Suffering on the Road to Glory
by Ted Schroder
As we honor, on this Memorial weekend, those who have suffered and died on our behalf, we remember that the inheritance of Christ includes, not only glory, but also suffering: “we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:17) Before we enter into our inheritance we have to pass through suffering as Christ himself did on our behalf. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus had to remind the disciples who were discouraged because of the Cross, that the prophets had spoken of the sufferings of the Messiah. “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory. And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:26,27) The story told by the Scriptures is of the Creation and Fall, the terribleness of sin and judgment, and the greatness of God’s love and mercy. The people of God had to learn obedience by the things they suffered, and Jesus showed his humanity by doing the same (Hebrews 5:8). Like Jesus, we are called to take up our cross and follow him (Luke 9:23, 14:27).
Our sufferings in this life, are to be seen as participation in the sufferings of Christ, indeed the suffering of God for his creation. Just as it was necessary for Christ to have to suffer before he entered his glory, so we have to suffer before we enter into our inheritance in Christ. “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10,11)
God’s way of creation and salvation is the way of the cross, the way of suffering. The divine DNA of the universe is that of suffering. Nothing worthwhile is accomplished without suffering. To attempt to avoid suffering is futile. To present Christianity in terms other than that of the Cross is to present a false Gospel. To expect that life will always go smoothly is unrealistic. To believe that the mark of God’s blessing in your life is the absence of suffering is to repeat the error of Job’s comforters. To think that we can always be happy in this life is delusional. To deny the reality of evil and the biblical diagnosis that we are all sinners under judgment is to live in a fantasy world. To make the central goal in your life to feel good about yourself is egotistical. Unfortunately this is the operating philosophy of many churches today.
Marsha Witten in her study, “All is Forgiven: The Secular Message in American Protestantism”, recounts an afternoon on Good Friday. While she was listening to Bach’s, St. Matthew Passion, “with antiphonal choirs calling out sorrowfully to Jesus in his grave,” the daily mail arrived and she opened the thickest envelope first. It was promotional material for a new church launching in her area:
At last! a new church for those who have given up on church services! Let’s face
it. Many people aren’t active in church these days.
- the sermons are boring and don’t relate to daily living
- many churches seem more interested in your wallet than in you
- members are unfriendly to visitors
- you wonder about the quality of the nursery care for your little ones
Do you think attending church should be enjoyable?
WELL, WE’VE GOT GOOD NEWS FOR YOU!
[The New] Church is a new church designed to meet your needs. At [The New]
- meet new friends and get to know your neighbors
- enjoy exciting music with a contemporary flavor
- hear positive, practical messages which uplift you each week
How to feel good about yourself
How to overcome depression
How to have a full and successful life
Learning to handle your money without it handling you
The secrets of successful family living
How to overcome stress
- Trust your children to the care of dedicated nursery workers
WHY NOT GET A LIFT
INSTEAD OF A LETDOWN THIS SUNDAY?
This is the contemporary marketing of the Gospel. It is consumer oriented using secular marketing techniques. Its message is: God loves us and wants to make us feel good. Life is meant to be fun all the time. “Everything is okay – without any mention of Christ’s self-sacrifice as the only way of reconciliation. Since, as a rule, God’s love apparently overwhelms his justice and holiness, the ‘good news’ offered here eliminates any need for the actual story recorded in the Gospels. If God’s love so easily ignores his justice, holiness, and righteousness, then Christ’s death upon the cross seems like a cruel waste. Witten writes, ‘It is “negative feelings,” not an objectively negative danger, that these sermons stress as being solved by the gospel.’” (Michael Horton, Christless Christianity, 56)
Suffering cannot be avoided in life. Christ had to suffer and die. When he explained to the disciples “that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life, Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, ‘Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men.’ (Matthew 16:21-23) Jesus then told the other disciples that anyone who came after him must take up his cross – suffer.
Preachers who fail to see suffering as the path to glory, and do not honor the cross, and do not see suffering as the school for learning obedience and ultimately redemptive, are, like Peter, at that point in his life, immature. They have in mind the things of men, not the things of God.
Suffering is the path to glory. Suffering can only be endured if (1) it has a purpose, (2) if it leads to something worthwhile, and (3) if we can be assured that it will one day end. The rest of Romans 8 assures us that suffering has a purpose, it will be worthwhile, and it will end. St. Peter in his maturity reminds us: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice, that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12,13)
Father, if He, the Christ, were Thy Revealer,
Truly the First Begotten of the Lord,
Then must Thou be a Suff’rer and a Healer,
Pierced to the heart by the sorrow of the sword.
Then must it mean, not only that Thy sorrow
Smote Thee that once upon the lonely tree,
But that to-day, to-night, and on the morrow,
Still it will come, O Gallant God, to thee.
Give me for light, the sunshine of Thy sorrow,
Give me for shelter shadow of Thy Cross,
Give me to share the glory of Thy morrow,
Gone from my heart the bitterness of Loss. (G.A.Studdert Kennedy)
May 24, 2009
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