vision that gave Him direction.
Save me, O God, for the flood waters are up to my neck. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold to stand on. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me. I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched and dry. My eyes are swollen with weeping and waiting for my God to help me (Psalms 69:1-3, NLT).
David the psalmist gave us precise and descriptive pictures of what we feel when the enemy attacks our minds with discouragement. From this psalm, we can see why the enemy often uses discouragement as an attack against us—this man was in overwhelming pain and agony emotionally. If the enemy can keep us in this state of mind, he can entrap us and keep us in bondage for a very long time. Having been in this situation myself, I can relate to David. When we feel ourselves going down a road of discouragement, we must recognize it immediately and change our focus. Note that David was exhausted from cries of help. This entrapment of the enemy leaves us feeling drained, exhausted, and lost.
Overcoming the Obstacles
There are many weapons that Satan uses against us, but we must know and believe that Jesus Christ is greater than our enemy. Here are some Christ-centered tools that I have used to combat the onslaught of weapons that the enemy tries to use to defeat me:
1) Love Combats Fear
There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection] (I John 4:18, Amplified).
This Scripture supplies the very ingredient that we need to resist fear—God’s love. There are many days when the enemy attempts to battle my mind with his fear team (I say ‘team’ because he often uses many kinds of fear). At the first sign of feeling afraid, I begin to claim God’s love. I stop for a moment to spend time with Him and to receive His love. Only God’s pure and perfect love can oppose this very damaging and tormenting emotion of fear. I confess to Him that I feel my ‘love tank’ getting low and I ask Him to fill it again. This banishes all fear, because where His love is present, there is no room for fear. God is always present to pour out His love, but it is up to us to take time to receiveit. It is like driving a car—there are gas stations all around us, but we have to pull over and fill up if we want our tank to be full.
2) Revelation Combats a Lack of Vision
Make sure you carry out The Revelation that Moses commanded you, every bit of it. Don’t get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you’re going. And don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed (Joshua 1:7-8, MSG).
In this verse we see that Moses gave Joshua the ‘Revelation’ for his life. A revelation gives us a vision for our future and direction whereby we understand our destination. How exciting that must have been for Joshua, to have someone to tell him his life’s purpose and destiny! Our lives can be just as exciting. However, there is one condition to finding and understanding your destiny, and that is that you must spend time in the ‘Book of Revelation’—the Bible. You must read it, study it, meditate on it, practice it, and not depart from it, for it plays a vital role in understanding your future and your life. God tells us that by staying in the Word, we will not get off track. We will not ‘stumble all over ourselves,’ but we will stay focusedand get to where we want to go.
3) Motivation Combats Discouragement
…Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross… (Hebrews 12:2, KJV).
A motivation is a driving forcethat propels us in the face of discouragement and distress. We see in this verse that Jesus clearly understood His motivation for enduring the cross. He knew that the cross would bring an abundance of joy in being able to be in fellowship and relationship with you and me. You and I—we were His JOY! We were His motivation. He looked beyond the cross to see what lay ahead, and this gave Him the motivation that He needed to endure to the end. You must know what is motivating you, for this is where you will draw your strength, hope, and encouragement. Discouragement zaps our energy, leaving us feeling weak, but God’s purposes motivating us will provide us joy. That joywill bring strength, even in the face of discouragement.
For the Joy
If you do not yet have a vision, I would encourage you to spend more time alone with God and in ‘The Book of Revelation’ (the Bible) so that His vision for you can be clearly revealed to you. God does have a purpose for your life, but you must seek Him to find it.
As the Maundy Thursday message concluded, I asked myself the same question that I now feel challenged to ask you: “What vision are you holding and moving toward that is so magnificent and offers so much joy that just at the thought of finishing it, you continue on, even in the midst of great suffering and pain?”