Wednesday 31 August 2011

The glory of God in the suffering of Christ

Last Sunday we read of Jesus’ words spoken to his church in the midst of their suffering for the sake of the gospel. I highlighted three main lessons from Revelation 1:1-9 on how we can effectively encourage our brothers and sisters when they face times of depression, difficulty and even death.

1. We share in their suffering
John identifies himself as a brother and a companion in their suffering. He doesn’t give advice on how to avoid suffering. He joins them in suffering.

When someone is faced with great disappointment, anguish or loss, what he or she may need most in the first instance is simply for a friend to sit next to them silently. Perhaps all you can do is cry with them. We mourn with those who mourn.

2. We show them Christ in his glory
The words of comfort we read in Revelation - these are Jesus’ words. He speaks these words of comfort and of conviction. Only he can lift our gaze to behold his glory. Only he can open our eyes to perceive his sovereign will and power sustaining us in the midst of uncertainty and oppression.

The Son of Man is the one who receives all power, glory and authority to rule and judge from God, the Ancient of Days. But the Son of Man is also the one betrayed into the hands of the Gentiles, mocked and rejected by his own, crucified on the cross.

The exalted Christ is robed as a king, his feet gilded with bronze, ready to do battle against the powers of evil and to trample over his enemies (Daniel 10). The ascended Christ pleads before the Father in robes of the High Priest - he is our advocate and mediator. He walks with us through the fires of persecution; as the Son of God walked alongside Daniel’s friends in the burning furnace.

This is the King of glory who fights for us. He is the Priest full of compassion who walks with us.

3. We help them find strength and assurance in the cross
John falls down as though dead. On the cross, Jesus was truly dead; he was raised and now lives forevermore! He reminds us: we no longer need fear death. Jesus holds the keys to death and Hades.

In the midst of our pain and suffering, Jesus strengthens us by drawing our attention to his pain and his suffering. For there on the cross, we see the apex of God's glory in Christ. It is only from the certainty of his death and the knowledge of Jesus' suffering that we receive the assurance of our forgiveness and the hope of eternal life.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

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