“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings”
So, the experience of resurrection, that we spoke about in the last post, comes with a price, a huge price. It’s called the cross. Remember how Jesus beckoned us to take up our own cross and follow him?
“What are we supposed to do with the cross once we pick it up?”
“You carry it.”
“Carry it where? Am I dropping it off somewhere, delivering it to someone?”
“Not so much. No. You carry it to a place called ‘The Skull.’”
“Okay. Then what?”
“They nail you to it and you hang there till you die.”
“That sounds painful.”
“You might say that. Yes.”
That’s what people do on crosses. They die. Evidently the Christian life is not for the faint of heart. There’s a cross with your name on it and one with mine. There’s suffering involved in following Jesus.
It inevitably entails suffering for Jesus, but the kind of suffering Paul seems to be referring to here is a kind of suffering that we do with Jesus, a “participation in his sufferings.” Other versions call it a “fellowship of his sufferings.” He’s inviting us into an intimate fellowship with the greatest Sufferer in history. Of course, we thank Jesus everyday for suffering for us, but it’s here that he bids us to suffer alongside him, to feel some of what he feels for his broken world. It’s here that he brings us closer to the heart of the God who still suffers with and for his world.
David vented “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Centuries later Jesus belted out those same words from his cross. It seems that David, in his own sufferings, experienced a sliver of the agony that Jesus would experience in the future, without which he could not have written his prophetic words. So David, in his own experience of a sort of prequel to Jesus’ agony, not only predicted the sufferings of the Lord, he also participated in it. And who could know Jesus’ heartbeat better than the one known in his day as the man “after God’s own heart”?
In the same way, the afflictions we experience today invite us not only to bring those afflictions to Jesus for healing and comfort, but to sidle up close to him so we can feel what he felt on his cross. To say nothing of what he continues to feel as he grieves over the people he loves that refuse to love him in return. As we experience the sequel of Jesus’ agony (versus David’s prequel), we are welcomed to the table of his exquisite fellowship.
This richer intimacy with Jesus is a superlative perk of our suffering in this world. This path to fellowship with him may not exactly be what you thought you were signing up for when you said, “Yes!” to him. But, if you’ll travel it, I guarantee it will yield a depth of intimacy with him that nothing else can.
This is the 4th of 10ish posts on How Mature Christians Act. Scroll down to earlier ones if you missed them.
Have you gotten your copy of Reaching Rahab: Joining God In His Quest For Friends yet? What are you waiting for? My friend, Tim Svoboda, San Francisco Bay Area Coordinator for YWAM said about the book “This is practical and down to earth on how we can be lovers of people leading them to love God with us.”
If you want to share Christ with people in a more down to earth way, consider the book as a place to begin.