Christ, Our Example, Part 2
Bible Reading: Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Peter 2:21-25
Ray and Doris attended our church in Astoria. They were both well into their 80s, Ray having pastored many churches in various places over the years, as Doris faithfully served along his side. One day I received the news that Doris had suffered a serious fall, getting into the elevator at their apartment building, and was in some severe and debilitating pain. So I went to visit her. It was obvious she was hurting, so I expressed to her my concern and asked her about how she was coping. I’ve never forgotten her response: “My pain is small in comparison to all that Jesus suffered for me.” She had no complaints, and blamed no one, instead she kept right on trusting in Jesus.
Maybe it’s just because I’m getting old. Or, maybe it’s because I’ve witnessed the chronic pain and suffering my wife, Laura, has gone through in her five-year battle with cancer. To which she has, by God’s grace, responded with such courage. Or, maybe it’s because I’m a hospice chaplain and have recently witnessed so many grieving in their personal loss. Or, maybe it’s because these past couple of years have been especially difficult for everyone. Maybe it’s a combination of all these things, but to me it’s become ever more apparent that there is much suffering in this world! Suffering is an unavoidable reality we all face. We can’t change that fact, but we can do something about the way we respond to it.
Sometimes we suffer simply because we live in a sin-cursed world where bad things happen. Sometimes we suffer as a direct result of the poor sinful choices we make. And sometimes we suffer, and unjustly so, simply because we are followers of Jesus and the world doesn’t like that. It’s the last kind of suffering that Peter was addressing in 1 Peter 2:21-25.
There are many passages in Scripture that speak to the need for us to follow Christ’s example in how He responded to His sufferings. This passage in 1 Peter 2:21-25 highlights several key aspects of His response. The word “example” translates a term which literally means an “underwriting,” as if there is a top line on a page which is to be duplicated below. Jesus’ suffering is the top line. Our response is to copy Him. He’s marked out the path for us to follow. So, how did He respond when He suffered unjustly? He didn’t do any of the things we are tempted and prone to do. He didn’t sin (Isaiah 53:9b). He didn’t grumble or complain. Through it all–the betrayal, the arrest, the beatings, the unfair trial, the crucifixion, the insults–he neither threatened or retaliated. There are “seven saying” Jesus uttered from the cross. They were all expressions of love–for the Father, for his mother, for his enemies, for the lost. Through it all–He “continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). The word entrusted has the idea of “handing over.” He continually handed over the matter to the Father.
Incumbent in Jesus’ response was His awareness that the Father knew all about His situation. Did the Father know about Jesus’ sufferings? Not only did He know, they all happened according to the Father’s predetermined plan. We need to think about life in a similar way. The challenges that we face in life are not matters of mere happenstance. God is fully aware of all. He is intimately involved in the affairs of your life. It is He who “causes all things to work together for good” (Romans 8:28). Nothing, not even death, can work to separate you from His love (Romans 8:38-39). You can trust Him amidst your sufferings, and thereby follow in Jesus’ steps in your response! In so doing, you will not only honor God, you will bear a credible and appealing testimony before the lost!
Heavenly Father, we are much saddened by all the suffering in the world we see. And sometimes the weight of it seems too much to bear. But when we remind ourselves of Your love, revealed to us at Calvary, we find hope. And when we think of how Jesus Himself suffered for us, and would not be moved from the cup You had set before Him, we find in Him a perfect example to follow. Amidst our sufferings, grant us the grace to avoid the temptation to take matters into our own hands, and instead to respond by trusting You, knowing that You cause all things to work together for good in the lives of those who love You! Amen!
HAVE FAITH IN GOD
Have faith in God when your pathway is lonely.
He sees and knows all the way you have trod;
Never alone are the least of His children;
Have faith in God, have faith in God.
Have faith in God, He’s on His throne,
Have faith in God, He watches over His own;
He cannot fail, He must prevail,
Have faith in God, Have faith in God.
Have faith in God when your prayers are unanswered,
Your earnest plea He will never forget;
Wait on the lord, trust His word and be patient,
Have faith in God. He’ll answer yet.
Have faith in God in your pain and your sorrow,
His heart is touched with your grief and despair;
Cast all your cares and your burdens upon Him,
And leave them there, oh, leave them there.
Have faith in God though all else fall about you;
Have faith in God, He provides for His own:
He cannot fail though all kingdoms shall perish.
He rules. He reigns upon His throne.