That I Might Share In His Sufferings - Part 3
by Brett Barry
Phil 3:10-11 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
We’ll wrap this topic with a few thoughts about the practical side of sharing in Christ’s sufferings.
On the one hand, it seems strange that Paul would ask for that. Who really wants to suffer? On the other, He met Jesus in His glory and saw into eternity, enough that he understood the process for obtaining what He saw: the path Jesus took. The joy of resurrection comes only after the scourge of death. Jesus was complete. We are not yet complete. But God is trying to teach us how to become so. Paul understood that joy, both in this life and eternity, comes only through death to self and life by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So how does this work? If we look at the progression of Jesus’ life, we can see a very distinct path:
- He knew God.
- Because he knew God, he could know Himself.
- He embraced God’s eternal vision for His life.
- He knew His part in bringing it to pass.
- He committed every ounce of Himself to walking it out by the power of the Spirit.
- He was tempted just as we are, but by embracing His relationship with His Father, laying down His rights and taking the form of a servant, He overcame.
- He forsook the temporary and nurtured the eternal.
- He formed and maintained counter-cultural disciplines.
Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:16
Jesus grew and learned how to maintain complete unity with His Father under even the most direct of attacks, faithfully and explicitly adhering to God’s instruction. Key:
His level of intensity to prepare His character and safeguard His mission was directly proportional to the clarity of His vision.
Jesus’ understanding of who He was and the value of His mission were so clear that they impacted and directed every thought and every action of every moment. He gave Himself to God and His mission, fully.
A few questions come to mind regarding practical steps for how we build that kind of submission into our lives. These are questions I ask myself that I have answered or am building answers for:
- Do you have an eternal vision? Does it contain a growing sense of what God says will last?
- Do you know God for who He is: Holy, just, without sin, all-powerful, The Absolute Objective Standard, without compromise, merciful, compassionate - the underlying attributes of love?
- If so, do you know who you are in Him through Christ? Really know?
- Can you be one with Him and hold on to anything He says is against Himself?
- Do you know God’s mission for humanity and your part in it? Can you articulate it to yourself? To others? Will you make an effort to do so?
- Is your life and mission founded upon what God has already clearly revealed in Scripture?
- Are you preparing now by asking God to help you understand and value what is pleasing to Him, and, therein, becoming prepared for the next moment’s assault, whether from external forces or internal independence?
- If you feel you don’t have strength, what is your plan to become strong?
In short, (insert your name here) which do you love most: light or darkness?
Lots of questions, I know. Reading them can be helpful, but honestly answering them brings the truth of our condition into the light. Truth is, if we don’t have a plan, or are not actively engaged in forming one, we will miss the connection between what we profess to believe and the work it is intended to do in us. A dream without a plan will forever remain only a dream.
God wants to get to the depths of our heart, to help us see what we’re really made of so we can know what things in ourselves we are to take authority over by His Spirit.
For example, as I’ve been writing these past few weeks, I have some old offenses that have been fighting for my attention - again, crowding my mind and rushing to the forefront, demanding my conscious thought and emotional energy. It’s been quite annoying, actually. But, what to do? I mean, good grief! I’m writing about dying to self and the process God uses to lead us to victory in overcoming! Now then, shall I refuse to overcome by rehearsing the offense instead of calling forth the power of God to say “NO!” to my self-centered perspectives that are so eager to defend my pride? Or, by submission to His power within me, do I say “Yes!” to His resolve to forgive, bless and press on in what I know is right, thereby taking captive my thoughts and making them obedient to Christ?
Or, shall I allow my expectation of what I feel God’s faithfulness should look like (always a self-protecting view) to rule my choices in how I handle the matter? (Please say, no! Please get this.) Our death in Christ must reach the very core of our being in order for us to be free. This doesn’t mean that we cannot be offended; it means that we learn to exercise His Resurrection Power within us by choosing to not be offended…and we practice extending grace and mercy through faith until we can view the offense from far above it in Christ - enough that we forget to be offended; until our response becomes one of…love. Christ’s love sees way beyond the emotion of any moment because He resides far above it.
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
Is it possible that God means what He says? That my situation or challenges are not unique to God or the sinful human nature, and that I have sufficient strength in Christ to stand up under anything that comes along, if only I am willing?
Scripture says that, for now, we only see in part. Even on our best days. But God shows us what we need to get His vision for the joy set before us, carry and articulate His message, and, if we are willing, to gain the strength we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so we persevere to develop the character He intends to grow in us.
That I might share in His sufferings.
Self denial and obedience by the power of the Holy Spirit is the path of sharing in Christ's sufferings. Jesus, even with His sinless nature, took this path before the Father. Paul took it. The disciples took it. Thousands before us have taken it. So must we.
It is our cross.
It is our victory.