Your instinct is to flee suffering, but you must remember that even in the middle of suffering, God’s will is being done. There will be those times when God will lead you away from suffering or around suffering because of wise decisions. However, there will be those times when God will lead you straight into suffering because the center of God’s will is in the center of that suffering. There is something for you to learn and do in that season of suffering. It’s in the middle of that suffering where you will grow the most and God will be glorified the greatest and it’s there the best victories are won. Jesus understood this when He faced the crucifixion.
For the follower of Jesus, every trial of suffering is an opportunity to grow in your relationship with God and to deepen your understanding of who it is you are following. Suffering creates an opportunity to see God work in your life in a uniquely personal way that demonstrates His compassion, His comfort, His mercy, His kindness, His strength, His wisdom, and His loving kindness. Suffering is a divine tool that chisels selfishness off of you so others can see Jesus in you.
Before we get into Mark 14, let me give you a sampling of God’s Word on suffering.
Look at what 1 Peter 1:6-7 says, “I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory” (MSG). When you go through suffering, that’s when you really find out if you trust God or not. That’s when others get a chance to see what real faith looks like in you.
Look at what 1 Peter 3:14 says, “But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it” (NLT). In some way, God is going to bless you as you enter, go through, and come out of your suffering. You may not feel blessed going through it, but you are blessed in it.
Now look at 1 Peter 5:10 which says, “In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation” (NLT). Suffering does not last forever. When its over, you will be a stronger and more mature believer and you will have a story about how God restored you, supported you, and placed you back on solid ground.
Take a good look at Psalm 119:71 which says, “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees” (NLT). God’s decrees are His Word. There is something about suffering that makes us think more deeply about what God says. It causes us to pay attention to His word more closely.
One more, in Romans 5:3 we are told, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (ESV). To grow spiritually, you will need to go through suffering. It produces spiritual endurance; it produces godly character and produces a higher level of hope because you have seen God bring you through suffering before and He will bring you through this one.
To do God’s will, often requires suffering. We see this in Jesus.
They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” 33 He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. 34 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 35 He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. 36 “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” 37 Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 38 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Mark 14:32-38, NLT)
Jesus is showing us how to do God’s will when it’s hard to do God’s will.
- To do God’s will, you have to go a little further
- To do God’s will, you have to go a little deeper
- To do God’s will, you must be willing to suffer
- To do God’s will, you must be willing to die to self
Last week, we looked at the first two. Let’s review them and move on to number three.
To do God’s will, you have to go a little further
Number one, to do God’s will, you have to go a little further. You must go further into the relationship with God. You will need to pray more than you usually do. You will need to seek God’s will harder than you normally do. When you know that to obey God is going to be tougher than normal you will need to go further into the garden with God than others. Mark says in verse 35 that Jesus went on a little farther and fell to the ground. This is when Jesus prayed under extreme pressure and stress. The stress was so great we are told He began to sweat great drops of blood.
To do God’s will, you must go a little deeper
Number two, to do God’s will, you must go a little deeper. Your relationship with God needs to go deeper than it is. Your relationship with God needs to be both childlike and adultlike. In verse 35, Mark tells us Jesus prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. 36 “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me.”
- To do God’s will you want to have a childlike relationship with God. The word Abba is similar to our words Daddy or Papa. It is a sweet, close, tender, trusting, and loving word that indicates the kind of intimate relationship Jesus had with God and the kind of relationship God wants us to have with Him.
- The word Father refers to God’s authority, protection, wisdom, and guidance in the relationship.
Jesus loved God as seen in Abba and Jesus obeyed God as seen in Father. Jesus had a sweet but deep relationship with God and so should you and I.
We looked at all that and more last week in great detail.
To do God’s will, you must be willing to suffer
Number three, to do God’s will, you must be willing to suffer. Mark tells us that Jesus prayed that, if it were possible, He wanted God to remove the awful hour He was about to face. But then, Jesus cries out to God everything is possible for you. So, what is going on here?
Let’s answer the obvious question first. Is it possible for God to do everything? The simple answer is yes. Nothing is outside of the power, privilege, and prerogative of God to do. Jesus knows that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and sovereign. There is nothing God cannot do. Jesus knows this. He acknowledged this. Yet, Jesus also knows that God never acts contrary to His character, purpose, or Word. Jesus was not asking the Father or wanting the Father to violate His redemptive plan or go back on His promises or go against His character.
