We take comfort in calling this life a “pilgrimage” in which our real home is in heaven (John 14:2-3) along with our true citizenship as believers (Philippians 3:20). Yet before we get there, it’s all about …“the journey.” The Scripture that comes to mind is Hebrews 12:2) which was written to the early Jewish believers who were holding on too tightly to their religious traditions to appreciate the changes happening in their experience as believers. We, as followers of Christ, have come to view suffering (1 Peter 5:9) as a real part of our worldview. Sometimes it hurts to be a Christian either because of some form of persecution or being marginalized by family or others, or perhaps, because we didn’t realize that life goes on—same job, same emotional luggage, same “headaches” are brought along with us on this journey. Our faith has not immunized us against pain or hurt.
Yes, God knows when this or that in our circumstance is a hinderance to what He is perfecting in us and He will remove it accordingly (Revelation 3:7), but somehow our humanity is very much a part of life as it always was. The temptations are just as real, sickness is just as real. We may become flummoxed about the paradoxical inconvenience of pain while knowing that God’s faithfulness and love were never more real as when we are hurting. Suffering on many levels remains a part of life as it did for the Savior!
What has changed? We have Jesus as both our example to follow and the One who will “perfect” our faith. Our trust in Him will be absolutely rewarded. He is irrefutably trustworthy. He didn’t save us to abandon us! That’s what “perfect” means.
But the gem of this verse is found in the word “for.” When Jesus was, Himself, looking at a level of suffering off the scale of human endurance, He knew that at the other end of what He must endure, there was a joy. Joy is what Mary Magdalene and “the other” Mary experienced when an angel told them Jesus was alive! (Matthew 28:8). Joy is what awaits us when He welcomes us home! (Matthew 25:21, 23).
Meanwhile we “endure,” we soldier on (is what it means)! And it makes a huge difference if we are looking at our tired legs or heaving diaphragm, or, instead, at that joy that is ours—to use Paul’s analogy from verse one—after this race is run! For some of us, the banner over the finish line is almost visible. It reads “Enter into the Joy of Your Lord.” And if we see it, it inspires us, or, as verse three reads, encouragingly, “so that [we] may not grow weary or fainthearted” when we are so close to that mark!
I had to run the mile in high school in 6 minutes to pass Physical Education. I was running far to slowly to make that clock until a friend of mine, realizing the shortfall, jumped on the track in front of me and yelled out, “Keep up!!” All I knew was I had to keep up with Carl as hard as it was to breathe (compliments of my asthma) or how my legs aches. I kept up … and passed!
Let’s keep up with Jesus!