Bring on the Suffering
The way in which we build our lives determines how we weather the storms. We don’t weather storms because we want to or because we’re tough enough to. We weather storms because we put into practice God’s Word. And by that, I don’t just mean following the scriptures but I mean finding the fullness of God’s Heart, His Mind and His Purpose for our lives. Putting those into practice and living them out is what allows us to withstand the storms together as well as individually. A lot of what we read in Hebrews 2 and 3 had a ring to it, that suffering does come. Different sorts of things will happen to us at times that make us feel a certain way or that overwhelm us. Every believer and unbeliever encounters things that overwhelm them.
From start to finish in Hebrews 2 and 3 is the encouragement that there will be pain, and suffering will come. The scriptures are clear that Jesus also experienced that pain. If it’s true for an unbeliever and for a believer and it’s true for Jesus, you can rest assured that you’re not going to skirt around it or circumvent it. And to each one of us, our own pain always seems worse than everyone else’s, doesn’t it? Our own situation is always tougher than everyone else’s situation. That’s just how we all feel. Anybody I’ve ever talked to, including myself, feels like their thing is the worst thing in the world.
The scriptures are very clear that God Himself orchestrates these difficult things for our own good. They are sovereignly under His control and He meters them out to each of us in a measure that’s necessary to break us. If you’re a strong-willed person, He will meter out something that’s more difficult for you than for someone else. If your potential is great, He will meter out things that are far more difficult for you to overcome out of your own flesh than perhaps for someone else. If there’s a discrepancy between how difficult your thing is and how difficult you think someone else’s thing is, perhaps it’s because God has looked at your heart and life and what He’s given you and said, “From he who has been given much, much will be demanded. If I’m going to refine this person’s life and bring them into supernatural fruitfulness (which is nothing like what they’re doing now), and if I’m going to make them into the character of Jesus, My Son (which is nothing like who they are now), I’ll have to bring a supernaturally hot fire in order to refine and enable and equip them.”
Is your goal in life to be supernaturally fruitful and to see God’s face and to experience His Presence rather than just hear about it someplace? Don’t you want to Know His Wisdom rather than just read or hear about it from someplace and just borrow it your whole life? If you really want to have the inside of God’s Heart and Mind, His Power, His Compassion, His Love, His Sensitivity, His Discernment, His Wisdom, His Thoughts—if you really want those as your primary goal in life, then open up your arms and say, “Bring me suffering!”
Jesus said, “What shall I say? Save me from this hour? It’s for this reason that I came” (John 12:27). He didn’t want to be saved. Paul was told, “Don’t ask for a removal of the thorn in the flesh and the buffeting, even the messenger from satan. Don’t even ask for that to be removed. My strength is perfected in your weakness…and Jesus Himself was crucified in weakness.” The point is that you need to be willing to embrace your suffering as a tool in God’s hands, to make you something more than you currently are. The attitude you approach this with must be the same as Jesus’ attitude, which was, “Father, not My will but Yours be done.”
“I have a will and a desire and a thought. I have something I want to do and a way I want to do it. But I don’t care about that right now. I’d like this cup to pass because I prefer not to suffer. I prefer to have it the way I want it to be. But God, I submit myself and yield myself to whatever You want. I’m a mere mortal and a lump of clay and I’m not going to be a god. I will have it the way You want it to be. I admit I’m suffering, God. I know it is more than I can bear. The scriptures say that Jesus was overcome with sorrow beyond His ability to bear, and yet He still could open up His hands and say, ‘Father, not My will but Yours be done.’”
The scriptures are clear on the fact that the Power of the Indestructible Life that Jesus was able to live out and the glory that the Father deposited on Him were in direct proportion to His willingness to suffer with the right attitude, opening His hands to the will of God, regardless of what it cost Him personally. That’s got to be our attitude if we want to be something more than just a bunch of lumps of clay that are basically religious lumps of clay. If someone doesn’t want to live a supernatural life, then they should go do something else. Natural lives are a dime a dozen and the road is filled with them. “Many will be those that find that road” and that way of life. But if you want a supernatural life, the scriptures are very, very clear.
God’s thoughts have been communicated to us on this matter, and those thoughts are abundantly clear that you must be willing to embrace suffering. In the midst of it you fix your eyes on Jesus and you aren’t amongst those that shrink back and are destroyed (as the Hebrews writer said), but you hold on tenaciously to the confidence we had at first and say to God, “Not my will but Yours be done. I don’t have to have my will in order to progress with confidence. I don’t have to do it my way. I want Your will, God. Whatever that is, I want it.” That’s the end of the story. I’m not saying it’s easy. If it were easy, you wouldn’t grow. Of course it’s not easy to do God’s will. He wants to expand you to have the very heart and mind of God Himself! That’s our Destiny. That’s what the scriptures say: “the full measure of the stature, the fullness of Christ.” That’s what He wants for us.
