That I Might Share In His Sufferings
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. 

Last week in part one, we touched on the first part of this verse, how the power of Christ’s resurrection is such a beautiful gift in our lives. It’s hope-filled, vision-centric, inspiring! But the remaining parts of the verse are more challenging to even conceive of, not to mention, live.

As also previously stated, Scripture indicates that Jesus suffered throughout His life on earth, not just during His ministry; a process God used to actually train Him for His ministry. It says He was tempted like us; that He fought internally against the human tendencies of His own being and against that which pulled at His mind and body, tempting Him to sin by thinking and acting in any way contrary to God’s will. I then said that this is where we need to focus our energy because Scripture tells us that, if we are in Him, it is the very battle we are faced with and are equipped and empowered to win; the one we are expected to win, closing those thoughts with the question, “So then, where is our victory?”

Let’s now look briefly at what made Christ victorious.

Luke 2:41-51 gives the account of Jesus at 12 years old attending the Festival of the Passover with His parents in Jerusalem. Upon leaving, unbeknown to them, He had stayed behind. After three days of anxiously searching, they found Him in the temple questioning the teachers. Asking why He had treated them this way, He replied, 

  • Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house? 

Interesting response. Clearly, He knew who He was. And remember, God had also told His parents who He was before Mary conceived. But it would seem they forgot, for v50 says they didn’t understand what He was saying to them. Regardless, even though He knew they didn’t understand what He meant, and this is key, He submitted Himself to their authority, 

  • Then He went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.

Wow. There’s so much in this verse alone. (A little side track: As I was reading it over again just now, some of the prophetic symbolism of this event began to ring clear: Jesus 12 years old [12 tribes/nations of Israel (?)]; Festival of the Passover [Jesus the unblemished Passover Lamb]; in the temple [physical temple, body and religious system that would be destroyed]; separated from His parents 3 days [in grave 3 days]; parents finding Him after three days [the temple rebuilt in the resurrected Christ, our call to Oneness with Son and Father {parents were lost, then THEY were found!}]; He went with them and submitted to them [Jesus turning everything back over to the Father when all is said and done…]) Lot’s to think and pray about.

Ok. Back to Jesus submitting to his earthly parents. 

Think about it: He knew His true identity as the Son of God. He saw into eternity - beginning the process of coming to understand the joy set before Him. He knew that the Great I AM, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the very God His parents served and that everyone was there to worship, was HIS biological Father. Yet He humbled Himself. A practice we see throughout His entire life. 

He humbled Himself in obedience.

This means that at 12, and very likely earlier than that, He had to begin contemplating and wrestling the weight of what He would ultimately suffer on the cross. At 12 He knew full well of the coming Messiah, why the blood sacrifices were offered for sin, and, therefore, what the sacrificial lamb represented. He knew what the feasts were for and the special holidays, and He knew that they all pointed to Him. Think on that for a moment….that thought alone is an impossible burden to carry for any man, let alone a youth of 12. And even more so, it was a burden He would actually have to proactively protect throughout both His youth and adulthood for it to come to pass. Failure was not an option. 

So how would you go about saving the world (or, saving your world by protecting and nurturing the deposit made in you)?

Just as God grows us, I believe the weight of Jesus’ mission grew over time as He grew; God using each challenge and victory through oneness with the Father to grow His character in wisdom and resolve for His mission.

  • And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:52

This means that by 12 years of age He had already begun wrestling against the temptation to trust His own thoughts and preferences, and with the same fervor most of us expend grieving over our sin, or perhaps defending it; a match that, through absolute submission to the Father, He won with final authority some 21 years later in the garden as He sweat drops of blood.

He humbled Himself in persevering prayer.

  • During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Heb 5:7

A few thoughts: 

If Jesus is our example, what should our expectation be for both ourselves and the youth we are raising? 
If Jesus is our example, what is missing in our experience with God that would keep His character from growing in us: His power? Or, perhaps our intentional, proactive submission?
If Jesus is our example, to what degree are we willing to fight our own willful independence in order to see God’s power bear His likeness in us?

I believe Jesus trained His entire life for that moment in the Garden, every victory over every hardship adding counter weight to the resolve necessary to embrace the cross and take upon Himself the sin that would ultimately separate Him from the Father, break His heart and remove the authority of sin over our lives. A final victory that began with submitting Himself to His earthly parents, because He knew His true identity

If Jesus is our example, and His resurrection power is in us, should not our vision and understanding of how God uses hardship to grow and temper our identity in Christ also be growing? And should not that growth produce the ability to increasingly humble ourselves in self-denial and obedience?

Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered… Heb 5:8

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Heb 12:7-8

This week, let’s take some time to consider what our sufferings are producing in us. Are they building disappointment, bitterness, frustration, despair and hopelessness? Or are they building vision, patience, faithfulness, self-control, joy, resolve? According to God, are they not intended to produce perseverance to obedience that grows His character in us, which ultimately looks like Him; love?

We’ll finish this up next week by looking at some practical applications. 

Strength and courage to you in Christ as you wrestle and grow this week!