31 But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are! Numbers 13:11 NLT
27 On the way, Jesus told them, “All of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.” Mark 14:27-28 (NLT2)
Thus the saintly Job said after he had lost his children and all his property, “The Lord gave it, and the Lord has taken it away; blessed be the name of the Lord” [Job 1:21]. Job, indeed, was a just man from whom no one could take anything because he had nothing that he called his own. God declares in Job 41 [:11], “Whatever is under the heaven is mine; I created it.” Why, then, do you boast about your possessions and wail about an injustice done you? If anyone touches your honor, your reputation, your possessions, or anything else that you have, he is encroaching not upon what is yours, but what is Christ’s! (Martin Luther)
Twice men believed they had lost it all, that they were capable of nothing.
The first time, they were going against giants. They forgot about the promises of God and HIs very presence at the tabernacle. They were not ready to take on the challenge, and they would choose to enter 40 years of trials rather
than recognize that God was there…
The second time is similar and even prophesied. The apostles would see Jesus taken – and even before the cross they ran away, they denied him; they could not stand beside Jesus, as they believed they should. They wanted to be there,
to stand with Him, even against the threat of death. They, too, failed, overwhelmed by their lack of strength and the conviction to hold to the One they trusted in…
So why do we think we shall be any better?
Actually, I think we can do better, but not by the strength of our conviction. Instead, we need to acknowledge not only our weakness but God’s wisdom.
Notice that I did not write God’s strength?
In our weakness, as Luther notes, everything is actually God’s. What He gives, what He takes away, He does out of His love and care for us. He makes a decision – in our favor! That we don’t understand that is challenging, very challenging.
Too many times in my life, I have second-guessed God, complained to Him (and to some others), and struggled with what has happened. Have a situation or two (or five!) like that going on right now! There is nothing I can do to change the situation except turn to God.
I wish I could say that is my first reaction, but like Israel and Peter, my faith in God, my trust in His wisdom waivers. Eventually, I will, as Israel would enter the Holy Land, as Peter would respond to Jesus’s love. At this point in my life, I know how things will end… that I will remember God is God, and He loves me. That doesn’t make the present battle more palatable – I just now have to depend on God’s love to endure… for I don’t walk alone. It may feel like I
do, but that feeling is one I have learned by experience is false. He is here… I’ve seen it too often in the past.
He is here… He is far greater than what oppresses and opposes me. Romans 8:28 and 8:38 are still promised….
If you are struggling in the darkness, I pray for you –that you don’t beat yourself up for not being faithful enough to shatter the darkness by yourself. Look to Jesus, remember the cross – where you were united to Him…where He claimed you as the Father’s child. Breathe deeply of His peace, let His love wash over you. And know there is a morning coming… where you will be able to see God’s love clearly – and how He cared for you through the night.
He is with you… and also with me.
So whatever happens, let us learn to say with Job, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”
Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 42. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Thoughts to encourage our clinging to Jesus…
Then Moses called for Mishael and Elzaphan, Aaron’s cousins, the sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel. He said to them, “Come forward and carry away the bodies of your relatives from in front of the sanctuary to a place outside the camp.” 5 So they came forward and picked them up by their garments and carried them out of the camp, just as Moses had commanded.
6 Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not show grief by leaving your hair uncombed* or by tearing your clothes. If you do, you will die, and the LORD’s anger will strike the whole community of Israel. However, the rest of the Israelites, your relatives, may mourn because of the LORD’s fiery destruction of Nadab and Abihu. Leviticus 10:4-6 NLT
He is gnawing at his own heart,” said Luther. “I, too, often suffer from severe trials and sorrows. At such times I seek the fellowship of men, for the humblest maid has often comforted me. A man doesn’t have control of himself when he is downcast and alone, even if he is well equipped with a knowledge of the Scriptures. It is not for nothing that Christ gathers his church around the Word and the sacraments=- and is unwilling to let these be hidden in a corner. (1)
Of course, if you’re not careful you can burn yourself out in pastoral work. Sadly, thousands of pastors end up spiraling into emotional and spiritual collapse every year.
But when you take care to receive Christ’s own love and strength by means of his Spirit through his word, you have something to give to others without yourself being depleted and emptied. (2)
Any appeal to the public in the name of Christ that rises no higher than an invitation to tranquillity must be recognized as mere humanism with a few words of Jesus thrown in to make it appear Christian.…
Christ calls men to carry a cross; we call them to have fun in His name. He calls them to forsake the world; we assure them that if they but accept Jesus the world is their oyster. (3)
I have to admit, I don’t like the words Moses spoke to Aaron and his boys. Why aren’t they allowed to grieve alongside their family? Paul talks of us weeping with those who weep (and laughing with them as they laugh as wll.) So this stupid act of their cousins should bring a time of grieving and being there for the family.
In this case, by no means in every case, they could not be there. We have to be careful of making this scenario a case study and establishing ground rules for pastoral care. I have heard that pastors must keep their distance and be above and remote from the scenario to pastor people. Based on the Romans 12 description of weeping and laughing, I have heard the opposite.
The question is, how do we become wise enough to know the difference? And how do we deal with our own pain? How do we find our peace when we encounter such trauma as pastors or people? Where do we find the wisdom to enter into the family’s pain, or not?
Senkbeil and Luther both note the high cost of enduring such trials. Trials that lead to the “gnawing at your own heart,” not being able to “have control of himself,” and “emotional and spiritual collapse” that most pastors deal with regularly. They will both find the same solution, which I will get to in a moment after I deal with Tozer – his words help clarify the discernment needed.
The idea that our message is only an invitation to peace and tranquility is the danger of trying to multi-task as a mourner and spiritual care provider. I am not saying God cannot work in these situations, but it taxes us too significantly and will lead to a message that doesn’t tie our peace to the cross. Establish enough of these trials, one after another, and the pain will break anyone. And when we fail, our words become something less, a placebo, no longer connected to the peace that is genuinely needed in a time like these.
Tozer calls the believer to carry the cross first…to forsake the world because focused on Christ whom we meet at the cross, we can be relieved of burdens and find the peace we need. This is why Senkbeil talks of letting the Spirit work through Word and Sacrament to receive Christ’s love and strength within us. It is why Luther talks of the fellowship
and the humblest maid comforting him, even as Jesus gathers His church around the Word and Sacraments. It is only connected to God’s grace that our words can do more than be a placebo. Only then is there something to give something beyond all understanding… the peace of Jesus!
Aaron and his boys were responsible for the Old Covenant sacrifices, those activities that pointed to God’s promise of peace. They weren’t forbidden to weep because God was uncaring. Rather, I think they needed to have the strength
of the promise that would enable the community to find grace and peace at the moment. They needed to remind people that God was still with them and that God was sustaining them, and even as God was ministering to them through the community, Their comfort and peace came from God, and they needed to lead people there. For us that means embracing the cross, accepting its suffering, realizing that there we meet Jesus. That is where we find life and hope, and rest. THat is why baptism, absolution and the Lord’s Supper take us there.. to Jesus… at the cross.
When I was a hospice chaplain, I watched nurses put aside their grief to care for the patients who passed away. We would weep together later – apart from those we had gone to care for, the patient and their family. Like Aaron and his
boys, we were the hands and voice of God for those hurting and grieving. I think that is what Moses was working from with these words. He directed them to not show grief at that moment because if they lost their way in despair, not
only would they drown, so would the community. As they focused on God… and His mercy…then they would be comforted and be able to offer the same.
This isn’t easy; this idea of keeping our eyes on Jesus in the middle of the pain. To be bluntly honest, I needed to be reminded of it presently… but it is there, at the altar with others.. that God’s peace is found, where the burdens
After the years of 2020 and 2021… that is where we need to be found… and when we are… we can minister to so many who need to know the peace of Jesus.
(1) Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 268.
(2) Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 7.
(3) A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Thoughts to encourage you to adore Jesus… and entrust yourself to His care.
32 And what more can I say? Time is too short for me to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the raging of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength in weakness, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received their dead, raised to life again. Other people were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. 38 The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
39 All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us. Hebrews 11:32-40 CSB
I want to live so fully in the Spirit that all my thoughts may be as sweet incense ascending to Thee and every act of my life may be an act of worship. Therefore I pray in the words of Thy great servant of old, “I beseech Thee so for to cleanse the intent of mine heart with the unspeakable gift of Thy grace, that I may perfectly love Thee and worthily praise thee.” (1)
In this life every one must carry his cross; but St. Teresa says, that the cross is heavy for him that drags it, not for him that embraces it. Thus our Lord knows well how to strike and how to heal: He woundeth, and cureth, says Job.3 The Holy Spirit, by his sweet unction, renders even ignominies and torments sweet and pleasant: Yea, Lord; for so hath it seemed good in Thy sight. Thus ought we to say in all adversities that happen to us: So be it done, Lord, because so hath it pleased Thee.
As I read the 11th chapter of Hebrews, I feel inadequate, week, and by no means deserving of being in the same book, never mind being in the same chapter of these giants of the faith.
Especially right now, I am dragging… and I struggle, wondering if there is another way, a less exhausting way, to do what needs to get done. It is getting done, but it seems like it is taking so much more…
And then in my devotions I came across de Ligouri’s words, and I think I found an error. The reason I am dragging is that I am dragging my cross rather than embracing it. Instead of looking for where God is working, I am focused on what I’ve been gifted to endure. I should know better!
Those in Hebrews 11 endured far more than I ever will! They embraced their crosses, they didn’t try to gain a release from them, they embraced them – knowing the end is Christ, and knowing He would sustain them through the storms. That is how “ignominies and torments” are rendered sweet and pleasant. (that does sound wonderful!) The problems aren’t removed… they are just changed into moments of communion with Christ…
That is where Tozer’s prayer completed my reading this morning. The idea of living in the Spirit sound incredible, even unbelievable. It is truly, our reality. Praying that we realize this is a great idea! For God will cleanse our heart, and empower us to love Him… that is why the cross is there in the first place. For Him to embrace us, as we learn to embrace Him… and rise with Him into a new life.
(1) A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007). (1)
(2) Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 486.
Thoughts to encourage our love for Jesus!
“You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. Matthew 5:11 (CSBBible)
St. Teresa wrote this admirable maxim: “Whoever aspires to perfection must beware of ever saying: They had no reason to treat me so. If you will not bear any cross but one which is founded on reason, then perfection is not for you.”
If I work out at a gym, I expect the next day I will be sore. That’s just cause and effect. It is reasonable and logical.
If I treat someone badly, I ought to be treated badly in return. I am the cause and the effect is just and right. (Even though I do not like it – one bit!)
But it is when I am treated unjustly, when I want to say, “I don’t deserve this,” or “they have no reason” as St. Teresa noted, that I encounter trouble. When I am trying to help, and I get mauled by the person needing the help. That is when I tire, and I grow weary and I want to just hang it up.
It is illogical, in this world where sin and brokenness abounds, to think that everything will be justifiable, that everyone will simply love us, because we are trying to show them Christ’s love.
It is also illogical when we know that Jesus says “love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44, and Paul teaches us to “bless those who persecute you, bless them and do not curse them” (Roman 12:14) to expect that we won’t have enemies and persecutors. We should expect opposition, and that the opposition is not reasonable, logical, and often painful.
Yet, it is wrong, it is sin, if we do not love, pray and bless them.
I don’t like that.
But that doesn’t give me the right to become as disobedient and unreasonable as my heart cries out to be.
And it doesn’t mean passively taking their abuse, for loving, praying and blessing them is as more active than hating, scheming against them, and cursing them. It requires to think about what is truly best for them, and to lovingly do those things, seeing them through.
It is not easy…to take up such a cross, such a burden. It requires realizing the love of Christ for us, even the love that drive Hi to the cross when our sin tortured Him (and the Father) and learning to find the rest and peace that comes from Christ dwelling in us. To understand that He is the answer to every injustice. This isn’t about living in the brokenness – it is about living in the love of God,
ANd for those that do not know such peace, may we pray they leave their dissonant, broken lives and are drawn into Christ as well.
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 427.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me,x but you will see me.y Because I live, you will livez too. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father,aa you are in me, and I am in you. John 14:18-20 CSB
It was a time of drought, and lifting up his eyes to heaven he [Martin Luther] said, “Lord God, thou hast said through the lips of thy servant David, ‘The Lord is near to all who call upon him in truth. He fulfils the desire of all who fear him, etc., and saves them’ [Ps. 145:18, 19]. How is it, then, that thou art unwilling to give us rain? If thou dost not give us rain, at least give us something better, like tranquillity, life, and peace.
