Delivered May 1, 2016
23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily,and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?
“let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow Me”. We all make choices in life, some good some bad. In regards to this verse, Jesus is basically saying that our lives are no longer ours. Once we were drawn to the Son, the deepest desire is to follow Him, who? Christ. Taking up the cross in the Roman times meant that, a cross is not merely a difficult life circumstance, or that it meant, if you are going through hard times, pick up your cross, and bare it. No...that is not the true meaning of picking up your cross...Those who witnessed Roman crucifixions knew that to pick up the cross meant to renounce selfish ambitions and all rights to control one’s own destiny. It meant death to a whole way of life. Picking up your cross means, that your life is no longer yours. You and i have been sentenced to live our lives for Christ, even to the point of death.
Jesus promised to save lives. He never promised an easy going, comfortable life. Quite the opposite, in many times it comes with suffering, being hated, and criticized. All for the sake of the cross, “take up your cross daily, and follow Me”. By examining the false view that God guarantees us health, wealth and a carefree lifestyle. If we are taught that we are guaranteed a healthy, prosperous life in tranquility, then suffering can only mean failure of our own spiritual lives or frustration against God for failing to meet our expectations and needs. Keep in mind, that our God is not a genie in a lamp, where we can make wishes, and His job is to grant them. There will be times when we have to suffer for Christ sake.
18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
Another cross we have to bare, as i have mentioned earlier, we will go through some suffering, we will be hated, and will be criticized. All because our desire is to follow Christ. We can all agree that we are eternally grateful for what Jesus did on the cross. We are saved, we have been forgiven. Let me ask you this...can we be grateful if we are going through some form of suffering? When hardships come our way how do we respond? Do we respond in a way that... God i trust that you will bring me through this”. Or do we say “I’m doomed, and there’s nothing anybody can do”. Are we being punished. Is it discipline from sin, or is God teaching me to persevere, to grow in faith? Let us look at the the Apostles, look at this verse...
1 Corinthians 4:9-13
9 For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! 11 To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. 12 And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; 13 being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.
If these men did not understand suffering, then they would have given up and could never have endured to the end. If their only hope in this life was suffering and then death, how could they endure? Even the apostle Paul stated that if there was no eternal hope, they should eat and drink to live it up until the time to die Instead of men of sorrow, defeated in this life, in Acts 5:41 we see the apostles rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for Jesus’ name.
41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
So...let me get this straight, if we are suffering for Christ sake, only then can we be counted worthy to carry the Name of Christ.They were ridiculed, condemned to death, made a spectacle among men, meaning that they were being made fun of. Called fools for Christ sake, weak, dishonored, hungry, thirsty, beaten and homeless. And yet they rejoice in their suffering, only as to be counted worthy to carry the name of Christ. “Suffer shame for His name”. Wow!!! How can you say...”I rejoice, I’m suffering”. I’m being broken for the sake of Christ. It’s part of that transformation verse that the Bible speaks about. Being made new. God breaks us, and puts us in total trust, total dependency on Him. Whenever nothing else seems to make any sense, it’s more than likely, He is the One behind it!
I know that it is hard to look at any type of suffering to be anything positive. But see...that is the beauty of being in Christ, He does not need to give us any answers, we just need to trust that He is still the One in control!
We are built to want things done our way. Its in our DNA, human nature longs for comfort and peace. We, by nature, will avoid suffering at any cost. I don’t want to suffer and I don’t know anyone who does want to suffer. However, suffering is a part of life. We live in a fallen world and we dwell in a world that is at war with God. “A world at war with God”, and you wonder why we have to suffer. We have been chosen to be different, to follow God, and not the world. Remember our earlier verse, “if the world hates you, it hated Me first”.
Both spiritually and physically, creation is not as it was created to be. Remember what God said after the fall?
5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am grieved that I have made them.”
