Last night we had a ministry leadership training meeting at church and to start things off our multi-talented pastor opened up the evening with some acoustic praise music and one song we sang is titled Trading My Sorrows. There is one line in this song that caught my attention and it goes like this, “His joys are gonna be my strength.” I thought to myself, how odd. Just in case you are wondering: I do think it is very important that we pay attention to the Biblical allusions and the theology we hear and sing in praise songs. Then later on in the meeting Pastor brought up Hebrews 12 in passing, but I decided to read it and here is the first bit,
“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, 2looking 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. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” Hebrews 12.1-3.
I am not sure if Pastor intended to make certain connections throughout the meeting such as this, if he did then kudos to him, and knowing him for sometime now, I think he meant it. The meeting was about structuring a volunteer base in each ministry, not necessarily the stripes Jesus endured. I was paying attention, but this is where my mind was wandering as I looked at my wife mouthing the word, “dork” to me because I was taking my own notes.
So what does it mean, this song that we sing, (I am sure you have heard it before as well, if not click the link above), and this passage of Scripture that applies just as much to Christians 2,000 years ago as it does today? What was Jesus’s joy and why is that our strength? Let’s move slowly through this.
When you read through the Gospels and you come to the point of the crucifixion of Jesus you notice a couple things. He was more than nailed to a cross. Here is a list that I can recall off the top of my head. Jesus was: spit upon, slapped, punched, mocked, flogged, forced to carry his cross, made to wear a crown of thorns, stripped naked…oh yeah, his side was pierced with a spear too. There is more: his disciples abandoned him, one betrayed him, the people he came to die for yelled “crucify him!” In my estimation, though it is not recorded in the Gospels, is that Jesus was also kicked, shoved, and outright hated in all ways by his murderers.
All of this suffering, according to the Bible, was the Joy of Jesus. Think a moment about what Christ accomplished, refer back to my post about the Resurrection of the Dead, through the cross. The greatest thing, of course, is the offer of salvation through his shed blood. Is this not joyful? Of course his earthly ministry had its painful moments, but it was shadowed by Joy the entire time. To obtain the joy God planned for Jesus, he must have endured, obediently, the agony of such a death. Read Isaiah 53.4-6. Christ alone bore the wrath of God on Calvary.
Now, how is that our strength? Well, Hebrews tells us that Jesus is “the founder and perfecter of our faith” and how is that so? In Hebrews 2.10 we read, “10For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” Meaning, that God seeing fit to perfect Jesus through the promised suffering, therefore making salvation attainable. Pretty cool, right? Seeing the connections in this epistle? So, Jesus is made perfect through his suffering, his suffering was his Joy because we can now come freely to the Father covered under the grace bought by the blood of Christ. So how is this our strength. Once again we read here in Hebrews, “11For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source.That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12saying,
“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” Hebrews 2.11-12.
Do you see? We are brothers and sisters of Christ brought in through adoption through the saving power of his death upon the cross. Think now, if we are brothers and sisters, children of God, how are we to be sanctified, that is, become more and more like our Savior? Well, he became perfect through the suffering laid out by the Father, suffering even unto death. Listen to these words,
“4In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” Hebrews 12.4-13. emphasis mine.
You could say, then, that the Christian has a forward vision shadowed in the cross. All our discipline, what we often think as punishment, is actually strengthening us, perfecting us, making us holy, because it is sent by our loving Father. I am reminded of this passage of Scripture, “16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5.16-18. If you think about it, this discipline is a privilege to believers for it is for our benefit. Woe to those who do not accept Christ and suffer without him! God disciplines us, but He does not punish us, for He punished His Son on the cross. If we accept this discipline as evidence of God’s love for us, then we shall truly be seen to those around us as children of God, for who else has this joy in suffering that is our strength? The Joy of Jesus Christ is our strength.
I would like to end this post with another praise song.