Thursday, July 19, 2007

Afterthought on the crucial nature of pastoral/Christian suffering

I dwelt recently on how Spurgeon was able to preach as he did, because he suffered greatly, and dealt with it with faith, clinging to the Lord and hungrily looking to His Word for encouragement and help.

This Sunday I am to be preaching on Hebrews 10:19-25, so I am re-reading that magnificent epistle. The writer makes quite a bit of the fact that Jesus was equipped for His own ministry and priesthood by suffering. To wit:
2:18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

4:14 - 5:2 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

5:1 For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.

5:8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.
The writer forcefully makes the point that suffering (which many did not [and do not] associate with Messiah) was not only conceivable, but essential. Suffering made Him who He is as a man, and as His people's great high priest.

In saying this, the writer said nothing that was not present in prophetic and typological Scripture, though unbelieving Israelites blinded (and still blind) themselves to it. Perhaps the classic and undeniably Messianic passage is Isaiah 53:3 — "He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not."

So I come back to my previous point. If suffering is essential for pastors — and it is — it is no less essential for Christians at large. After all, what is God's goal for every one of us who are His children through faith in Christ? It is expressed in Romans 8:29 :
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
"Conformed to the image of His son." And what made Christ who He was, in His humanity?


Is there any chance, then, that we can be made like Him, without suffering?

No. None.


Stefan Ewing said...

So suffering is not merely something we endure or something by which the Lord tests, chastises, or purifies us—but an essential part of our discipleship. Interesting.

Fr. Bill said...

Thank you for this.

I don't know how the "health and wealth" folks or the "prosperity gospel" crowd can even open their mouths so long as the NT has this theme running through it from one end to the other. What Bible are they reading?

it does pose something of a pastoral problem, particularly with preaching. The fear that taunts me is that I'll handle this very common theme in the Bible so as to discourage (rather than encourage) the flock, or that I'll come off like one of those stereo-typical sourpuss preachers who think that if it's fun it's also sin.

James says we should rejoice in trials. It's not always obvious how to do this, but there it is -- we should do it, not out of teeth-grinding duty, but out of sheer joy.

Kim said...

Thanks for this :-)

philness said...

I recall a time of suffering. I refer to it as a desert walk. It was a time I was the most closest to God. I know more awaits me. Perhaps I shall pray for endurance now. Maranatha. Thanks Dan.

Unknown said...

Great post, Dan, as usual. I'm reading James Montgomery Boice's Commentary on Philippians, and he has a good discussion of Phil. 3:10, about the sharing of, the fellowship in, Christ's sufferings.

Boice says, among other things, that Paul "wished to stand with Christ in such an indivisible union that when the abuses and persecution that Christ suffered also fell on him, as he knew they would, he could receive them as Jesus did." As you've noted, "conformed to the image of His son"...

Thanks for another great reminder!


Kay said...

I have a private journal and in the dim and distant past, before I was a blogger, I wrote it in a lot.

I read it back when I was in a happy, reasonably stress-free time of my life, and it was like reading the words of another woman. She was the woman I really want to be, and she was only in my journal because of suffering. I shall be her again one day, I hope...

David A. Carlson said...


Book 7 is a winner

g said...

Excellent Dan. My husband mentioned to me that sometimes it is the participation in others suffering in which the Lord can also mightily use to conform us to Christ. I was thinking about Philippians when he said this.

Lisa @ Deo Volente (Jon's wife)

DJP said...

So, Lisa... does Jon ever actually post comments on blogs?

g said...

Yes... he does. :-D
I especially recall one instance in which he was supposed to be downstairs studying for his anesthesia board exam. He had just left a comment on a Challies post... so I left a comment that said "Hi Jon... honey... husband of mine... aren't you supposed to be studying?" *snicker*

If you see a comment under his name that is not signed by me... or accompanied by an "oops... forgot to tell you this is Lisa" comment, then it is him. :-D

He reads more than comments (his favorites are Pyro and Challies)

Oh... and the only reason I leave these comments under his name is because I can't seem to access my blogger account and I am too techno-challenged to figure it out. :-/

Ummm..... this is Lisa

4given said...

...I figured it out finally. *shew*