We were just talking about this on our last Bible study, and here God wants us to see why we have to go through some degree of suffering. Just look at why God needs to break us, look at the verse. “every intent of the thought of his heart was ONLY evil continually, in another translation, “evil all the time”. “God was grieved in His heart to have made man”. “I am grieved that i have made them”. God said all of that. Those are the very reason Jesus had to pick up the cross. Because of that very reason “evil all the time”. We have to be made new, be transformed in His image. That is why there is that constant battle of Will. Is it my will be done, or God’s will be done? There...There is mans will, “evil all the time”, what was the result of mans will? It grieved our God! God needs to break us, make us new.
One day God will restore all things, “I will make all things new”, (Rev 21:5) that is His promise. But the road to eternity passes by many hardships. Every believer needs to be equipped, prepared, ready to put their trust on the One in charge. There is no escaping it, we have to go through them whie we are still in this flesh.
33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Jesus has not faced the cross when he made this statement, he was still alive.
So...tell me, how could a man about to be crucified say that He had overcome the world? He did not die yet, he was not buried yet, and on the third day to rise again. Jesus overcame the world by being obedient to His Father, despite all the challenges and oppositions. Jesus knew, he knew why he was sent, He knew what would be the outcome of His life as a man. He knew all of that. Being obedient, despite all of that...was the only way. In the same manner, we too can overcome what this world has to offer. How?
“but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”. That very same “I” lives inside you and me. Put your trust in the One who knows all things. Jesus is building us up through the sufferings, from the inside out,through the hatred of others, through all the criticisms that hurt, the bottom line is that we were never alone. Jesus is with us through all of that!!!
1 John 4:4
4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
Anytime we resist to fall into some temptation, overcome some spiritual challenges, or triumph in a contest of faith, we do so because God’s Spirit lives in you and I. We move ahead in our walk with the Lord, by relying on His power, and not our own. His will be done! We will never win against a great God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the One that created you and I. He is the One making all the moves, making all the decisions, and our only response, is to obey, and submit! Lets look at what James has to say...
10 My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. 11 Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.
I’m sure many here tonight is familiar with the story of Job. It is safe to say that there is no one here that has ever gone through what Job went through. Job had to go through some very dark, excruciating days, but never once during his trials did the Lord ever leave him. It helps to remember God’s unchanging compassion and mercy whenever we have to face a time of suffering. “I Am with you always”.
The prophets, the apostles and Job were all examples of suffering. The twelve apostles were men who gave up everything for the sake of the Cross. They lost their property; they lost their freedom; they lost health and were beaten; and ultimately they lost their lives. The prophets were no different. They were imprisoned, beaten and murdered for proclaiming the word of the Lord. The churches that flourished under the apostles also were plundered and impoverished and the Bible repeatedly encourages them to endure and look ahead to the end result. Our supreme example comes from Christ Himself. Nobody had it easy. Anyone who God calls into His kingdom will not escape any type of hardship, none. “All For Christ”.
Did Jesus find joy in the cross? Did the apostles find joy in suffering? Did the prophets find joy in the shame they were forced to endure? No. The joy each of these found was beyond their circumstances. It was for the joy that was set before Him that Jesus endured the cross. Jesus’ earthly mission was to endure the cross, but He also saw beyond the cross. He saw our redemption and the glory that we will one day share with Him. Jesus knew that He had to suffer and looked beyond the cross, for what? For our redemption, it was the Only Way. The apostles did not enjoy their beatings and persecutions; they rejoiced because they were looking ahead to the promise that they will one day receive. Job endured great suffering but he remained faithful and saw the mercy of God. He found out that the suffering was necessary so that he could inherit a greater promise. Going through some types of suffering comes with a blessing. Sadly not many end well, they give up, quit, when the going gets tough! Compared to these guys, the only thing we really face is insults, and criticisms. We have not faced being beaten for proclaiming our faith...not yet at least! I think, maybe the worst thing we ever faced was being hated by our families, friends, co-workers, because we talk about Jesus too much, because we believe differently? Its all by Gods will, there’s nothing we can do about it. We just need trust in Him. “If they hated Me, they will hate you”.
Let me ask you, which would you rather have? Which is a greater blessing, a carefree life with no eternal value, “your best life now”, or a little suffering packed with the promises of eternity with our God? I choose eternity!!! Why? Because it was chosen for me. “before the foundation of the world”. God had it all planned out from the beginning!
