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Rejoicing in Sacrifice
JOY OF THE CROSS
Terry R. Baughman
“Rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (1 Peter 4:13–14 NIV).
No one sets out seeking suffering. There is a self-protective mechanism built into us that resists what is uncomfortable and recoils from pain. Involuntary muscles jerk our hands away from a hot surface, send shivers through our body when we are exposed to cold, and supply a burst of energy to run from danger. It is natural to avoid the uncomfortable and shun suffering.
However, there are circumstances that will cause us to run toward danger and enable us to embrace suffering. We see it when the firefighter races into the face of the flames to rescue someone crying for help. Self-protection is overruled by the desire to save another who is in distress. When we see those who risk their lives to save someone else we proclaim them to be heroes and honor their acts of bravery.
There is pain in childbearing, but there are more than 300,000 births every day. More than 130 million mothers give birth each year and the vast majority find that the suffering associated with childbirth was worth the result, a tiny miracle of new life to love and embrace. There are some who say, “never again,” but most will eventually be ready to endure the suffering again to embrace the joy of new birth.
Perhaps that is the best way to understand the joy of Jesus, “Who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despised the shame” (Hebrews 12:2). It’s not that He liked to suffer or received sadistic pleasure in affliction, but rather He focused on the result of the sacrifice. His purpose was more powerful than the pain. On Easter and everyday He is celebrated for His personal gift of life to us. It was His intense love for the world that drove Him to surrender His comfort and embrace the suffering of His sacrifice. In the end result we rejoice. He, “endured the cross,” but He is exalted in majesty!
Our greatest joy is to identify with Him. Knowing His ultimate sacrifice inspires us to endure hardship. Experiencing His passion we are motivated to, “Take up [the] cross daily and follow” (Luke 9:23). Identifying with Christ is coming to know Him in fellowship with His suffering. Paul’s desire was to, “know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,” that he might also, “attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10–11). We find that we can endure suffering if we know the sacrifice is justified. Paul said “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
Perhaps this consideration of the reward of glory is what gives Christ-followers the ability to endure suffering and rejoice in sacrifice. Early disciples that were arrested and beaten, then commanded not to speak the name of Jesus left the council, “Rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). What was their response to the punishment and warning? “Daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:42). They considered the reward greater than the threat of suffering.
The secret of rejoicing in suffering is to reflect on the result of the sacrifice, the glory that will be revealed. Peter said, “rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13 NIV).
“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).