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What I have to talk about is not always pleasant, just as Sylvester’s failures to catch the Tweety Bird always felt unpleasant to him.
There are many today who will say that what I will share in this article has no bearing for the modern Christian who truly understands God’s intent and purpose for us.
However, I have not yet come to the place where I can pick and choose which parts of the NT I choose to believe, and which parts I choose to deny.
Our scripture reading today has us in the book of Hebrews, which is all about comparing Jesus to everything the Jews held dear in their religion.
The writer of Hebrews goes to great lengths to show that Jesus is better than anything they had ever known or will know—and the same is true for us.
There is none greater than Jesus.
One aspect of His greatness is His lowliness.
He chose to come to us as a baby in the weakness of human flesh.
Paul tells us in Philippians that He not only did that, but He humbled Himself even further by accepting death.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Not only the lowliness of the cessation of life, but even the manner of that experience was all part of a plan for our benefit.
Let’s focus on that one aspect from the life of Jesus as we find it in the letter to the Hebrews.
For it was fitting that he (God),
for whom and by whom all things exist,
in bringing many sons to glory,
should make the founder of their salvation (Jesus)
perfect through suffering.
That last statement in the verse should cause you to question some things.
It is talking about Jesus, and it says that He was MADE perfect.
Wasn’t He already perfect?
That is the belief of many, but it is not what we learn from reading the Bible.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
The word “stature” simply refers to His natural growth as a human being.
Luke also tells us that Jesus INCREASED in wisdom and in favor with God and man.
To increase would certainly imply a growth from a lesser to a greater condition.
Then we have another place in Hebrews speaking of His growth.
Although he was a son,
he learned obedience
through what he suffered.
Here it says He learned how to obey.
It was a process.
These passages indicate that the child Jesus was not perfect, not complete in His beginnings.
Now, some will allow their mind to wander off into thinking about sinless perfection, but that is not what these verses are speaking of.
There is no implication in the thought of growth and learning that any kind of sin was involved, yet that is where most people tend to go whenever the thought of perfection comes up.
I have yet to quote Matt. 5:48 without someone saying, “Nobody’s perfect.”
That verse from the Sermon on the Mount says, “You shall be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect,” and someone will always object.
That is a whole ‘nother subject, and one we should talk about sometime, but today we are talking about Jesus’ perfection and the fact that He had to grow into it.
Please be clear. The Bible can speak of being perfect without it being about sin.
Jesus had no sin until He became sin for us.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin,
Let’s get back to the subject of His suffering and its effects.
He learned from what He suffered and He left us an example that we should also learn from what we suffer.
Experience is supposed to be a good teacher—but only if we can learn something from that experience.
I have had to go through some things more than once before I could learn what I was supposed to know.
What is suffering?
Simply put, it is anything with which you are discomfited.
It can be great or it can be small, but those two concepts are in the eye of the beholder.
You have heard the statement, Don’t cry over spilled milk.
For the observer, it may be nothing more than a glass of milk spilled on the table, but for the one crying it may be number 29 in a long list of negative things that have occurred that day.
For that person, the suffering of spilled milk is cumulative, having been built upon many other little things.
So, the first thing we should learn is that we are not to judge what is or is not suffering for someone else.
Remember what I told you recently that you cannot love anyone whom you judge.
If you are assessing the level of their suffering, then you are judging them, and that is NOT what we are called to do.
We are supposed to be able to comfort others whenever they are going through their tough time.
who comforts us in all our affliction,
so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction,
with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
We are called to be the source of comfort for those who may be suffering.
There are many today who say that as children of God we should not suffer at all, and in that place they have almost zero ability to comfort those who are in the midst of suffering.
But, that is why Jesus had to suffer as He did.
For because he himself has suffered when tempted,
he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Jesus was made entirely like us so that He would be an example for us.
He was made like us so that we could understand that whatever we are going through He has also gone through.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are,
yet without sin.
Jesus experienced trials, suffering and temptations in the same way we do and in all points as we do.
Many Christians were upset with the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, because of the portrayal of Jesus being tempted by Mary Magdalene.
But, if He was tempted in ALL POINTS the same as us, is it not conceivable that there was possibly a temptation there?
Paul tells us that whatever our situation may be, it is not unique.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.
It is a common experience for everyone to suffer through trials.
Some folks may not appear to be suffering because they may have learned how to handle the vicissitudes of life; but that does not mean they are not suffering.
Trials are simply a part of living in this plane on this planet.
That is what Jesus told His disciples.
I have said these things to you,
that in me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation.
But take heart;
I have overcome the world.
In Him we have peace.
Could that possibly be a sign for us when our peace is disturbed?
Could that mean we have lost our center in Him?
Tribulation, trials and suffering are a part of our existence in this world; but they do not have to disturb us.
What are we to do when we find ourselves in the midst of an ongoing trial?
We are not left to our own imagination in this, as the scriptures give us plenty of ways by which we can find comfort and escape the pressures of the trial.
I will close this by showing you some of these verses.
Is anyone among you suffering?
Let him pray.
Notice that James says we should pray. However, the common approach if we are suffering is to make sure everyone around us knows it. So, we complain and rehearse how bad it is.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace,
that we may receive mercy
and find grace to help in time of need.
looking to Jesus,
the founder and perfecter of our faith,
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.
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
When we participate in Communion, we are reminded that Jesus suffered, leaving us an example.
For to this you have been called,
because Christ also suffered for you,
leaving you an example,
so that you might follow in his steps.
May we learn to accept and be grateful in the midst of anything and everything, because suffering is the only path to perfection available to anyone.