Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Advent Day 22: Jesus Came to Show Us How to Suffer

[20] For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? 
But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. [21] For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, 
leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 
(1 Peter 2:20-21 ESV)

Suffering is difficult in all its forms; emotional, physical, or mental. Though we do our best to avoid suffering, all of us will face some degree of it in our lives. It's unavoidable. Therefore, because it's inevitable for a Christian, we need to be sure that we suffer in a way that brings glory to God.

The temptation when we suffer is to shake our fist at God and declare that we don't deserve what we're going through; that he is treating us unjustly. Others give up on God altogether believing that God, were he real, would never allow such suffering to occur in the first place. So, how should a Christian respond? Should we be angry or bitter with God? Is suffering evidence that God doesn't really love us? Does it show there is no all-powerful, loving God? Should we complain and grumble?

Apart from God's Word, these questions would be difficult to answer. We would be left scratching our heads trying to understand how love and suffering can possibly come from the same source.
In Christ, however, we see the answer to all of these questions. Jesus took on flesh, and all the weaknesses that entails, in order to suffer for you and me. He dealt with hunger and fatigue. He felt physical pain. He experienced emotional hurt - Jesus wept. And, of course, he experienced the mockery and humiliation in his phony trial and beatings. He suffered intense physical pain in his crucifixion. Yet, 2 Peter 2:23 says, "When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly."

Jesus didn't complain. Jesus didn't grumble. Jesus didn't see suffering as his Father abandoning him. Instead he continued to trust his Father because he knew that His Father was in control and that whatever happened was for the glory of his name.

Jesus is our example of how we are to suffer well. We must keep trusting our gracious Heavenly Father. Romans 8:28 tells us "that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." This is why James is able to say, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness" (James 1:2-3).

Jesus knew the Father was at work in his suffering, therefore he continued to trust him without wavering. In the same way, we can be confident that God is working for our good, and His glory, in our suffering. Therefore, we are called to follow Jesus' example of suffering.

Because Jesus came in the flesh and suffered as we suffer, we can never shake our fist at God and say, "You just don't understand." He perfectly understands because of his miraculous incarnation. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).

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