“I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor. I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13, NEB).
Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson was once asked by a reporter what he thought about an opponent who had a clever plan for defensing his left hook. Tyson responded, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
Sometimes Christians, especially affluent Christians, forget that bad things in life can happen to them. When everything seems to be going so good, we somehow get to thinking that we are fortunate because we deserve God’s great grace. We begin to think that certainly God won’t let anything bad happen to us because we are so blessed.
“I received the ‘forty lashes minus one’ from the Jews five times. I was beaten with rods three times. I was stoned once. I was shipwrecked three times. I spent a day and a night in the open sea. I’ve been on many journeys. I faced dangers from rivers, robbers, my people, and Gentiles. I faced dangers in the city, in the desert, on the sea, and from false brothers and sisters. I faced these dangers with hard work and heavy labor, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, and in the cold without enough clothes. Besides all the other things I could mention, there’s my daily stress because I’m concerned about the churches. “ (2 Corinthians 11:24-28, CEB).
Several years ago when my youngest son was a teenager and entering into young adulthood, he told me that the reason he was having problems with his life was because he had such a hard life growing up. At the time it shocked me that he made this unusual observation about his life. He did have some difficult adjustments to make in his life, maybe even a few more issues to confront than the average kid. But a hard life? Not at all!
“There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.” (I Peter 1:6-7, NLT).
As Christians we talk a lot about faith and we profess to have faith. But, in this passage the Apostle Peter says that until our faith is put to the test by the trials of life, it is not genuine faith!
“It is good for me that I was afflicted. that I may learn your statutes.” (Psalm 119:71, NASB).
You probably have never experienced problems or sickness and said to yourself, “That was good!” Sure, we’re taught that the problems of life can work for our good (see Romans 8:28), but we still don’t like to have problems. We don’t like to be hurt or sick. We don’t rejoice about affliction!
“Who can command things to happen without the Lord’s permission? Does not the Most High send both calamity and good? Then why should we, mere humans, complain when we are punished for our sins? Instead, let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn back to the Lord. Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven and say, We have sinned and rebelled, and you have not forgiven us” (Lamentations 3:37-42, NLT).
The book of Lamentations is attributed to the prophet Jeremiah. The context for the book is the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC.
“He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.'” (Genesis 32:28, NASB).
After twenty years of separation, Jacob attempted to reconcile with his brother, Esau, whom Jacob had tricked into giving up his birth right.
“If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.” (2 Corinthians 11:30, NLT).
Paul found it necessary to justify his actions because of his love for the Corinthian church and because false teachers were enticing the Corinthian believers away from Christ.
“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” (2 Corinthians 4:7, NLT).
We’ve all heard the amusing story about the man who falls over a cliff and grabs a branch on the face of the cliff to break his fall. As he is hanging from the branch, he calls up toward heaven, “If anybody is up there, help me!” Suddenly a voice booms down from heaven, “LET GO OF THE BRANCH!” The man hanging from the branch thinks about it for a moment and then calls out, “Is anybody else up there?”
“So to pacify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.” (Mark 15:15 NLT).
Why was it necessary for Jesus not only to suffer an agonizing death, but to have severe cruelty and indignity inflicted upon Him?
In addition to being flogged with a lead-tipped whip by Pilate’s order, Jesus was also:
“Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and He told His disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be deeply distressed and horrified. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is swallowed up in sorrow—to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake.’ Then He went a little farther, fell to the ground, and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, ‘Abba, Father! All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:32-36, HCSB).
If the Transfiguration revealed Jesus’s divine nature, then Gethsemane revealed His humanity.
A lot of theological interpretations and explanations have been offered for the anguish expressed by Jesus at Gethsemane. Certainly He was about to bear the sins of all humanity–past, present, and future–and it was a horrific proposition!