10 It only makes sense that God, by whom and for whom everything exists, would choose to bring many of us to His side by using suffering to perfect Jesus, the founder of our faith, the pioneer of our salvation. 11 As I will show you, it’s important that the One who brings us to God and those who are brought to God become one, since we are all from one Father. This is why Jesus was not ashamed to call us His family… 14 Since we, the children, are all creatures of flesh and blood, Jesus took on flesh and blood, so that by dying He could destroy the one who held power over death[i]—the devil— 15 and destroy the fear of death that has always held people captive.
16 So notice—His concern here is not for the welfare of the heavenly messengers, but for the children of Abraham. 17 He had to become as human as His sisters and brothers so that when the time came, He could become a merciful and faithful high priest of God, called to reconcile a sinful people. 18 Since He has also been tested by suffering, He can help us when we are tested.
I want to address two things this morning. 1) What did suffering accomplish in the life of Jesus? 2) What are implications about what suffering can accomplish in the life of a Christian?
Perfect through sufferings - This simply means that He had to die to make atonement for sin, and that was going to require suffering. It’s another way of saying his mission was completed or consummated. We see other places in Scripture that this same word was translated as “finished” or “accomplished.”
- ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.’(Luke 13:32 ESV)
- Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.(John 4:34 ESV)
Jesus’ death was the consummation of his life and purpose here on earth, and that death could not happen without suffering. It didn’t perfect Jesus’ nature; it perfected or completed God’s plan for Jesus to bring salvation and redemption.
And – this is amazing - we are the beneficiaries.
“And one great aim of God in salvation is that he have a great, unified family of children with Jesus Christ being both essentially different from, and yet deeply united to, his other human brothers and sisters, both really different and really like. But if all the brothers and sisters in the family have experienced suffering, except one, then the unity is jeopardized. And so, for the sake of a common spirit of unity and sympathy and camaraderie, even in suffering, Christ takes on human nature and he leads many sons to glory and into his brotherhood through suffering and death.” (John Piper)
SWAT or military personnel clearing houses use a term called the fatal funnel. It’s when you go through a narrow, confined area with no cover and you are exposed to the worst the enemy can throw at you. The first one through the door is at the most risk. We should all be the point in the spiritual fatal funnel of our lives, but Jesus moved us behind him, took the point, and took upon himself the death that we deserved.
This suffering is one reason Jesus is such a great High Priest, a concept that came up in this chapter but will come up later (and we will address it more then). Because God become one of us in the person of Jesus, we know that God understands what we are going through.
“Disease, sickness of body, poverty, need, friendlessness, hopelessness, desertion—he knows all these. You cannot cast human suffering into any shape that is new to Christ. "In all their afflictions he was afflicted." If you feel a thorn in your foot, remember that it once pierced his head. If you have a trouble or a difficulty, you may see there the mark of his hands, for he has climbed that way before. The whole path of sorrow has his blood-bedabbled footsteps all along, for the Man of Sorrows has been there, and he can now have sympathy with you. "Yes," I hear one say, "but my sorrows are the result of sin." So were his; though not his own, yet the result of sin they were. "Yes," you say, "but I am slandered, and I cannot bear it…" Drink thy little cup; see what a cup he drained. “ (Spurgeon)
If God allowed and in fact used suffering as a means for perfecting the ministry and purpose of Jesus on earth, we ought to consider that God will use suffering as a means of perfecting our ministry and purpose.
- Remember the parable of the wise man who built his rock on the house vs. the sand? Something to note: they both went through the storm. It’s just that the one stood. The question wasn't ifthey were going to go through the storm; the question was
- Even though God promised Jeremiah a fantastic ministry, he suffered, and ended up going into exile with the other Jews.Jeremiah claimed that God had tricked or seduced him into following God (Jeremiah 20:7-9).
- Paul has a thorn in the flesh that God leaves with him (more on that later)
God seems to be content to let life be hard sometimes. So let’s talk about different kinds of suffering, and then how suffering can be used by God to perfect us. First, let’s clarify what we mean by suffering (“undergoing pain, distress, or hardship”).
- Suffering for the sake of our faith.
- Suffering because life is hard.
- Suffering because Satan attacks us.
- Suffering because we pursue sin.
- Suffering because others sin against us.
- Suffering as God prunes us.
I want us to at least wrestle with the idea that if suffering was necessary to consummate or perfect Jesus’ mission, suffering may be necessary to consummate or perfect our mission. So, what is our mission?
To glorify God. To exalt Jesus by our life and our words.
So how does our suffering play in to this?