Two of Spurgeon’s greatest sermons were “God in The Silence” and “God in The Storm.” The heart that knows God can find God anywhere. I surely join with Spurgeon in the truth that a person filled with the Spirit of God, a person who has met God in a living encounter can know the joy of worshiping Him, whether in the silences of life or in the storms of life. There really is no argument. We know what God wants us to be. He wants us to be worshipers!
This love of poverty should be especially practised by religious who have made the vow of poverty. “Many religious,” says the same St. Bernard, “wish to be poor; but on the condition of wanting for nothing.”2 “Thus,” says St. Francis de Sales, “they wish for the honor of poverty, but not the inconveniences of poverty.”
The last quote stings… it hurts…
I know the truth of it, that I am willing to embrace any suffering God would allow- if I don’t have know I am suffering.
I can endure all things – if I don’t have to really endure it – just sort of let the time pass me by.
That’s the kind of thing we all want, it is why we love to state that God won’t give us anything we can’t handle.
Even as I read that, and am crushed by it’s truth, I resonate with Luther’s take – that if God won’t give us the water, he will give us something better. Not something which hides or denies the pain, but in the midst of it, finds the presence of God and is comforted by the Holy Spirit. That encounter is so…. beyond words… that you begin to love the suffering, and you even find joy int it, (even as you despise it) because there you find the prsence of God.
As Spurgeon notes, there you find yourself worshipping the Lord in whose presence you are!
It may take me a while ot see the suffering I am observing in that way, and yet, by the enxt time I share in the Lord’s Supper, – there it is. Christ is in me, even as the Father was in Him! What an incredible truth this is, when the words sink ito our soul and we realize their truth.
In the midst of this poverty, whether financial, mental or spiritual, here is Jesus, with me… with me!
truly, the truth of that sinking down into my sould can cause me to love that whcih made me aware of His presnce, and His promises.
This is my reality in these days…not so much from my suffering, but that which I witness around me….and weeping (and sometimes laughing ) with them, we find His presence together.
This is a blessing impossible to understand, hard to endure, absolutely one I will not by-pass. Even when there are days I wish I could. So,
Lord Jesus, as we face trials, and spiritual poverty, may your Spirit gather us and make us aware of Your presence. Comfort us, sustain us, and Lord, as You promised, keep us safe in You! Amen.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 192.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 424.
Something to help you learn to adore Jesus….
20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:20 (NLT2)
The Venerable John of Avila wrote as follows to a priest who so complained to him: “My friend, busy not yourself with what you would do if you were well, but be content to remain ill as long as God thinks fit. If you seek the will of God, what matters it to you whether you be well or ill?”
de Ligouri’s comments hit me hard this morning.
I should be grateful that I can do what I can do… I have friends that both temporarily and permanently are more restricted by issues of health, both physical and mental health.
But de Ligouri goes beyond just being grateful for what we can do, suggesting that we should be grateful for the suffering that stops us, that stops us from living – as least living as we want to live.
I can try to justify my limitations, but rejoicing in them? Rejoicing in the pain, the weariness, the grief, the tears? Rejoice?
That is beyond my ability…..
There has been too much, there is too much..
Until I find myself at the altar, or at the table, or in the bed, and share a prayer with another believer. Or even better, share Christ’s body and blood with another. Until the peace that follows such a moment, where the presence of God is so clearly revealed.
God is surely with those in bed, and has promised to make those moments good for those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. I’ve seen it so many times, that I know it will happen.
It is simple – in those moments, one needs to be encoruaged by God’s faithful, comforting presence. For those there, it is what they have to trust in as well, and encourage the stricken with,
God is here, revel in HIs presence, find your hope, eternal hope in that presence.
There is a point you get too, in the midst of the trial, where God’s presence becomes so real, so true, so comforting… that everything else grows strangely dim, as the hymn tells us, in light of His glory and grace.
If you need someone to sit with you, until that time – that is what pastors and chaplains are for…. and if yours won’t… give me a call.. or message me. You aren’t alone, but sometimes a familiar face helps that reality become revealed.
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 417.
