Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26)
We see ever so clearly through the life of Christ that the pathway to glory or perfection is through suffering. The writer of Hebrews puts it like this:
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:9-10)
I have learned that the time a Christian is supposed to rejoice the most is at the time he is being grieved with various trials, tribulations and temptations.
We all know and can quote the amazing Johnathan McReynold song ‘All things are working for my good,’ but either amnesia hits our mind or we become mute because we forget or can’t utter these lyrics when the adversary lands a punch of trials to derail and shipwreck our faith. We begin to sing a new song, but not the one the Lord requires, instead we sing one that grumbles, complains and points the finger at Him.
As a result, it becomes impossible to actually live out the words of the apostle James when he exhorts us to count it all joy when we go through trials.
However, wisdom tells us to allow the trials and tribulations to usher us into the presence of the one whose strength is made perfect in our weakness, and who’s infinite in the areas we are finite – and that’s every area. When we think about it we see that the trials are actually serving to push us closer to God.
In the book of Hebrews chapter 2, verse 8 states that ‘You have put all things under His feet, for in that He put all things in subjection under Him, but now we do not yet see all things put under Him.’ This verse is speaking about you and me. God indeed has put all things under our feet but we do not see it when trials come. Now the scheme of the enemy is to make you take your eyes of Jesus like Peter did when he looked at the winds and storm rather than Jesus and then began to sink.
The goal of the believer is to keep our eyes on Jesus when we are grieved with the bad weather of this world: trials. Why must the believer do this? Well, because we learn a valuable lesson; the trials the enemy is hitting us with serve to bring us to glory and perfection, and we can only see that when we look at Jesus. See why James tells you to count it Joy?
Another interesting thing Jesus said is: Truly, truly, I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24)
I’ll give you one more: A woman has pain in childbirth because her time has come; but when she brings forth her child, she forgets her anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world (John 16:21).
Jesus said it like this: Having gone, say to that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and I complete cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I am perfected.’ (Luke 13:32) The interesting thing about Jesus is that healing and deliverance aren’t what make Him perfect, it was His suffering and death.
We learn a key principle from looking at Jesus and listening to Him:
1. Before He died, He died!
The reason why Jesus was able to endure every grief, persecution, pain, hostility and every form of suffering and pain even from those who were supposed to be His own, was because He had already died to His will and was living only for the will of the Father who sent Him. He was totally selfless, if not, Jesus would have probably held on to His rights as the Son of God and asked His Father why He was letting so much evil, happen to Him… sound familiar?
2. He understood that suffering is a midwife that serves to bring forth glory!
Jesus’ selflessness or death to self allowed Him to willingly suffer, and His wisdom, allowed Him to see that suffering will help him birth glory, perfection and joy. The writer of Hebrews says it like this: looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). This makes sense when we look at the suffering of a woman in the labour of child birth, and the joy when she carries her baby in her arms. It’s suffering to live for the approval of God and not man and get persecuted for preaching the gospel. It’s suffering to not fight evil for evil but overcome evil with good. It’s suffering to turn the other cheek, but it births glory.
3. He focused on the end and not the means!
Have you noticed that every time Jesus wanted to talk about his death, He’d say ‘now is the time for the Son to be glorified’? What was he doing? He was teaching us to focus on the end so that it would make it easier to go through the means. He was imitating his heavenly Father who sees the end from the beginning. This is why He said ‘tomorrow I will be perfected’, rather than saying I will suffer and die. Now, of course we will also face difficult times causing us to ask God to take away our own cup of suffering, but like Jesus we must switch our focus to the end – perfection, glory and joy – so that it will be easier to go through the means – suffering.
Now do you see why Jesus tells anyone who wants to come after Him to first:
1. Deny themselves (die to self)
2. Pick up their cross (symbol of suffering)
3. And follow Him
When we do this we are imitators of Him. We go through the same process as Him and we follow him into glory, perfection and joy.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).