So, how is He going to get that? Will He get it by you reading a bunch of books? I don’t think so. Will He get it by the quality of your prayer time in the morning? I’m afraid not. As useful and wonderful as those are, I’ve not met a person yet who has known the Heart and Mind of God and could speak Supernatural Wisdom and depth from the very bosom of God, that hasn’t suffered immensely. In the midst of their pain, they’ve turned their eyes toward Jesus and said, “Not my will, but Yours be done. Whatever You want, I’m Yours. You own me. I belong to You. Whatever You want, I’m putty in Your hands.”
There has never been a person who is Supernaturally fruitful or wise or loving (anything beyond being a mere human who is well-educated in Christian principles) that didn’t embrace suffering. There never has been a person that has gotten into a level of Supernatural Life that didn’t embrace suffering and said to God in the midst of it, “Whatever You want, I’m Yours. Whatever it costs me makes no difference—right up to and including my very life, if necessary. Everything about me is Yours.”
Embrace The Cross
Again, the choice is ours. If you really do want the whole thing in your personal and corporate life, you need to understand what we’ve been talking about. You have to understand it because just “hanging around” won’t get you there. You already know that. You can be miserable and shallow and lonely when you’re just hanging around. It’s embracing the Cross and taking up your own cross that will get you there. And that means the end of your ambition, the end of your comfort, and the end of your enjoyment level and all your aspirations. It’s an end to all of those things. That’s what a cross is. “If you will come after Me and take up your cross, you will encounter the same Resurrection Life that I am encountering.” That’s His Invitation to us and you need to know that.
It’s a Privilege and an Honor to be able to accept His Cross and to die to yourself—you no longer live, but He now lives within you. It’s a privilege to face the cross of denying your very self for His sake. It’s a privilege and it’s a Doorway and Invitation into glory. It’s an Invitation into your Giftedness and into True Fellowship with Him and with one another. So accept it as that. Don’t reject it, don’t fight it, don’t scream and kick. That’s not profitable. God said to Paul, “It’s hard for you to kick at the goads. You’re only making yourself more miserable. When I’m trying to get your attention and move you in a certain direction and you’re kicking at Me, it’s hard for you, isn’t it?” He makes it hard for us to disobey Him and ignore His Will and turn our faces away from Him. And that’s His kindness. He’s persistent.
Quite frankly, sometimes I wish He would just snap His fingers and make us who He wants us to be. I’ve suffered enough, and you all no doubt feel the same way, that you’ve suffered enough already in life and you’d rather not go through it. I wish He could just snap His fingers and we’d all be totally different people—full and free and strong, wise and powerful in His Word and Spirit and Personality, and in Fruitfulness towards others. But it is not going to happen without sovereignly designed challenges of a Cross where it’s actually your choice to enter into the pain—and to do it joyfully. Jesus didn’t whine and mope and complain about it, “Okay, okay…I’ll do it.” That wasn’t His attitude. “God loves a cheerful giver.” He wants us to truly give away our hearts and not just our obedience. All of us that have children know that reluctant obedience is better than no obedience. But it doesn’t bring a lot of joy to our parental hearts to have reluctant obedience. He really wants us to enjoy abandoning ourselves into His hands.
“Not My Will But Yours…”
I want to invite you to see clearly the doorway and the key that unlocks the door into the Father’s mansion and into all that He has for your life. It is sovereignly designed pain. It is a cross and suffering. It’s the opportunities to enter into sharing in the fellowship of His suffering, to abandon ourselves into His will, and to obey Him with the right attitude in the midst of it. “Not my will but Yours be done” is the key to eternal glory.
Jesus could have given us redemption through the sacrifice of His Blood when He was still an infant. The Blood of God is sufficient to redeem any man that would turn to Him. But that isn’t how He chose to do it. He went ahead and lived a life of suffering and rejection and abandonment of His own will and abandonment into the Father’s hands. He chose to do that to show us how to live a life that is filled with power and fruitfulness and supernatural wisdom. Not only did He give redemption by His Blood, but He showed us how to be empowered by His Spirit. It’s through the way of the cross, which means taking up His cross with a glad heart, the cross that He has assigned for each of us. Please don’t miss it! Hebrews 12 says that He brings the pain and discipline to us because He loves us. And for those of us who are trained by it, it yields a wonderful harvest in our lives. But we have to be willing to be trained by it, which means we have to see what it’s all about.
Whether you’ve heard these things before or not, don’t be guilty of not embracing them. Don’t be guilty of being a hearer only and so deceive yourself as James would say, but be a doer! Really think practically about your own life. Pause for a second. Selah. Pause for a second and think about the things that God has brought into your life that are troublesome or difficult or painful for you. Consider those things and actually apply what we’re talking about to those particular things for your life. If you don’t do that, then you’re wasting God’s time and your own. You’ll continue to backpedal in mediocrity and never fulfill your destiny in this very short life that He has given you.
Consider exactly what it is that He has called you into and where your suffering lies. Make a decision that you’re going to have the kind of heart that He can be overjoyed with and that He can choose. He only empowers His Son. So only as far as we are willing to abandon ourselves into His Son, can He empower us. There’s a direct correlation there. If we won’t abandon ourselves into Christ and into His will—“Not my will but Yours be done”—then He can’t empower us. He only empowers His Son. Consider that and that you’re making choices about your destiny.