Devotional thought for this day:
31 For the Lord will not reject us forever. 32 Even if he causes suffering, he will show compassion according to the abundance of his faithful love. 33 For he does not enjoy bringing affliction or suffering on mankind. Lamentations 3:31-33 (CSBBible)
O most lovely and most loving Heart of Jesus, miserable is the heart which does not love Thee! O God, for the love of men Thou didst die on the cross, helpless and forsaken, and how then can men live so forgetful of Thee?
This is not the only time where the Scriptures declare God can cause suffering.
Jeremiah is clear, God doesn;t like afflicting or causing us to suffering, Yet trusting Him when it happens is certainly a challenge. Especially when the lesson is not for those who are suffering, but for those who are simply witnessing the suffering.
It is one thing if we deserve the suffering, or the person suffering does. We deserve enough of it, we need to be disciplined, in a way that only God can. That is, God disciplines us with great love, and with the specific aim of causing growth and restoration, to draw us back into the realization that He is present in our lives.
But what about when the lesson is for someone else, when our suffering serves as an example for those who are not suffering? The story of Job, the suffering of Paul, the embracing suffering of Eric Liddell and so many martyrs, people whose lives were cut short or damaged. How do we justify their suffering?
Or how are we able to trust in God, when it is our turn to suffer?
The only way I know, it to look to the heart of Jesus. We must allow the Holy Spirit to drive our intimacy with God so deep that we are sure of His love and care! We need to know this even as Jesus knew that the feeling of the Father’s abandonment would lead to the greatest of praise! (Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22) Intinacy with God causes us not to trust Him in the moment of suffering, but to rejoice in it!
This is why I love the altar, the place where peace is so clear, as the Lord’s Supper is being given, a momnet in time where we realize that Christ suffered for us, and that sharing in His sufferings is sharing with Him.
This doesn’t make the suffering easier…the pains still are there, the exhaustion, the mental anguish, and yet in its midst, there is peace.
For He is there… and seeing Him with us, we find ourselves in peace…..
And I will take that peace, that peace beyond all understanding, over things going “perfectly”.
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 301.
Thoughts on the day before the cross: You don’t have to settle for a “victorious Christian Life!” There is something far better!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 I will bless the LORD who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. 8 I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. 9 No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety. 10 For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. 11 You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. Psalm 16:7-11 (NLT2)
The deeper life has … been called the “victorious life,” but I do not like that term. It appears to me that it focuses attention exclusively upon one feature of the Christian life, that of personal victory over sin, when actually this is just one aspect of the deeper life—an important one, to be sure, but only one.
That life in the Spirit that is denoted by the term “deeper life” is far wider and richer than mere victory over sin, however vital that victory may be. It also includes the thought of the indwelling of Christ, acute God-consciousness, rapturous worship, separation from the world, the joyous surrender of everything to God, internal union with the Trinity, the practice of the presence of God, the communion of saints and prayer without ceasing.
I have known a few dark times in my life… to be honest, more than a few. I’ve done enough battling wondering why crap happens to me and those I care about. The Psalms explain many of those dark days. matter of fact your can’t praise God, if He wasn’t the one who delivered you from dark days. Such is Psalm 16, as you can’t help noticing the depth of the writer’s pain.
So when I see posts about being victorious, or claiming that life is “better’ with Christ, that everyone in Christ is an overcomer, I take a step back, and want to hear how they are saying this, and how they define victorious, or what it means to overcome.
I resonate deeply then with Tozer’s words, there is something far deeper in life than simply winning a victory or a battle. There is something far deeper, and far more meaningful.
Realizing the presence of God, whether life is victorious or not! Knowing His promise that even if we die, we shall live..
That is more than enough…
Whether life is great or life sucks, the presence of God is going to be there for you. Not to change the situations, but to change us… much as the psalmist described… chaging our focus, remidning us of the promises.
That presence means everything… and I have known it, even the midst of suffering.. (though somedays – need reminding)
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
We Could Not..So He did:
Let this pass… but
Matthew 26:36-47, 1 Peter 1:6-9
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father help you to look to Jesus when you can’t endure.
- The Chalice…
The prayer of Jesus in the Garden has always been fascinating to me. Let me set the scene again,
37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this Cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
He knelt there, in the Garden, and thought of the suffering her was going to endure… that He was going to embrace.
The Cup of suffering, the Cup that the Passover foreshadowed, was His to drink.
