Pen Points 10
Willingness to Suffer
The willingness to suffer for the cause of Christ is not a bug in the system, but a feature of the Christian’s worldview. We realize that this is not, in itself, a selling point that would immediately cause people to flock to Jesus Christ. No one likes to suffer, and most are not willing to suffer if they don’t understand why. However, everyone is willing to suffer something when they understand that the suffering is for something that they consider to be of greater value or toward a purpose they deem significant. Parents will suffer for their children. Friends will suffer for one another. Soldiers will suffer for their country. Many are even willing to suffer for animals and pets. There is no doubt that people are willing to suffer. The question is whether we truly understand the cause of Jesus Christ and why commitment to Him is everything. Once we do, then the willingness to suffer for Him should be a foregone conclusion. We will be willing to give everything.
Here, then, was Paul’s attitude about it: “But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.” (Phil 3:7-11)
Not with Eloquence
Christ sent Paul to preach the gospel, “not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ will not be emptied of its effect” (1 Cor 1:17). Later, Paul said that he brought God’s mystery to the Corinthians, then affirmed, “I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not be based on human wisdom but on God’s power.” (1 Cor 2:1-5).
It is possible that we, in our own desire to be wise and eloquent, can make the cross lose its effect. We focus on the preacher, the way he spins words, or the eloquence by which he presents himself. Good communication practices are needed, of course, but it is easy to lose our way here. Christ and Him crucified must take the precedence here, and the cross is not pretty. It was an instrument of shame and humiliation, a sign of weakness. Yet, Paul would also write, “For he was crucified in weakness, but he lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by God’s power” (2 Cor 13:4).
God’s power is magnified, not through our petty attempts at eloquence and worldly wisdom, but through our recognition of weakness that rests on the strength of God. Let God be glorified and not self.
It is amazing that the Hebrew Scriptures would prophecy so much about Gentile inclusion into the kingdom of God. It is even more amazing to see how that unfolds in the story of Scripture as a whole. What in the world would cause so many Gentiles in the first century and beyond to accept that an obscure Jewish peasant from Galilee, who would be so horribly humiliated and shamed by crucifixion, is the one who is their Lord and Savior? To the Gentiles it was foolishness; to the Jews it was a stumbling block. A curse. Who could believe such a report? (Cf. Isa 53:1)
Yet here it is. The only viable explanation is the power of God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
That same power is what leads people to believe today. While there are many things that would lead us away from the Lord, we must still reckon with the Gospel story as a whole. It’s a story that makes no sense as a mere invention of later Christians. It makes no sense as a legend that just grew in time. That’s not the stuff that would have caused so many Gentiles to get over the shame and accept it. It’s not the stuff that would cause so many Jews to get over the curse of it to accept it. More is going on here, and the superficial legend theories just don’t cut it.
The Gospel is its own best defense. Tell it.