Instead, Jesus was asking about the possibility of whether or not the salvation of people like you and me, could happen another way. Could the work and mission of salvation be accomplished in some other way? The answer is no.
- Here is what this does for us. This tells us that Jesus had to die for your sins so you could be forgiven, saved and born again. This means that you cannot be good enough to get to heaven. If there was another way for you to be saved, then God could cause the awful hour to pass Jesus by and God could take the cup of suffering away from Jesus.
- This also tells us that Jesus is the only way to heaven. There is no other way. There is no other religion or person or path that can lead you to heaven. If there was another way, Jesus could have bypassed the crucifixion and death for our sins.
So, Jesus is praying, “Abba, Father is it possible that there is another way? If there is, then I know you can make that way possible and available to these people who we love because I know everything is possible for you.” In some way, God assured Jesus that this is the only way. There is no other way. Jesus would need to face the awful hour ahead of Him and drink the cup of suffering. Jesus comes out of that prayer time with God steady and strong and ready to face all that sin, hell, and God’s wrath would pour on Him.
In this prayer of Jesus, He asked the heavenly Father, Please take this cup of suffering away from me. What is this cup of suffering that Jesus is referring to? I believe this cup of suffering was filled with two things that Jesus would have to drink.
- First, it was a cup full of sin. Jesus looked into this cup and saw all the sin of mankind from the first sin to the last sin. This cup was filled with sins like those listed in Galatians 5 which include sexual immorality, impurity, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, envy, and drunkenness (19-20). It would be filled with all the sins committed to children, to women, and men. All the lies, murders, abuse, torture, deceit, and every other sin imaginable was in that cup. Jesus, who knew no sin and was perfectly holy (1 Pet. 1:18-19; 2:22; Heb. 4:15; 1 John 3:5) would have to drink that cup and become what was in that cup (2 Cor. 5:21). The Bible says that Jesus would become sin for us. It would produce unthinkable suffering for Him. The sinless Jesus recoiled at the thought of receiving that cup.
- Second, it was a cup full of wrath. God is holy. God is just. Because God is holy and just, He hates sin. He must judge sin.
Let me introduce a word to you. It is the word propitiation. It is the word in the Bible that describes what must take place for God’s wrath to be satisfied. This word appears in several places in the Bible, but let me show you one of them. It’s in 1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (NASB; see also Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2). The word propitiation refers to the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ as an offering to satisfy the anger and wrath of God.
Here is how this works. Because of your sinful nature and your sinful actions, you have invited and provoked the anger and wrath of God. Therefore, you need to satisfy God who has been offended. The word propitiation means to satisfy, please or appease. As someone who has sinned against God you have insulted His holy character. So, something must be done to appease or satisfy God’s righteous anger.
Stay with me. All of you have propitiated at least one time in your life on one level or another. Instead of calling it propitiation, we call it “making up.”
- A husband who has upset his wife might bring her some flowers to say, “I’m sorry.” The flowers are an act of propitiation. The husband is trying to satisfy or please the one he has offended.
- Children who know they have messed up might sweet-talk their parents or do a household chore without being told to try to take the edge off their parents’ anger and lessen the punishment. The sweet-talk or volunteering to do an extra chore is an act of propitiation. The son or daughter is trying to satisfy or please the one they have offended.
This is what propitiation does. It pleases or satisfies the anger of the one who has been offended. In our case, it is God who needs to be satisfied. Propitiation requires an offended person to be satisfied or appeased.
The only way that God’s anger and wrath toward our sin can be truly satisfied is with a perfect and sinless sacrifice, and there is only one person who fits that description and that is the prefect lamb of God called Jesus. There is no other way. Jesus is our propitiation. He must become sin for us. He must take our punishment. He must drink this cup of suffering that includes both the sins of the world and the wrath of God.
So, what does this tell us.
- Jesus loves His Heavenly Father enough to obey Him even though it meant great suffering.
- Jesus loves you enough to do God’s will so you can benefit from His obedience.
The same should be true for us. To do God’s will may cause great suffering. But your obedience to follow the Heavenly Father’s will demonstrates your love for Him and your love for others. The best place for you to be is in the center of God’s will even if that means being in the center of suffering. It’s there you are able to glorify God and be a blessing to others.