July 19, 2012 by eneubauer
From the ESV Bible – Philippians 3:8-12 & 17, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ has made it his own…Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”
It is always exciting to start a new chapter on our pilgrim’s journey towards Jesus. However, with every new chapter that we begin there are also new challenges. New challenges for us, our family, friends, and the work we are called to begin. If we pay attention, every new step will bring insight from the scripture, our tradition, and prayer as to the commitments and cost of following Him.
As I was reading through the book of Philippians I was challenged anew by the words of Paul to the Church at Philippi. As we journey towards Jesus Christ I find it interesting that Paul, not only asks us to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, but to share in His sufferings as well.
Exciting News: We can be confident in the fact that Christ overcame death, reconciled us to God and gave us an abundant life. But, as it is with the story of scripture, there is more to Paul’s admonition. Remember, as we are enjoying the benefits of Christ’s resurrection we are also invited to share in His “sufferings, becoming like him in His death.”
Many years ago, as a new convert to protestant Christianity, I was exposed to the idea that living in Christ’s resurrection power was the norm for born-again believers. Simultaneously, the only time I heard conversations about suffering was in the context of Christian’s war with Satan and / or our personal battle with sin. Simply stated, suffering for the born-again believer was something to overcome – not a thing to seek or embrace. Hence, if you were close to Christ – suffering could be avoided. If you found yourself in the midst of suffering – you ought to examine your interior relationship to Christ and question whether or not you have repented for your sin(s).
Contrast these ideas with what we actually learn from Holy Scripture. Paul’s admonition is clear, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead…” The Apostle is clear in his message to the Church – the embrace of relational unity with Christ is connected to our willingness to fully embrace both the power of his resurrection (& what it accomplished) and our share in His suffering that we may “attain the resurrection from the dead.”
What the heck does this mean for you and me? It means that to Know Christ as a disciple is to know Him in every aspect of His life. Just as we seek to know Christ and the power (& excitement) of His resurrection we are also called to embrace Christ in His sufferings. We are to walk with Christ both in the Garden of Gethsemane and into the Upper Room. We are to both embrace the moment of suffering (learning and growing from it) and enjoy the abundant life accompanied by His joy. In a sense, some suffering is the water the disciples life actually needs to grow and produce fruit, fruit that will last. Furthermore, the scripture indicates in James 1:2-3, that trials or tribulations (to use biblical terminology) is there to perfect our faith that we will not lack any good thing.
But what is reality? Most of the time we work hard to try and avoid suffering. It is in avoiding suffering that we lose its meaning and even the message God is desperately trying to convey. Today, if we seek to be imitators Jesus Christ let us embrace both the benefits of His resurrection and the challenges of His suffering that we may be conformed to His image and transformed by His grace. May God enable us to fully embrace the pilgrim’s path.