September 15-17, 2018
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Isaiah 50:4-10
FOLLOW JESUS IN THE FACE OF SUFFERING
1. Expect It.
2. Endure It.
3. Embrace It.
Isaiah 50:4-10 (NIV 1984) “The Sovereign Lord has given Me an instructed tongue, to know the Word that sustains the weary. He wakens Me morning by morning, wakens My ear to listen like one being taught. 5The Sovereign Lord has opened My ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back. 6I offered My back to those who beat Me, My cheeks to those who pulled out My beard; I did not hide My face from mocking and spitting. 7Because the Sovereign Lord helps Me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set My face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. 8He who vindicates Me is near. Who then will bring charges against Me? Let us face each other! Who is My accuser? Let him confront Me! 9It is the Sovereign Lord who helps Me. Who is he that will condemn Me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up. 10Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the Word of His Servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.”
Have you ever heard the word “utopia?” If you have you know it’s the idea or concept or desire to build a perfect place to live, a perfect society here on earth. That philosophy is really just an extension of man’s idea that we can fix anything, that this life can be perfect, if we work hard enough and try hard enough. A pop singer from the famous 80’s crooned “Ooh heaven is a place on earth.” Um, no it’s not. Heaven is heaven. And earth, Earth has struggles, problems, sin and suffering. Life is not fair. Sometimes the guilty go free and the innocent pay the price. You can do everything right and be kind and people will turn on you. You can exercise, don’t drink, don’t smoke and still have a heart attack. Earth is no heaven. It will never be perfect. You know it. I know it. It will be that way until the Lord comes back on the last day and makes all things new. But God has not left us alone or helpless as we deal with suffering. There is help and hope and comfort. As we continue the Pentecost season emphasis of growing in our Christian faith life God’s words for us today urge us to follow Jesus in the face of suffering.
The words of God we are looking at written down in the book of Isaiah are actually Jesus speaking through Isaiah 700 hundred years before He was born to the virgin Mary. He is the servant. And before he ever steps foot on His earth as Jesus He knows that His job description includes suffering. “The Sovereign Lord has given Me an instructed tongue, to know the Word that sustains the weary. He wakens Me morning by morning, wakens My ear to listen like one being taught. 5The Sovereign Lord has opened My ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back. 6I offered My back to those who beat Me, My cheeks to those who pulled out My beard; I did not hide My face from mocking and spitting.” When you realize this is Jesus talking it makes sense. His Father, the Sovereign almighty ruling Lord, had passed on the plan of salvation. In order to be the Savior Jesus would suffer. Though He had done no wrong he would be beaten by Roman soldiers, mocked and spit upon. Because sin, defiance of God, is so bad to save sinners Jesus would pay the price. He would be forsaken of God. He would suffer. And He knew it. Nothing that happened to Jesus was a surprise to Him. Think of how many times He told His disciples what would happen. They were surprised when it did. Jesus was not. He expected suffering.
Do you expect to suffer for doing what is right or are you surprised when it happens? Last week as Pastor Bivens encouraged us follow Jesus in serving He reminded us of Jesus’ words. “A servant is not above His master. If they hated me they are going to hate you too.” Think about it with your reason controlled by your faith. If Jesus who is perfect suffered in this life, if the sinless Son of God suffered, why wouldn’t those who are imperfect and sinful? So why are you surprised Christian parent when your kids get mad at you when you enforce the rules or when they aren’t allowed to do what everyone else is doing? Why are you surprised Christian worker when the cheater, backbiter and manipulator gets away with it at work and your faithfulness goes unnoticed? Why are your surprised Christian student when you are made fun of or feel uncomfortable with all the sin around you? Why are we surprised that a congregation that holds to all of God’s teachings is not as popular as the feel goods? A servant is not above His master, is He? Follow Jesus in the face of suffering and expect it.
Follow Jesus and endure it. “Because the Sovereign Lord helps Me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set My face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. 8He who vindicates Me is near. Who then will bring charges against Me? Let us face each other! Who is My accuser? Let him confront Me! 9It is the Sovereign Lord who helps Me. Who is he that will condemn Me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up.” Jesus has an edge here, doesn’t he? He’s ready to fight the fight of a Christian solider. He sets His face like flint. He knows that to be the Savior He must endure. So when He is falsely accused He doesn’t throw a fit, a “How could you?” or threaten to sue. He remains silent. Though He is the Son of God with all power He does not retaliate. He takes it. When He is taunted to come down from the cross to prove He is the Son of God He ignores it. Why? He knows it will pass. He won’t be left disgraced. His endurance of suffering will not put Him to shame. His almighty Father would help him. Those who caused Him to suffer would fade away. He endured.
You can follow Jesus and endure too. Are you at one of those times when you are dealing with unjust suffering? Where you have done what is right and someone else is attacking you and accusing you? Are you dealing with an injustice at work, school or home? Are you tired of Christian bashing? Follow Jesus and endure. Set your face like flint. Pull on your big Christian pants. Buck up little trooper. This too will pass. The Sovereign Lord is your helper. Endure.
But you can do even better than stoic endurance as you follow Jesus in the face of suffering. You can embrace it. Quick review. Jesus knew that if He took the role of Messiah, Savior, He would suffer horribly and unjustly. He came anyway. He did not turn away. He came willingly. In the midst of His suffering He did not back away, throw Himself a pity party or whine, cry, complain, “That’s not fair!” How? Why? The book of Hebrews gives us a little insight into that. In Hebrews 12:2 we are told, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” For the joy set before Him. Jesus had his eyes on the prize. Jesus had us in mind. It gave Him joy to know He would win us for God and save us for eternity. Like a mom who knows if she gets pregnant what her body will go through yet for the prospect of joy goes through it and embraces it. Jesus embraced suffering by looking to the good that would come.
You can too. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus. Follow Him in suffering and embrace it for the joy set before. Brothers and sisters, when we suffer for what is right, when we get treated unfairly whether that’s by our own kids, or our own parents, by the Christ rejecting society we live in or even by a brother or sister in faith who is following their sinful nature rather than Christ there is a joy set before us—to be like Christ. We servants can in some small measure be like our Master and it is evidence that we belong to Him. Do not misunderstand me. If you are a jerk to other people, if you are mean and spiteful, if you have a sharp tongue, are conniving and scheming and lie and manipulate and no one wants to be around you or be your friend or help you, that is on you. You need to change and repent. That’s the suffering of sin. But when you have sufferings that just happen because the world is ruined and especially when you suffer for doing what is right follow Christ. And then like those same disciples we heard about in the Gospel lesson who at that point were all about dodging suffering we will instead be like them after Jesus ascended when they were whipped and went away rejoicing. Why? Because they had been counted worthy of suffering for the kingdom of God. Bring it on! Amen.