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A Tough Call

1 Peter 2:21-22
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ (NIVUK)

Every job has its difficult times and hard moments: but when Jesus came to earth in order to die on the cross (paying the penalty for the sins of all of us), it was the toughest job ever. The worst agony was not physical pain, but bearing our shame (Hebrews 12:2) and curse (Galatians 3:13) - and being cut off from Father God as He died. He was totally innocent, committed no wrong deed and never spoke to deceive anybody; yet He suffered in every way (2 Corinthians 5:21).
All those who follow Jesus are called to suffering before we reach the glory.  Wounds may come to our minds, emotions, souls and bodies: the injury may affect our lifestyle, reputation, wealth, family or health; the damage may be inflicted by friends as well as enemies, family as well as strangers (2 Corinthians 11:23-29).  And this is no accident; it is our calling, if we are to follow Jesus (Philippians 1:29). Of course, we can never out-suffer our Lord, nor ever claim to bear a unique pain that He cannot identify with.

But in one way, our suffering is the final part of our Master’s ministry.  Colossians 1:24 says, ‘Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.’  This does not mean there is any defect in Christ’s sacrifice, but that it will only be effective in people as they hear the gospel and believe it.  That will also attract the antagonism of those who oppose Jesus – but they will never know how much He loves them unless we tell them – with all the suffering that may involve for us.  But we can be certain that He understands (Hebrews 4:15).  In His sovereignty, He will only allow the suffering that will build us up and glorify Himself (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Yet, naturally, we resist such trouble.  Unlike Jesus, we may be tempted to do what is wrong in order to escape the hardship. We may be tempted not to tell people about Jesus to divert their hostility away from ourselves. Jesus did neither.  And He expects that we will be like Him.  Straightforward, honest and direct; staying true to the truth whatever happens. It may seem a tough call, to be ill-treated for loving Jesus, and to be slandered for telling the truth (2 Timothy 2:11-13).  This may happen even at work.  But if it comes because of your devotion to Jesus Christ, you are fulfilling your calling, and He will reward you (Matthew 5:10-12).

Almighty God. Thank You for the privilege of suffering for Christ by clearly identifying myself with Him. Forgive me for deliberately not identifying with my Master in order to avoid people’s hostility. Although I wish that life was not so hard, please help me to understand that it was much harder for Jesus. I know that He endured the shame for the sake of the glory to come. Please help me to follow Jesus by living in a similar lifestyle; and to trust myself to You even in the lowest point of weakness or the depth of despair. For Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams