by Eric Wheeler

The Holy Spirit has been talking to me about the way in which God chooses to work. He does not do things according to the way that we think they should be done. For it is written, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isa. 55:8-9).

How many of us would choose the way of suffering as the means in which to know God more intimately? Not many of us, I’m sure. And yet that is exactly the way God has ordained it to be! For He said through the Apostle Paul, "For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me [Paul] and now hear is in me…. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead" (Phil. 1:29-30; 3:7-11).

Jesus said to His followers, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matt. 16:24-25). In addition to this, the Holy Spirit reminded me this morning that "those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal. 5:24).

These are hard words. Yes, they are not words that are easily received or digested. In fact, they are not words that the flesh wants to hear at all. But I was reminded by the Holy Spirit what Jesus said to Ananias when He declared to him how He was going to use the Apostle Paul: "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake" (Acts 9:15-16). Yes, the way of God is about suffering. It is about loneliness. It is about rejection. It is not easy. It is not fun. But it is the way of God. And thereby, the way to eternal life (Matt. 7:14; Matt. 10:39).

It is written of Jesus that He was despised and rejected by men. It describes Him in Isaiah as “a man of sorrows and a man acquainted with grief”. It says that "we hid our faces from Him” and that we did not esteem Him. That He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. It says that even though we considered Him stricken, afflicted and smitten by God, we nevertheless turned away from Him, and did not regard Him. And that the Lord laid on Him the sins of us all. It says that He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities. That our chastisement was upon Him, and that by His stripes we were healed. It says that He was oppressed and sorely afflicted, and yet He did not open His mouth nor complain. And in all of this suffering, it says that "it pleased the Lord to bruise Him and to put Him to grief" (Isa. 53:3-10).

This was the will of God and His way! It pleased God to have Jesus suffer. In fact, Jesus even said that it was necessary that He had to suffer (Luke 24:26, 46). Do we, as Jesus’ disciples, think that our calling is any different?! For we were called to partake in His sufferings! Isn’t that what the Scripture says? "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow His steps" (I Pet. 2:21). And again it says, "Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind. For he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God" (I Pet. 4:1-2).

It is written that Jesus learned obedience by the things which He suffered (Heb. 5:8). And that as the captain of our salvation, He was made perfect through those sufferings (Heb. 2:10). Jesus said that the servant is not greater than his master. But that it is fitting that the servant be like his master (Matt. 10:24-25). In other words, He suffered as our Master, therefore we should expect to suffer as His servants. But He promises that if we are willing to partake of His sufferings, then we will also have our part in His glory (I Pet. 4:13). For He guarantees that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18).

As His servants and disciples then, let’s be willing to wholeheartedly embrace our crosses for His sake, as He so willingly embraced His cross for ours!

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