Selfless Suffering

John 17:20-23

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

These verses have such a profound, meaningful impact when you study it. Jesus, before He is arrested for a crime He didn’t commit, prayed for His disciples and for “those who will believe in me through their word.” I’ve never really thought about what Christ was doing here until just now. Christ is praying for His disciples, the twelve Apostles, but He is also praying for US… you and me!

How glorious is that?

Over 2,000 years ago, our Lord prayed for us while He was going through the hardest moments of His life. This is so wonderful in two ways:

  1. Christ was selfless during His suffering and is with us in our suffering.
  2. Christ thought of you specifically when He was suffering.

Christ was selfless during His suffering and is with us in our suffering.

Think of a time when you were suffering… perhaps you’re suffering right now. When we’re in a time of suffering we tend to focus on ourselves and our circumstances. We often times will ask: “When will this end?” “Why is this happening to me?” “Where is God in the midst of my suffering?” and many other questions. We tend to be consumed by questions and perhaps answers that make us doubt, that bring fear, and ultimately more suffering.

I want to express to you that in the midst of your suffering, God is there with you. In fact, I would be so bold as to say that He has brought it to you for a beautiful purpose. That purpose is to glorify Him and sanctify you. Read these verses below:

2 Corinthians 1:5 – For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

Romans 5:3 – Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance…

Ephesians 3:13 – So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

(Interesting side note on these passages: if you read them back to back, they all seem to flow nicely together)

Now, there are a lot of verses within the Psalms that discuss suffering but let us digest these wonderful verses above.

Sufferings of Christ

2 Corinthians 1:5, The “sufferings of Christ” are those afflictions we experience as we do Christ’s ministry. At the same time, Christ suffers with His people, since they are united with Him. In Acts 9:4, 5, Christ asked Paul why he was persecuting Him. This implies that Christ suffered with the early Christians when they were persecuted. I find it truly comforting that Christ suffers with us. This means He is most certainly with us through our suffering because we are one with Him (Acts 13:52). Take comfort that Christ has also experienced all the suffering you will ever experience, and just like His Father was with Him, He is with you.

In Romans 5:3, for the early, first-century Christians suffering was for sure, a very real thing, it wasn’t a “perhaps we might have suffering.” This also speaks to what 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 talks about:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

1 Peter 4:12-19 says:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And

“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

We are promised suffering, and we should rejoice as Peter tells us. James 1:1-5 also tells us that we should consider it joy!

But how do we have joy in suffering?

We realize that Scripture tells us we are partaking in the sufferings of Christ, and for Christ.

James 1:1-5 – Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

When we face trials and our suffering, we are being sanctified and in the process, we will be steadfast, finally resulting in us being perfect and complete in the Lord.

Finally, notice how Ephesians 3:13 tells us “do not lose heart… what I am suffering for you (I added emphasis)

Christ thought of you specifically when He was suffering.

Going back to our original text, Jesus says, “but also for those who will believe in me through their word” that means us! Wow! He’s praying for His disciples, as well as you and I. What a sweet, great High Priest!

‘Tis so sweet to be loved by Jesus! Take heart, my dear friends, Jesus always has your good in mind (Romans 8:28)

I leave you with this sweet hymn to listen to: Before The Throne of God recorded by Shane & Shane

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin

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