I hear that a lot. “I find it so hard to obey God. I’m so prone to wander. I want to learn to obey Jesus.”
As the saying goes, be careful what you ask for.
“Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered.”
We are told in the Bible “Jesus was a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief and suffering.”
These are familiar words, but to what exactly are they referring? Some say that what
Jesus suffered was what He experienced on the cross. Certainly Jesus was obedient “even unto death on the cross.” However you don’t bench press 100kgs. before you’ve first learned to lift 50kgs. Jesus had obviously learned obedience in lighter issues long, long before He lifted His cross. Just a few of the many examples:
. He was born, on purpose, into grinding poverty and purposely remained there throughout His life on earth.
. He was born into a race of people that is almost universally hated.
. He later experienced the hatred of people from His own race.
. He experienced undiluted rejection by those closest to Him - His own family
. He experienced at a young age the death of someone close - His Dad
. He will have born the weight of responsibility - Oldest Son
. He was misunderstood by literally everyone, including his closest friends and students.
Certainly Jesus knew suffering but what can His followers learn from Him about suffering?
“I want to know Jesus, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering.”
This statement of Paul’s from Philippians 3 indicates the change in attitude that comes to a person who is in an intimate healed and forgiven relationship with Jesus. Listen to this!
“That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2nd Corinthians 12:10.
Most people spend their whole lives avoiding suffering. When you have experienced the presence of Jesus IN your suffering, difficulty becomes something that almost draws a person. We certainly no longer have to run from it.
“And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 2:2- 4.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
James 1:2 - 4.
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.” 2nd Peter 1:5 - 7.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:16 - 18
“That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” 2nd Timothy 1:12
“Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrews 2:18
“Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” Hebrews 5:8
“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” 1st Peter 2:21
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1st Peter 5:1
Jesus came to earth, in part, to give us options; options in how we deal with others, options in how we respond to others. Regardless of what happens to us, we are safe in the arms of a loving, merciful, kind and generous Creator. He wants to grow us into kingdom people; people who are ready to reign with Him in eternity. It is a simple fact of life that we cannot become the kind of people He wants us to become in the absence of suffering and difficulty. Life as we experience it is no accident.
Once we accept the fact that we chose this kind of world with all it’s suffering simply because it doesn’t include God as our Lord, then we can also accept that God has taken the kind of world that we’ve created, a world with suffering and tragedy and He uses it for His own purpose.
He uses it for our good, His glory and the furthering of His kingdom.