Summary: The world relentlessly pursues self-statisfying happiness with utter disregard for the Joy of the Lord. Even those who authored the declaration of independence thought that the "pursuit of happiness" was a God given right. So ... what does the Bible say?
Let’s take a look at a couple of Scriptures …
Ecclesiastes 12:8 (NASB)
“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “all is vanity!”
Ecclesiastes 12:8 (HCSB)
“Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Everything is futile.”
Ecclesiastes 12:8 (ISV)
“Utterly pointless,” says the Teacher. “Everything is pointless.”
Ecclesiastes 12:8 (NIV)
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Everything is meaningless!”
Do you ever feel that way?
From the declaration of independence “the pursuit of happiness”
Ecclesiastes 2:17 (ISV)
“So I hated life, because whatever is done on earth causes me trouble - it’s all pointless, like chasing after the wind.”
That is what the pursuit of happiness is like, it’s like chasing after the wind. What would you think if you saw someone outside trying to catch the wind. You would think they were crazy.
The pursuit of happiness is self focused and therefore will always result in evil and emptiness.
Why is the pursuit of self focused happiness evil?
You set yourself up as God to be worshipped, even if only by you.
Why is the pursuit of self focused happiness empty?
You make a pretty crumby God!
A person pursuing happiness will eventually find that their life feels like it is caught in the vortex of a toilet flush going down, down, down.
But, praise God, that’s not all there is to life! There’s another end to the spectrum and the other end of the spectrum is:
“Godliness with contentment is great gain.”
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Acts 13:52 (RSV)
“And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”
So, we’ve got the pursuit of happiness which leads to emptiness at one end of a spectrum and the joy of the Lord when our lives are given to loving and serving Him and others at the other end.
So, what do we make of this verse and how can it be our example?
“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,
“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Somehow the “Joy set before Him” and “enduring the cross” don’t seem as if they should be in the same sentence.
So, what was this “joy set before Him”?
1) The joy of pleasing His Father by accomplishing what He has been sent to do.
There is this amazing bond between a father and his son when the boy is young. The son will have a deep desire to please his dad whether it means difficulties or not. Even if the father has flaws the son will overlook them and still desire to please his dad.
Just imagine the bond between God the Father and God the Son; eternally co-existent and eternally in harmony along with the Holy Spirit. The joy of pleasing the Father outweighed the torment of the crucifixion.
The verse goes on to say that Jesus even despised the shame of the cross. Why? Because the joy of glorifying and pleasing His Father greatly outweighed the pain of the cross.
The love that we have for God will not bring us freedom from pain and suffering but it will grant meaning to the pain and suffering. It will also help us to understand that:
“It will be worth it all - When we see Jesus -
Life's trials will seem so small - When we see Christ
One glimpse of His dear face - All sorrow will erase
So bravely run the race - 'Til we see Christ
“Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross”
Is that our fate? Is that our future? It certainly was for some early Christians.
Paul says to the believers in Thessalonica:
“You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”
And in Hebrews 10:34 it says,
“You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.”
Over on this end of the spectrum (self centered pursuit of happiness) such an idea is incomprehensible!
Is pleasing God worth personal suffering here on earth for you?
Another reason that Jesus “the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”