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Drinking the Cup of Suffering

Posted By Bill Wills, Director of High School On Thursday, September 02, 2021

John 6:68-69- "Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

John 18:11- "Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?"

I remember being in our staff devotion/prayer time asking questions in my head..., "How, how can this be? What would I do? What would I say? Where would I go? Would I really still stay and worship you Lord?" 

Milt Cole (former Pastor of Seniors and Pastoral Care ) once shared a pastoral story of how he was on call caring for a traumatized mother who lost her child. The mother was angry, agonzing, shocked, in “disbelief" as a believer of the Lord. "How can this happen, why would God do this, I thought He loved me, I thought He cared! Did He enjoy the death of my child? I'm so broken and lost... where is God, Milt? Why isn't He here?" As Milt shared, I was empathic and in personal distress over this situation... no words, no words could come for how to answer these questions. But to my dismay, Milt did answer. Milt answered with a caring rhetoric pointing back to Scripture. Scripture gave an answer through the Holy Spirit through Milt. The same answer Simon Peter gave, Milt gave. Simon Peter responded to Jesus when Jesus reminded many disciples would leave him, abandon Him, and find another way, teacher, path, life... away from the Messiah. Jesus personally addressed the 12 disciples with the call to suffer, not ease. "So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well? (John 6:67)"

We need to truly understand and ask ourselves if the call of following Jesus is worth immense suffering. Would we follow Jesus if there was immense suffering? Potentially and providentially, God may be asking you to dive deeper into the doctrine of suffering and grow in your faith in relationship with Him. Independent, autonomous, self-seeking, comfortable Christianity is a worldview of "me-centeredness" rather than "Christ exaltation". God gets the glory. Drink the same cup Jesus drank from; there is no other way, period.  We drink to share His suffering so His glory is revealed (John 18:11; 1 Peter 4:13; Romans 8:17). 

Milt taught me something in that staff devotion/prayer time. One, that suffering is going to happen whether we like it or not. There will always be suffering. Two, that with Jesus, suffering is never permanent; He still holds the whole world in His hands. One day, suffering will end. This present suffering is temporal, it always has purpose for good, our gain, and His glory.  

“Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me? (John 18:11)

To ‘drink the cup’ was a greater thing than calming the sea or raising the dead. The prophets and apostles could do amazing miracles, but they did not always do the will of God and thereby suffered as a result. Doing God’s will and thus experiencing suffering is still the highest form of faith, and the most glorious Christian achievement.

Having your brightest aspirations as a young person forever crushed; bearing burdens daily that are always difficult, and never seeing relief; finding yourself worn down by poverty while simply desiring to do good for others and provide a comfortable living for those you love; being shackled by an incurable physical disability; being completely alone, separated from all those you love, to face the trauma of life alone; yet in all these, still being able to say through such a difficult school of discipline, ‘Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?’ – this is faith at its highest, and spiritual success at its crowning point.

Great faith is exhibited not so much in doing as in suffering. Charles Parkhurst

In order to have a sympathetic God, we must have a suffering Savior, for true sympathy comes from understanding another person’s hurt by suffering the same affliction. Therefore, we cannot help others who suffer without paying a price ourselves, because those afflictions are the cost we pay for our ability to sympathize. Those who wish to help others must first suffer. If we wish to rescue others, we must be willing to face the cross; experiencing the greatest happiness in life through ministering to others is impossible without submitting to the baptism He endured.

The most comforting of David’s psalms were squeezed from his life by suffering, and if Paul had not been given a ‘thorn in the flesh’ (2 Cor. 12:7 KJV), we would have missed much of the heartbeat of tenderness that resonates through so many of his letters.

If you have surrendered yourself to Christ, your present circumstances that seem to be pressing so hard against you are the perfect tool in the Father’s hands to chisel you into shape for eternity. So trust Him and never push away the instrument He is using, or you will miss the result of His work in your life.

Strange and difficult indeed

We may find it,

But the blessing that we need

Is behind it.

The school of suffering graduates exceptional scholars.”

(“Streams in the Desert” by L.B. Cowman, pg. 278-279)

A Good Reflection Challenge:

1) Who do you run to when suffering occurs? 

2) Who do you find refuge in when circumstances and anxiety are overwhelming? 

3) What promises are you given when suffering does occur?

4) What gives you hope regardless of the suffering?

5) What is God trying to teach you in the suffering about who He is?

6) What worship song or Bible verse is God using to encourage and comfort your broken heart with?

May His grace and peace be multiplied to you all. As we suffer, know Christ suffered and willingly took on Calvary for you.... because He loves you, yes, even to the end of this devotional, He loves you, much love.

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