How he got to this point, through the Last Supper, amazes me… and here in the Garden…he would do what I could never do…
He drank deeply of the suffering…
2. The Cup That Needs to Pass
There are two types of suffering.
Suffering because we deserve it, and suffering when we don’t deserve it.
To be honest, I do not like either!
It is one thing to suffer because I screwed up. You know, the consequences that happen because you overate and felt sick. Or perhaps, someone, now one here, drank too much as has a hangover. Or maybe you didn’t walk away from that fight…
It is another thing to suffer because you don’t deserve it. The illness, the accident, the economy, or COVID…or perhaps you
In the midst of either, we struggle. We gripe and complain. We may get depressed and ask why me…, and we don’t ask God to let this pass.., we demand it, claiming that good people like us shouldn’t suffer so much.
I hate to say it, but we often sin in the way we deal with discomfort and suffering, not trusting the God who has saved our very souls…
He Took the Cup!
There is a third kind of suffering.
The kind of suffering where you take on the suffering someone else deserves.
The parent who tries to save their child from the consequences they deserve might be an example. Or the friend or co-worker who covers for another person.
But Jesus took on so much more, the agony and pain of every sin, the wrath of God. Not just to cover it up or to enable someone. But to really deal with it. To embrace the agony that only He could deal with.
He knew that when He took the bread and the Cup and taught once again what He would do for us…
But now in the Garden, the threat takes on a new dimension, and He embraces it all….
Knowing the pain, knowing the agony, the betrayal…
He does so… because He loves us.
We can’t deal with the Cup of suffering. We can’t deal with what we deserve, the consequences of our sin and error. So he did.
And He wants to make sure we are with the Father, forever.
This is what Lent focuses us on, the incredible love of God that embraced the suffering in the Garden and the cross…
So that we could be whole, and the damage of sin eradicated… but more importantly, that we would spend our eternity with Him.
This is amazing.. and leaves us in awe… for He loves us.
For the will of God was to take the Cup of suffering, to offer to us the Cup of salvation.
Think of that, as you come and drink, as you receive the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of your sin.
Think of that, as we come… and lay down all that we suffer, and place it in His hands.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
and think the same way that Christ Jesus thought: 6 Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God. 7 He gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us. 8 Christ was humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross. Phil. 2:5-8 CEV
Do you believe that your sins are forgiven, and that Christ has made a full atonement for them? Then what a joyful Christian you ought to be! How you should live above the common trials and troubles of the world! Since sin is forgiven, can it matter what happens to you now? Luther said, “Smite, Lord, smite, for my sin is forgiven; if thou hast but forgiven me, smite as hard as thou wilt”; and in a similar spirit you may say, “Send sickness, poverty, losses, crosses, persecution, what thou wilt, thou hast forgiven me, and my soul is glad.”
When people talk about Philippians 2, they usually mention the incredible description of Jesus found in verses 6 through 11. It is an ancient hymn, sometimes called the Carem Christi.
But we forget that it is an invitation.
An invitation to suffering. An invitation to love like Jesus loves.
An invitation to know the love of Christ, to know it so intimately that you don’t reject pain and suffering for the cross, but embrace it, s Jesus did, for the joy that it will bring.
That is the point of that hymn being shared, to help us learn how to embrace the hard things in life. To see them as the opportunity to imitate Jesus!
This is possible for the very reason Spurgeon notes. We realize what it means that we are forgiven, that our relationship with God is perfect and new. Everything that was broken has been healed, everything that was corrupted was restored. How amazing this is! How incredible! It can and should overwhelm us as it becomes more clearly revealed.
Even to the point where we “ask for it!” We ask for the pain, the suffering, whatever it costs to help others come ot know God’s love. For it is worth it, all the suffering, even martyrdom, if through it one person comes ot know the Lord’s love for them.
As we suffer, as life hauls off and wallops us, we begin to understand the cost to Jesus of living us, and that love, not our own strength, sustains us. Not only sustains us, but empowers us as we realize what it all leads to, the vision Paul used in the next chapter,
10 All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him to life. I want to suffer and die as he did, 11 so that somehow I also may be raised to life. Philippians 3:10-11 (CEV)
I pray that you and I will come to want to suffer and know the power that raised Christ to life. AMEN!
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).