The Joy That Accompanies Sacrifice

By Rich Carmicheal

    I hope this issue of the Herald blesses and challenges you as it focuses upon the theme of the cross of Christ. In connection with this theme, I would like to draw your attention to Hebrews 12:1-3:

    "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

    According to this passage, the reason why Jesus endured the cross was because of the joy that was set before Him. What was the substance of this joy? Part of it must have been the satisfaction that Jesus experienced in knowing that He had faithfully completed the work His Father gave to Him. The night before He died Jesus was able to state in prayer, "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began" (John 15:5). And on the cross, He was able to say in complete surrender and obedience to His Father, "It is finished" (John 19:30).

    I believe another aspect of the joy set before Jesus was the joy of knowing the salvation that would come to so many people because of His sacrifice. He knew that His death would make forgiveness of sins possible. He also knew that through His blood He was purchasing "men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation" (Revelation 5:9). What joy was set before Him! By sacrificing His life, Jesus eternally blessed the lives of multitudes of people.

    The writer of Hebrews encourages us to consider Jesus’ example so that we "will not grow weary and lose heart" (Hebrews 12:3). We need to continually keep in mind all the joy that is set before us. We can look forward to the day when we will enjoy the tremendous satisfaction of knowing that we faithfully completed the work the Lord gave us to do. In perhaps some of the final words the Apostle Paul wrote, he provides an excellent example of the joyous anticipation that develops as the result of faithful service: "...I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

    Along with the joy that we experience as we faithfully serve the Lord, we can also experience the joy that develops as we realize that we are making an eternal difference in the lives of others. The Apostle Paul revealed this kind of joy when he wrote to the Thessalonians, "For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy" (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). The Thessalonians were his "glory and joy." He knew that he had played an instrumental role in their relationship with the Lord. And so, we too, can be used by the Lord to serve and bless others. As we do, they become part of the joy that the Lord gives us both now and in all of eternity.

    In light of all this, I want to challenge you to take up your cross and follow Jesus. Surrender yourself completely to the Lord’s will. Devote yourself to serving others. In the process, you must necessarily die to self, but you will also discover indescribable joy.