When my daughter was a little girl she liked to play the card game Uno. I remember the night she had beaten me seven straight games. As I carried her upstairs to bed she twisted around to put her face in front of mine and said, “Don't woowry Daddy; you'll get bedder.”
If you are a parent you can easily remember all the things you've endured because you love your children—three‐hour dance recitals when your daughter is only on the stage for a grand total of two minutes, baseball games twice a week when your son only gets to play a couple of innings. But the joy of seeing your child in action outweighs anything else. (By the way, how does a child who can't even read know when you've skipped a page in that silly little picture book?)
I endured things for the sake of my children before I became a Christian, and I've endured things for the sake of my children after. It has always been my joy to help my children, as it should be for every parent. Knowing the joy of the Lord has made little or no difference in my willingness to endure stuff for my children's sake. But it has made a big difference in my willingness to endure stuff for other people.
Intimacy with God expands our ability and our desire to endure more stuff for more people. The fullness of joy experienced in God's presence cannot be contained, but spills over into our relationships with others.
The farther removed I am from God's presence, the less willing and able I am to find any joy in helping other people. In other words, the closer I am to that huge empty hole where God is missing, the less interest I have in doing anything for anybody else.
I am convinced, unless we are doing something for someone else we will never find any happiness that will survive the night. As long as we are unwilling to endure discomfort on our part for someone else's relief, any joy we experience will be stale and bitter‐tasting by morning.
Hebrews chapter 11 lists many men and women willing to endure hardship for the sake of others. Moses stands out in my mind.
The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” So Moses went back to the LORD and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” The LORD replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.” And the LORD struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made. (Exodus 32:30–35 NIV)
The book Moses was referring to was the book of life (see Revelation 20:12–15). Moses was apparently willing to sacrifice his own eternal life to keep the rebellious Israelites from losing theirs. (I don't know of any other way to interpret this passage.) What an incredible display of selfless love! How could Moses make such an offer? I certainly wouldn't do anything like that. But then I don't yet have the level of intimacy with God that Moses must have had.
Of course, God turned down Moses' offer. It was not Moses' job to be the savior; it was Jesus' job to atone for sin.
Think of what Jesus endured for our sakes. Just to leave behind His glory in Heaven and come to earth as Emmanuel (“God with us”—see Matthew 1:23) was hardship enough. But that was only the beginning.
He was an outcast:
He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. (Isaiah 53:3 NLT)
He was beaten:
But many were amazed when they saw him. His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man. And he will startle many nations. Kings will stand speechless in his presence. For they will see what they had not been told; they will understand what they had not heard about. (Isaiah 52:14–15 NLT)
He subjected Himself to our depravity:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15 ESV)
To the person who has never experienced the presence of God, enduring such hardship, as Jesus did for each of us, is insanity. But to Him it was pure joy.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:1–3 ESV)
We are surrounded by people, like Moses, who have gone before us—witnesses to the joy of enduring hardship for the sake of other people. We have the same kind of race to run, the same kind of life to live, that those witnesses had.
God is showing us this different kind of life—where the pursuit of happiness is not the pursuit of pleasure. No… this kind of life pursues happiness as just a byproduct of helping other people succeed… and if we have a little discomfort in the process—so be it.
Jesus just stepped over the rejection, the shame, the physical abuse… Jesus stepped over everything just to get to us. He endured the Cross—taking off His glory and putting on our shame—as if it was nothing at all compared to the joy that was set before Him.
And what was His joy? His joy was you… His joy was me… His joy was all of us who are willing to live in freedom… possible only because He was willing to endure what He had to endure to set us free.
Picture someone standing in front of you, saying: “Thank you for going through what you did… just for me.” Picture yourself answering: “No problem. It was pure joy.”
Picture yourself standing before Jesus, saying: “Thank you Lord, for going through what you did… just for me.” Picture Him holding your face in His hands and responding: “I love you. It was My pure joy.”
Have a good day,