I'm not sure about you, but as I have read the Bible in the past and formed for myself the picture of Christ, perfect God in human flesh, I assumed that this scripture was read differently. When Paul tells us "who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame" struck me though. For years, I interpreted that as "With joy, He endured the cross and shame." I envisioned His perfection coming into play and bringing Him complete joy as He hung on the cross, knowing that He was fulfilling the perfect will of the Father. However, this scripture paints a bit of a different picture.
The joy in the scripture is set before Him. Not joy that he was bearing the shame of the world, but a hope and a promise of what was to come. He knew that His death would redeem the human race, and as His last breath seeped out, He had faith that this joy would one day be His. The state on the cross, however? Despising. That's a word that we don't often associate with Christ. Sure, He despises sin. But despising His state? Surely not! Yet there it is for us to read. Despising the shame of holding the sins of the world, reduced to no more than a mere criminal, beaten and bruised, handed the most humiliating death, bearing the shame of the world in front of His holy Father. He did not hang with a smile plastered on His face, rejoicing in the humiliation. He despised the shame. He endured such hostility from sinners.
How many of us would take the fall for someone else's actions that we considered worse than our own? How many of us would take the fall for people who hated us?
Christ's example, as Paul says, remains. He endured so that we too may endure and not lose heart; so that we may not grow weary. We may have difficulty finding joy in our situation. However, we have joy set before us. We are redeemed from a condemned life and promised eternal life. We have been given promise after promise in God's word of His faithfulness to sustain us. We know that He will bring His perfect will to bear in our lives.
We can have joy, because we have the hope of what is to come.
Run the race with endurance. He did.