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The Joy Set Before Us

Although it may not seem evident upon first glance, Peter gives us two important themes in his first letter. First, he tells us that suffering in general, as well as unjust suffering in particular, makes innocent people more like Christ. He does this in a number of ways. One notable way that he does this is by reminding slaves that when they suffer unjustly, but do not sin, they are mirroring the character of Jesus who also suffered unjustly, but did not sin. Another way that he illustrates the character building nature of suffering is by reminding us that our faith is tested by trials as a means of purifying that faith. The other recurring theme throughout Peter’s letter is that Jesus is the example by which we should fashion our personal characters and lives. These two themes carry through the letter in both subtle and direct ways. The point is that suffering is part of the process that makes us holy.

But exactly how can we embrace the kinds of suffering that conform us to the image of Christ? Part of the answer to that is by shaping our mindset to be more like the mindset that Jesus had. Hebrews 12:2 tells us explicitly that Jesus endured the horror of the cross because of the joy that was set before him. In other words, Jesus endured because there was some kind of joy in the future that was somehow dependent upon the suffering that would be experienced in his terrible but willful death. The logical question about that verse is, “what was the joy set before him?” That joy to which Jesus looked forward was at least two fold. First, he looked forward to reunification with his father in a physical and spatial sense. Jesus knew that death on the cross would be the portal by which he would return to Heaven. Knowing this allowed him to withstand the murderous rage inflicted upon him by humans who rejected his Lordship, and did not recognize his beauty. Secondly, Jesus would be unified with people who he rescued from sin, death and hell because of the suffering he was about to endure. The cross allowed Jesus to return to the love of his father, while also expressing the fullest love for his people, which, in turn, would allow them to express their fullest love to him without the taint of sin, or the disorder of fallen bodies once they die or are raptured. This was the joy set before him, and it was greater than the terrible, but temporary, pain of the cross.

When you are facing troubles remember that the joy set before you is greater than the pain you will endure. Remember that if you are a follower of Christ, the pain that you are enduring is making you holy and preparing the way for you to experience the joys of Heaven and a true intimacy with God, while also shaping you into the kind of human being that you are supposed to be.

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