Intimacy with Christ through Suffering
I Peter 2:21-24, For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
The truth is, Jesus Christ suffered immensely. Part of His suffering was intended as an example to us that we should follow in his steps. The crucial principle here is not whether we will suffer, but rather how we react to trouble and suffering when it comes. We have been called to follow Jesus’ example - Luke 9:23, John 16:33, Acts 9:16, Acts 14:22, II Timothy 3:12, I Corinthians 11:1.
The Apostle refers to when Jesus was reviled. This has the thought of verbal abuse: being cursed, mocked, ridiculed, or verbally attacked. Though this certainly happened in the hours prior to and during His crucifixion, it also happened on other occasions during His ministry. Rather, when verbally assailed, Jesus “reviled not again.” The thought is that He did not answer. He took it humbly and graciously. Moreover, “when he suffered” (unjustly), He did not threaten. At no time on the cross did He threaten vengeance against his tormentors. Rather, He committed (entrusted) Himself to His heavenly Father “that judgeth righteously.” In other words, rather than retaliate, He left it all and Himself in the Father’s hands (the righteous Judge to whom vengeance belongs - Isaiah 53:7; Luke 23:46; Romans 12:19).
Adoniram Judson, endured great hardship in his efforts to take the gospel to a country that had never heard it before. The sickness of the tropics and the heavy persecution they faced took a heavy toll on the missionary and his family. His first wife and several children died on the mission field, and then Judson had to bury his second wife as well. At one point he wrote back to America, “If I had not felt certain that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated sufferings.”
When Adoniram Judson’s second wife told him that a newspaper article likened him to some of the apostles, Judson replied, "I do not want to be like a Paul...or any mere man. I want to be like Christ...I want to follow Him only, copy His teachings, drink in His Spirit, and place my feet in His footprints...Oh, to be more like Christ!"
Even before the world was created, God’s plan was for us to be, “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). God did not save us solely to allow us to go to Heaven, though of course that is a wonderful and undeserved blessing. God’s purpose and plan for your life today is for you to be a reflection of His Son. God also saved us so that we could go into the world just as Jesus did and point men and women to Him. God intends for us to be walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ as we go through this world.
Adonirum Judson was the first missionary to India. Upon arrival to Burma, he started witnessing, started church services, and did all he could do, but to no avail. For 7 years, he preached and labored in Burma with not one convert. By many standards he was a failure.
In fact, he was thrown in jail and while in jail, his wife traveled back to America. In that Burmese prison with 32 lbs. of chains on him and a Burmese prisoner next to him, he could have justified giving up in his own mind. When his fellow prisoner asked him what he thought of the prospect of the conversion of the heathen, he replied, "The prospects are just as bright as the promises of God."
But rather than give up, and looking for an easier place to minister, he remained faithful and eventually, by the time Judson left Burma, there were over 10,000 people who had trusted Christ and dozens of churches that had been started, Judson’s translation of the Bible into the Burmese language is still in use today, touching lives more than 150 years after his death, all because a man passed the test of faithfulness.
Prayer, Father, if we are imitations of one thing, may it be of Your Son, Jesus. We will never be perfectly like Him on this side of heaven, but we can become increasingly like Him. Teach us to “follow in His steps,” to practice spiritual disciplines as an expression of love and admiration for Jesus, not as an empty attempt to earn Your favor. God, You are the one who sanctifies us and works in us to make us more authentic imitations of Jesus Christ our Lord, in Jesus name we pray, Amen.
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