1 Peter 3:13-17
13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
What most believers don’t realize is that the comfort and promise offered through suffering are not available any other way. If I avoid suffering by refusing to follow God through the darkest times of my life, I don’t just bypass the suffering, I also bypass the glory of God in my life. If I endure out of necessity but become bitter against God or bitter against those who cause me pain, I have exchanged the glory of God in my life for self-pity and anger. Pain only is a tragedy when we are looking at it from our temporary circumstances, it will eventually go away, its only for a moment. Suffering is not intended to singe my soul, or break my spirit, but to refine me into a vessel, being transformed into His likeness, a vessel of immeasurable value. I am only burned when I am taking control. But, when I am putting my trust in Christ, then He shapes me and my trouble becomes a trophy of God’s grace. “A trophy for Gods grace, Victorious in Christ Jesus”.
2 Timothy 3:12-14
12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.
No one is exempt from suffering or persecution. We live in a world that is, again at war with God; therefore we can’t expect to be welcomed when we stand for His name. Not only are we targeted by people who reject Christ, but the Bible also warns us that we are in a war against a spiritual enemy – the devil. Many believe that God puts hedges around us and keeps us from trouble. I firmly believe that God has His protection around us, but we are not exempted from any type of trouble. However, we do have the absolute assurance that every problem, trial, suffering and trouble has a purpose that God is working in our lives to fulfill His will so we will inherit His abundant promises. All things work to the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose. Those who are blind to His purpose and seeking their own purposes will fall away when trouble arises and will resist God’s power working in their lives. Many will not endure. ( Parable of the Sower )
16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
Suffering in this life is so insignificant in light of eternity that it is not even worthy of a comparison. Look at it this way, suffer a little here, or eternal punishment? It may not seem this way when we look at whatever circumstances that we are in, but when we look out to the joy set before us, compare it to what lies ahead, it is nothing right! It’s only momentarily. Gone...forget about, learn from it, look at whats ahead.
What an amazing promise! We will be glorified together with Christ! (Verse 17) Is it worth the trade off to be insulted, suffer a little bit. And then be rewarded with being glorified with our Creator? Is it worth enduring for the promises of God? Now let’s reverse the question. Is the promise of God worth trading away in order to avoid some suffering? Ultimately, that is the decision we all will make and go through. Do i follow Christ, or just give up, and quit?
1 Peter 4:1-2
4 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, 2 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.
If Christ suffered while in the flesh, we will also suffer. Why? Because we still tend to follow the lusts of the flesh. But look, verse 2 “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”. No longer living by our will, but by Gods will. That is why we suffer. Let me ask you...Are you willing to stand on the assurance that God is able to keep what you have committed into His trust?What i mean is, are you still willing to continue, what God has started in your life? Do you still put your trust in God regardless of what you may be going through? It may very well be completely justifiable to get out of your trouble or circumstances. I am not by any means diminishing the pain many may be going through at this time, if any? What I am trying to say is, don’t take it out of God’s hands. You may be able to handle the problem and solve it, but if you forfeit God’s purpose, Gods plan, whatever He is working in you, is it worth it? We’ve made it this far, why not go that extra mile? Look to what is ahead, this is only temporary!
1 Corinthians 10:13
13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
A very familiar verse, and for that very reason this verse has given many Christians hope, and encouragement when facing some form of temptation, or suffering. Every passage on suffering drives home the point that if we endure faithfully, we will be glad. It is a hard decision to endure when we know that we have the power to find another way out. But the truth is according to this verse, He is the One who will provide a way out. However, we must carefully and prayerfully choose the path that He has chosen. God will never give us a way out that violates His word. God will never condone any actions that violate His word in any way. God will not contradict Himself. The Bible clearly promises us that God will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. Make every decision with the mindset of committing yourself to Him who judges righteously. Put your trust in Him, and receive your eternal promise. All that we are, is “All For Christ”.
Pastor Richard Santos
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