1. It unifies us with Jesus.
“ For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God… the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:14-18)
I believe this passage is talking specifically about suffering for the sake of Christ. This could be literal persecution, but it can also be the hard work of surrendering our thoughts, loves, and desires.
“Conflict, not progress, is the word that defines man’s path from darkness into light. No holiness is won by any other means than this, that wickedness should be slain day by day, and hour by hour. In long lingering agony often, with the blood of the heart pouring out at every quivering vein, you are to cut right through the life and being of that sinful self; to do what the Word does, pierce to the dividing asunder of the thoughts and intents of the heart, and get rid by crucifying and slaying - a long process, a painful process - of your own sinful self. And not until you can stand up and say, ‘I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,’ have you accomplished that to which you are consecrated and vowed by your sonship - ’being conformed unto the likeness of His death,’ and ‘knowing the fellowship of His sufferings.’ (Maclaren’s Exposition)
2. It refines us.
- "Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
- "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him...and when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." Job 13:15; 23:10)
- "The firing pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, so the Lord trieth the hearts" (17:3)
- " I will turn My hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross and take away thy tin" (1:22, 25).
- " He shall purify and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness" (3:3).
- "Thou O God, hast proved us; thou hast tried us as silver is tried" ( 66:10
- "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17).
I don’t think suffering in the life of the Christian is punative; that is, I don’t think God uses pain and suffering to punish His children in the New Covenant. Jesus took that for us, his spiritual brothers and sisters, on the cross. Yet suffering has a role. Oswald Chambers once wrote: "Sorrow burns up a great amount of shallowness." A wise man once said, "I got theology in seminary, but I learned reality through trials. I got facts in Sunday School, but I learned faith through trusting God in difficult circumstances. I got truth from studying, but I got to know the Savior through suffering."
3. It gives us the opportunity to display the sufficiency of grace.
“In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12)
I read the following in an article by a Christian lady with polio:
“Our culture disdains weakness, but our frailty is a sign of God's workmanship in us. It gets us closer to what we were created to be—completely dependent on God. Several years ago I realized that instead of despising the fact that polio had left me with a body that was weakened and compromised, susceptible to pain and fatigue, I could choose to rejoice in it. My weakness made me more like a fragile, easily broken window than a solid brick wall. But just as sunlight pours through a window but is blocked by a wall, I discovered that other people could see God's strength and beauty in me because of the window-like nature of my weakness!”
4. It unites us with others who suffer.
“The only way in which Christ could bring us to share in His glory was to submit to suffering and death. In no other way could He act as the Mediator of the Divine life to us who are His brethren. Similarly, if we would become the mediators of help and blessing to others, we also must be prepared to suffer…” (F.B. Meyer)
I suspect God uses our greatest trials and suffering to prepare us to minister more effectively to others who have gone through what we have gone through. Former addicts are best with addicts; former inmates are best with prisoners; people who have endured sickness are best with those who are enduring sickness. Be ready: God may well take your point of greatest suffering and use it for His greatest triumph in your life. And it won’t be for your sake, though you will benefit – it will be so you can comfort others.
2 Corinthians 1:4 (ASV) “He comforts us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction, through the comfort by which we ourselves are comforted of God.
Some Recommended Songs
“The Perfect Wisdom of Our God” (Getty)
“If You Want Me To” (Ginny Owens)
“Be Still My Soul” (Kari Jobe)
I think the closest we get is “you reap what you sow,” but that’s not God actively sending us suffering as punishment. That’s just us experiencing cause and effect in this life as sin impacts the world.
[i]Him that had the power of death – “This is spoken in conformity to an opinion prevalent among the Jews, that there was a certain fallen angel who was called המות מלאך malak hammaveth, the angel of death; i.e. one who had the power of separating the soul from the body, when God decreed that the person should die. There were two of these, according to some of the Jewish writers: one was the angel of death to the Gentiles; the other, to the Jews. Thus Tob haarets, fol. 31: "There are two angels which preside over death: one is over those who die out of the land of Israel, and his name is Sammael; the other is he who presides over those who die in the land of Israel, and this is Gabriel." Sammael is a common name for the devil among the Jews; and there is a tradition among them, delivered by the author of Pesikta rabbetha in Yalcut Simeoni, par. 2, f. 56, that the angel of death should be destroyed by the Messiah! "Satan said to the holy blessed God: Lord of the world, show me the Messiah. The Lord answered: Come and see him. And when he had seen him he was terrified, and his countenance fell, and he said: Most certainly this is the Messiah who shall cast me and all the nations into hell, as it is written Isaiah 25:8, The Lord shall swallow up death for ever." This is a very remarkable saying, and the apostle shows that it is true, for the Messiah came to destroy him who had the power of death.” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary)