CHRIST IS OUR GREAT EXAMPLE
Come here so that I can beat you! Are you coming or not? The father says angrily to his notorious teenage boy. How many boys would you suppose would go? Most likely the next thing would be to run away. Yet we are told that as Christians, we have been called to sufferings. On most cases, we have run away from our divine calling. Because as long as we are on the earth, we should know that part of our calling is to suffer.
We acknowledge that Christ suffered and died in our behalf, but we do not understand in what way He is our example. He is our example in the manner that he endured suffering. Paul presents one of the motives for the Christian duty of patient endurance of undeserved suffering as the suffering of our Lord himself. He bluntly tells that of such we have been called. I would like to point out to you that we have not been called to this suffering without a precedent and this is none other than very our Master and Lord. Are we going to be greater than our Master? Christ is our great example of humility (Phil.2:1-11); He is the example of not living to please ourselves but to please our neighbor for his good, to build him up (Rom.15:2,3). He is the example of how we should accept one another (Rom.15:7). He is the example of generosity in costly self-giving (2Cor.8:9). He is the example of the life of love we are to live (Eph.5:2). And here he is the example of how we should behave when we suffer for doing good.
How did our Lord go through this suffering? The manner is our lesson today. If this is our calling then it is of uttermost importance for us to learn from it because then we will be learning from out Master and Lord. What we learn is the four basic principles of going through suffering. This is because whether we like it or not suffering will be there.
1. CHRIST IS OUR GREAT EXAMPLE IN PATIENCE
Christ suffered patiently and without murmuring or complaining. He was patient enduring the cross, being shamed and mocked and reviled, yet patient. He was apt in following like a sheep to the slaughter, He did not fight His tormentors. He suffered willingly and did not even attempt to fight for himself. Never was the Lord impatient with His tormentors. Never did He attempt to retaliate either verbally or by His hands. He completely submitted and gave himself to obey his Father whom had sent Him. He was patient in affliction
Are being conformed to the likeness of His Son? Then we must suffer just like He suffered, for to this you have been called – to be like Him in every respect. To this are ye called as Christians, even to the patient endurance of sufferings wrongfully inflicted, from a regard to the will of God as Mr. John Brown put it. Are we to fellowship in His sufferings? Then He left us an example to follow in His footsteps.
We go through this life meeting with challenges in all quarters of life. We are met with life’s suffering as we eat and as we drink; as we sleep and as we wake up; as we walk and and as we talk; as we go out and as we come in; whether we are working or resting, we must be met with suffering. It is because this life is of suffering, willingly and unwillingly. We suffer in lack and in abundance. The plenty comes with its troubles just like the trouble comes with its troubles. But the question is how prepared are we in all these circumstances? How can we be more patient and more enduring?
This is what we need to say:
If our afflictions are so sanctified as that they draw out our soul…
- To love the Lord more, and
- To fear Lord more, and
- To please Lord more, and
- To cleave Lord more, and
- To wait Lord more, and
- To walk Lord more
If the afflictions that are upon us do;
- Increase our courage,
- Strengthen our patience
- Raise our faith
- Inflame our love, and
- Enliven our hopes
certainly they are sent in love, and all our wounds are the wounds of our friend.
Then they are sent in love. Oh, then they are wounds of a friend indeed! (Thomas Brooks, the Mute Christian Under the hand Smarting Rod)
Let us always bear in mind that, ‘No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it’. (1Cor 10:13)
2. CHRIST IS OUR GREAT EXAMPLE IN SINLESSNESS
The most outstanding thing about Jesus is that in spite of the intensity of the sufferings that He went through, he did not sin; He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. Our Lord committed no sin. Our great exemplar committed no guile, no iniquity, no deceit. Jesus committed no sin from His birth and even up to the point of His death. He was neither conceived in iniquity nor was He born in iniquity like David. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, breaking the lineage of man and thus was completely free from sin. Jesus is our example. And what this means for us is that we can submit and endure the sufferings and this is because we not only have an example from Jesus, but also we better placed in certain sense than Him.
The reason why the suffering of Jesus was worse than ours was that He is God and even to behold evil itself is unbearable as Habakkuk puts it, ‘You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong (Hab. 1:13), sin was and is a torment for Him. When He had to endure in such intensity of sin, we must appreciate that it was harder than for a man. A man is so used to sin like the fish and water but not God.
