A man found a cocoon of the emperor moth and took it home to watch it emerge. One day a small opening appeared, and for several hours the moth struggled but couldn't seem to force its body past a certain point.
Deciding something was wrong, the man took scissors and snipped the remaining bit of cocoon. The moth emerged easily, its body large and swollen, the wings small and shriveled.
He expected that in a few hours the wings would spread out in their natural beauty, but they did not. Instead of developing into a creature free to fly, the moth spent its life dragging around a swollen body and shriveled wings.
The constricting cocoon and the struggle necessary to pass through the tiny opening are God's way of forcing fluid from the body into the wings. The "merciful" snip was, in reality, cruel. Sometimes the struggle is exactly what we need.
When we think of struggle, we think of suffering; going through tough times. This is part of being a Christian and we need to realize that going through such times will bring us to greatness.
To understand Suffering we first need to go back to the One who suffered the most for us as Christians to get a feeling of what suffering really is.
(Isaiah 53:3-6) 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Let’s start this morning off by looking at,…
I. The Example of Jesus' Suffering
A. Jesus was crucified; he died; he rose. This is the foundation of our faith. We also need to think of the suffering that Jesus has endured.
1. Those who have seen the movie “The Passion” witnessed the suffering that He went through rather than just reading of it in scripture. I’m not saying this should be our strongest image of Jesus; I think of the empty cross and of the empty tomb that are the greater images. But His suffering was real and important.
- We need to Grasp the Suffering that Jesus went through.
- A man scourged, bleeding and hanging on a cross under the sun, so desperately dehydrated that the thirst itself would be part of the torture. I think of this and it is so very difficult for me to actually grasp the suffering that Jesus went through.
- Can you think of a time in your life that could possibly come close to what Jesus went through, the suffering that we go through in our lives can’t come close to that of Jesus’?
2. Jesus knew the suffering that He would have to experience before it took place.
- We think of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane to be one of intense spiritual, emotional, and even physical pain. We read in Luke 22:44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
- Like any person, Jesus was tormented by the thought of what He was to experience. In the book of Matthew before Jesus was arrested He said to the three disciples with Him, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” and prayed to the Father, “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as you will”
Illustration: I remember years ago, the Army had told me that I would be leaving for war. I didn’t know the exact date but I knew that I would be leaving soon. As the days passed by, the thoughts of what I was to experience was at times un-bearable but I knew that it was my job. I prayed daily, “Lord, I pray that this war does not happen and that peace will take over and keep us from going into battle.” I knew that it was not by my will but by God’s will if it were to happen or not.
- Jesus knew His purpose on earth and was ready to do His job. Have you ever experienced something in your life that you prayed would not happen? Maybe as you sit in your seat today, you are dreading something that is coming your way. We often wonder why we go through times that bring suffering.
To better understand why we suffer, I believe we must better understand,…
II. The Purpose of Jesus' Suffering
ILLUSTRATION: Imagine a man looking upon his son about to be executed for a crime. “If I could only take his place, I would,” he mumbles to himself. There is no escaping the fact that the penalty must be paid. A crime was committed and his son is guilty. His enduring love moves him to wish he could change places with him. This is the only way the just payment for the crime could be paid and his son could live.
-This is a picture of Jesus’ willing substitution for us who are truly the guilty ones.-
A. Jesus suffered so that He could carry our sorrows. Many of us fight fears in our minds about various things; Jesus wants to carry those for you.
1. Jesus suffered not for himself, but to bear our sorrows, our transgressions, and our iniquities
- Reconciliation to God and forgiveness came as a result of Jesus’ suffering. He carried the sins and guilt of us; therefore, He was able to bring us back into fellowship with God.
- All of mankind had gone astray, through the suffering of Jesus there is still the possibility for peace and healing. Jesus gave Himself so that He could be our peace and that through Him we could experience healing and restoration of fellowship with God.
2. God’s plan was to use the evil perpetrated against Jesus to accomplish good, and bring joy and salvation from it.
- In verse 5 Isaiah said “By His wounds we are healed.” Every single act against Jesus was part of the divine script for His life. Even the worst and cruel brutalities were God’s design for our salvation.
- God also takes our suffering:
- The ploy of the enemy is to defeat us and turn us against Jesus but by going through our sufferings and keeping our faith throughout our trials will give us perseverance and bring us closer to God. (James 1: 2-4) 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
- The good news is that Jesus is with us always, even during our sufferings. And I believe this is the key in better understanding suffering. You see,….
III. Our Suffering: is the way to greatness
(Philippians 1:29-30) 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
1. When we accepted Jesus into our lives we also were accepting a lifestyle to model our lives after the "Good Shepherd." Jesus is our role model
- Just as Jesus did we are also to, lay down our lives, our desires and our earthly goals.
Illustration: I wanted to surprise my parents early one Saturday morning by making them breakfast in bed. I got up so early that the sun was still not out; I was so excited about doing something special for them!
I had searched in my mother's recipes for something great to prepare for them. I came across a recipe for a "Peanut Butter Cake." It sounded like it would be an awesome display of my affection and as I began to follow the directions I made sure that I added all the right ingredients and made sure I measured everything out just right.
I then realized that I did not have a fundamental ingredient to complete the recipe. I was lacking an egg to add in the mix. I couldn't stop; I had to carry on and kept thinking of the end result.
I skipped that part and placed my offering of love into the oven. When it came out, it smelled great, it looked wonderful; I knew this was going to really make my parents proud. I awoke them with this awesome meal at hand. They were so surprised and were ready to take a bite of the cake, with one bite my father looked at my mother in pure disgust, my mother took a bite and returned the look at my father.
They both turned to me and asked what was in it. It told them everything was in it except one minor ingredient: An Egg.
- We may look like a Christian on the surface in all ways but it is really what has made us that counts. Are you missing an important ingredient?
- Suffering is part of the Christian lifestyle, many of us may try to overlook this important ingredient but the fact is, we will not turn out the way our Father has intended us to.
- Are you willing to make your Christian walk great? Are you living a lifestyle pleasing to our Father? Our answer should be Yes! The things of this world that seem to give us comfort will not last; these are things that we can live without.
2. We can't go it alone.
- Jesus is with us always and we need to Fully Rely on Him to get us through all obstacles that keep us from Greatness.
- Have you given all to Jesus? Your fleshly desires, your addictions, your bad habits, anything that you count on that gets you from day to day. Jesus can provide comfort in all those areas but it has never been promised that it would be easy.
Conclusion: Let Jesus be your desire, your addiction, and your habit.
Listen, now: When God says “I am with you always,” He means it. When Paul writes, “My God will supply all your needs,” he is stating Truth. When God says, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you,” He is giving us a promise that will hold regardless of our circumstances.
All of us are called to live every minute of our lives to the glory of God. This means being willing to part with our amusements and leisure activities to serve others; to be willing to put up with the shame and embarrassment of being thought fanatical, or being considered radical and extreme, because of our love for Jesus and our proclamation of the gospel. These sufferings cannot be compared to the glory that will be revealed to us.
Friends, all of God’s people are called to greatness. The Road to Greatness always passes through suffering. Pray for sight, to see the joy set before you. Then step out in faith and experience the joys that are set aside for us as Christians.