Last Saturday my son ran his first triathlon.
A triathlon is a race that involves swimming, biking, and running. It’s a sport that I’ve been involved with for the past six years. For the past year my six-year-old son, Levi, has been asking to do a triathlon, but I told him that he had to learn how to ride his bike first. Well, early this summer he finally mastered bike-riding, so we entered him into a local race.
I was so proud of him.
I was proud of how he trained. He worked so hard to learn how to make smooth transitions from the water to the bike and the bike to the run.
I was proud of how he finished. He refused to quit and ran across the finish line even though his little legs were tired.
But, I was most proud of how he raced. He ran the entire race with a smile on his face. Each time he passed us he was grinning from ear to ear and each time I saw his smile–even though he was in a difficult race–three words kept coming to mind.
“For the joy.”
Those words are in one of my favorite scriptures, 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 perfecter 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.
Don’t those three words “for the joy” seem a little out of place amidst words like “everything that hinders,” “sin that so easily entangles,” “cross,” “shame,” “opposition,” and “weary”? How can the words, “for the joy” be anywhere close to words that describe how Jesus “endured a cross,” scorned its “shame,” and “endured such opposition from sinful men”? Because those three words are why he raced.
Jesus endured the cross, the shame, the opposition, and even death itself for the joy that was waiting on the other side of the pain and at the end of the race.
The race was unimaginably difficult, but Jesus didn’t run for the pain, but for the joy.
Jesus ran his race for the joy of spending an eternity with us in Heaven.
Jesus ran his race for the joy he knew we’d feel when we truly understood grace.
Jesus ran his race for the joy in the hearts of the forgiven and for the joy of offering forgiveness.
Before the race I told Levi that he would receive a medal when he crossed the finish line, so . . . for the joy waiting for him at the end of the race, Levi raced . . . and smiled . . . all of the way across the line and into my arms.
Levi wore that medal most of the day on Saturday. He was so happy and I felt such joy.