It happened to me again this week. I am not sure whether it was watching the video of a 95 year old Billy Graham talking about the cross or serving communion this morning. The reality of God sending his son to die in my place in one of the most excruciating ways possible overwhelmed me. I don’t deserve what He did. None of us do. Then I read Hebrews 12:2
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
So what was the joy set before him? How could anything seem joyful in the face of certain death and taking the wrath of His father upon himself? As one commentator said, “He looked right through the Cross to the coming joy, the joy of bringing salvation to those he loves.” I am that joy and all those that have surrendered their lives to Him over the centuries and professed faith are His joy.
If He could look at the coming cross with joy, why are we so joyless all the time? In this cynical age, I can almost hear the responses now – but we are not God. That is true, but it doesn’t get us off the hook. One of the most challenging scriptures in the New Testament is Matthew 5:48 “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” No matter how you interpret that verse, it is clear that God has set a standard and he expects us to follow His example.
Over the years, I have been drawn to people that live out the reality of joy no matter what their circumstances. They have a way of seeing things that is profoundly different. Where others see obstacles they see opportunities. Where others see problems they see solutions. Where others see failure, they see the seeds of success. In the worlds eyes this can seem like naïve optimism. But they never knew my grandmother.
Bessie Adams favorite song was Count Your Blessings. To this day, I cannot sing that song without seeing her face. She was an evangelist and a singer. She was a mother and a wife. She was a person of immense joy and she loved Jesus like no one I have ever met. She did not have an easy life being one of twelve children born in a small fishing village in the far south of England. Despite this she persevered with God. He was her all in all.
At a time when the Methodist church was dying and the little village churches were growing cold and empty, she saw possibility. Joining with George Fox and the Friends Evangelistic Band, she went from village to village teaching, singing and most of all sharing her testimony of the life changing power of the Holy Spirit. As she did this, her joy became contagious. People came to faith and she helped to light the fire of revival in that part of England. All this took place even before she met my grandfather.
I never knew my grandmother during those early years. I knew her after she had spent years raising a family often without the aid of her husband who was traveling overseas on a regular basis. I knew her in the later years when disease and health problems began to encroach. I knew her when the love of her life died before she did and she was left to fend for herself. The woman I knew had lived a life of challenge and change. Despite all this, she embodied the joy of her savior and it rubbed off on me.
Not only am I the joy of my savior, I am the joy of my grandmother. She made Jesus real to me in a way that mere words could not. She lived out a life of joy in the face of adversity that simply does not make sense – unless you knew Her Jesus. I am so glad that I do and I hope that I will be small reflection of that joy to those I interact with on a daily basis. Just like her, I am the unworthy recipient of extravagant grace.