Thank God that our Master triumphed over the evil that had tormented man for so long. Thank God that we follow a victorious Master. The far that we were not able to go, Jesus went for us and on our behalf. His example has far-reaching implications it means that this example is effected in our lives by the Holy Spirit. Again, endurance is for our grace, for Peter himself asks; ‘For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God’. (1Pet 2:20)
We have no excuse for sinning even when great temptation, for we have not been tempted to the point of shedding blood, and even we had died, we have excuse for committing sin. A Christian has been called to suffer. To flinch from one’s calling is unreasonable because this calling was publically made and nothing has God kept hidden from us. Besides, it is for our own good that we suffer. Our submission and obedience does not depend on the prevailing circumstances. It does not depend on whether it is cool or not. We are to live in obedience at all times without compromise. We have been called to a life of godliness in a world that abhor us. We live in a foreign land as Peter keeps on telling us, that we are sojourners or pilgrims and as long as this is so, we must learn to accept our position is that of suffering, reviled, and even killed.
3. CHRIST IS OUR GREAT EXAMPLE IN DEPENDENCE ON GOD
When a person is holding you captive without a good cause what is the next automatic thing to do, but to threaten? Imagine, walking in the streets of Nairobi and you meet with the city council askaris and they grab you by your collarbone. Then they announce to you that you are under arrest because of throwing down a piece of paper. Before you even conceive in your mind what they are telling you they frog match you to their courts. Then because you do not know of such paper they are talking about, you attempt to resist being arrested and then they start beating you senseless with their heavy rungus? But, then it also dawns on you that your dad is a councilor! What is the next thing that you would do? You start cursing and threatening them in all manner of threats and you dare them to beat you farther and take you to their courts. This is completely the opposite of what the Lord did, for “when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly’’
Christ is our great example on what we are to do in such circumstances. He was humiliated in every way, he was beaten up and flogged. He was scorned and mocked. All that could be done to person was done to Him in a great measure. He was even killed the most humiliating death that can ever be done to a man. Yet the Bible clearly records that He fully depended on God. He committed Himself to following the counsel of His Father from when He said, “Not my will but yours be done” while in the garden of Gethsemane. He continued to entrust Himself to the One who is able when He was arrested and accused falsely. He entrusted Himself to God when they were flogging and whipping Him and when they hanged Him in that shameful cross. Moreover, when He died, He committed His Soul to the Father.
Are we able to do this? Can we learn to follow God fully under all situations, come rain or sunshine? We should teach ourselves this noble thing to do – to fully trust Him and have a total confidence that what He said He would do, is exactly what we should expect. He is a not a son of man to lie. Again let us remember that most of the things that we go through are as result of our sins either directly or indirectly because in this world, sin has tinted everything in such a way that we are affected by its effects in all our daily endeavors. Therefore, God often intervenes to restore us back on the track, when He does that you should appreciate His discipline, for we read, It is for discipline that you have to endure, God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? (Heb 12:7)
4. CHRIST IS OUR GREAT EXAMPLE IN SERVICE
One other example that we see here of our Lord in whose footsteps we are to follow, is His example in service. All that He was doing through all these circumstances is that He was busy in our service. He knew that without Him, we are doomed. We are to look unto Him because He is described as the one “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).
In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood (Heb 12:4) .
Brethren we have not come to suffering like Christ yet you can see how much He went through for our sake. He went through all these to redeem us from sin. It should be out of gratitude that we serve. It should be out love that is depicted by the Lord in His suffering and death for such worms as we. In our service, we are told what is expected of us; we are to “ labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure” (1Co 4:12 ). I have also been given very specific instructions as a preacher and pastor on service, “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2Ti 4:5 ).
The last motive that we have for looking upon the Lord in submission even when suffering is that if we endure with Him then shall we also reign with Him, but also that if we deny Him under suffering like Peter, then He shall deny us (2Ti 2:12). Who would like to be denied by the Lord before the father and the angels and told, “I do not know you. Go away!”
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Heb 12:3). We should not grow weary in our labor especially of submitting in whatever circumstances because this is what is gracious in God’s sight. This is what God commends. Would you like a commendation from the president? I am sure you would like to. But greater is the commendation from God and this is what we ought to pursue.