Summary: We are invited to willingly take up our crosses and follow Christ completely, fully aware that eternal gains far out weigh earthly suffering and loss.
Lenten Series: The Crosses of Lent
Series Key Verse: I want to know Christ and experience the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering, becoming like Him in His death, and so somehow, to attain the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10-11
Title: The Cross of Suffering… See Through It!
(As a bit of a disclaimer from the onset I want to acknowledge that sometimes carrying one’s cross and following Christ means trials and suffering… but I also want to emphasize that Jesus, “For the joy set before him endured the cross.” And God’s word reminds us that there is joy in suffering if we can but “see through it” to what will be. , “So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while. These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – and your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So if you faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” I
Text: Mark 8:31-38
Thesis: We are invited to willingly take up our crosses and follow Christ completely, fully aware that eternal gains far outweigh earthly suffering and loss.
On November 8th of last year I had a full left-hip replacement. The two or three years leading up to that surgery were not pleasant and eventually I became so miserable I absolutely had to do something. Bonnie and I were very pleased with my surgeon and felt I was in very competent hands. However, when I woke up after the surgery, while I was relieved of one kind of pain, I experienced a whole new level of post-surgery pain.
Bonnie and I had planned that my hospital stay would be very brief and I was able to leave the hospital early… and Bonnie became my primary care giver. In addition to being my caregiver, Bonnie was also my physical therapist.
Therapy was a prescribed series of exercises, one of which was leg lifts. I was to lift my leg off the bed approximately a foot to eighteen inches, hold it to the count of ten, and let it down slowly. All of the muscles on my left hip had been cut and repaired during the surgery. I absolutely could not lift my left leg off the bed so Bonnie would place one hand under my heel and the other under my calf and with her assistance I did the leg lifts. It hurt! I thought I would never be able to do ten leg lifts. But today I can rip off thirty leg lifts with little effort and no pain.
Surgery and rehab were a challenge but we went through it because we were making a deliberate effort to see through the suffering. Yes, it hurt. Yes, it took time. But we were looking through the pain and suffering to when I would walk a mile and climb steps and navigate uneven terrain.
We had read a study of hip-replacement patients comparing those who simply did their exercises and those who did their exercises and walked. And we found that those who did their exercises and walked could eventually walk the way they used to walk. So I walked with a walker back and forth in front of our house. They I walked down the street and then I walked around the athletic field on our street. And then I walked with a cane and then I walked without the cane. And now I can walk. Perfect? No! But I’m improving every day.
Getting through suffering is about seeing through is to what will be.
I. When facing suffering… see through it!
Jesus told them he would suffer many terrible things… He would be killed and three days later he would rise again. Mark 8:31
In the context of our bible story today Jesus had just had a conversation with his disciples as they were walking along. In Mark 8:27 Jesus asked them, “Who do people say I am?” In other words, what are people saying about me? And they replied, “Well, some say you are John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.” So then Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?” And Peter said, “You are the Messiah.”
In recognizing Jesus as the Messiah they were grasping hold of their Messianic hope for the day when “the Messiah” would come in power, break the bonds of Roman oppression, and restore the fortunes of the people of Israel, their national pride and prominence in the world. They were thinking of the fulfillment of the prophecy we cite during the Seasons of Advent and Christmas from Isaiah 9:6-7, “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. And the government will rest on his shoulders. These will be his royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. His ever expanding, peaceful government will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David.”