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Jon Walker, in his recent book, Costly Grace began the fourth chapter (“Becoming Like Jesus in Suffering”) with the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

Jesus says that every Christian has his own cross waiting for him, a cross destined and appointed by God.  Each must erdure his allotted share of suffering and rejection.

The objective of Jesus, according to Mark 8:31-38 is to:

…teach us…that suffering develops in us an obedient trust in God, where we understand God always has our best interest in mind even when we cannot see that he is doing.  Suffering forces us into the other-thinking of the kingdom of heaven and pushed us into the very heart of God.

Walker writes that Jesus expects his followers to think like Jesus.  This will develop as Christians meditate on the scriptures and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Thus, as we are intimate with the Lord, day in and day out, we will see what he likes and what he doesn’t like.  We will also learn to see life and circumstances from God’s perspective and not our own.  

A stumbling block to this way of thinking and life is when suffering and rejection come into play.  Both Bonhoeffer and Walker make it clear that in the same way that Jesus suffered and was rejected, we will also.  We become like Jesus by taking the road of suffering and rejection:

The cost of discipleship, then, is this: The way we become like Jesus is through suffering and rejection.  Jesus became the Christ because he was rejected and suffered, and for us to become his disciple–to become like Christ–we must share in his rejection, suffering and crucifixion.

And though on paper, many Christians would go along with this truth.  Yet, in reality, many do not understand what it truly means to follow Jesus and to bear the cross on a daily basis.  For example, we are to bear the sins of others because Jesus bore our sins on the cross.  This is possible only when we understand and experience the power of Christ’s forgiveness for us.  People will sin against us and hurt us and reject us; but we are Christ-like when we extend grace because of the cross.

Walker called this “redemptive endurance.”  Suffering will bring us closer to God, and we can boldly approach his throne of grace.  But such a possibility brings fear to us:

If suffering and rejection lead to intimacy with the Father, could it be the inability of so many us to go deeper with God lies in our fear of suffering and rejection?  It is possible our avoidance of these things keeps us in the shallow waters of discipleship?

Suffering may take us off guard, but God is never surprised!  Nothing that occurs to us is outside the sovereign will of the Lord.  There is sweet peace knowing that God is in charge regardless of the amount of suffering and rejection we are going through.  Thus, as Bonhoeffer so famously put it:

Thus it begins.  The cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise God fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ.  When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die!

Every call from Jesus is a call to die.  Every commandment of Jesus is a command to die.

Every day we are given a choice to obey or not to obey Jesus as we face with sin and the devil.

Walker’s application:

Suffering signals that God is near.  Rather than avoiding it, I will pay the cost of suffering, knowing it draws me into the heart of the Father and that he will use it for his redemptive purposes.

An example of Fallen Thinking:

Suffering is a distraction from my real purpose.

An example of Kingdom Thinking:

Suffering does not just happen upon me; ,it is part of God’s purpose for me life.

Thus, are we willing to be the price in truly following Jesus?  Walker’s book is a twenty-first century wake up call for the American Church.

October 2010
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