For the believerin Christ, suffering is never ultimately about what we lose, but rather about what we can never lose. This is to be the aim of our thinking, and one of the grand purposes in suffering – to heighten or awaken this reality.
"Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking" 1 Peter 4:1a
Jesus suffered in the flesh. 1 Peter 2:21 says we too have been called to suffer, and Christ left us an example in His suffering. Read Hebrews 2:14-18 to understand the importance of this. Jesus suffering in the flesh:
- destroyed the devil
- deliveredus from slavery
- became a merciful and faithful high priest
- made propitiation for our sin
- helps us when we are tempted
- bore the ultimate suffering we deserved –God’s wrath
The Christians who received the letter of Hebrews were a suffering people. The Author/Pastor of Hebrews tells these suffering Christians to look to the surrounding cloud of faithful witnesses who also suffered (Read Hebrews 11). They endured their suffering by faith, with hope and assurance(Hebrews 11:1).
So, if we are to arm ourselves in the midst of our suffering with the same way of thinking as Christ (1 Peter 4:1), and the list of faithful men and women in Hebrews 11 are witnesses to this, then how dowe also endure? Whatis the mindset that we are to attain?
“looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
Jesus endured the cross and despised the shame by keeping His eyes on the joy set before Him. So, what was His purposethat drove His thoughts? What was the joy set before Him? I want to suggest at least 5 things that we find in Scripture that consumed Jesus mind with great joy in suffering:
- Jesus joy was the glory He would have again with His Father (John 17:5)
- Jesus joy was in God’s Word, and speaking God’s Word (John 17:13)
- Jesus joy was those whom would believe in Him (John 17:20)
- Jesus joy was those whom would be glorified and spend eternity seeing His glory (John 17:24)
- Jesus joy is in keeping you from stumbling and presenting you blameless before the Father (Jude 24-25)
To summarize, the mindset that Jesus had that caused Him to endure suffering (the joy set before Him), was that He would be eternally exalted, glorified, and enjoyed by those whom He would save through His life, death, and resurrection. We need to arm ourselves with the same way of thinking. (Philippians 2:5-10, and Colossians 3:1-2). That is the joy that was set before Him, and it is the joy that needs to be set before us.
Let's take a look at three examples of witnesses who endured this way:
- Moses (Hebrews 11:24-27)
- The suffering Christians (Hebrews 10:32-36)
- Paul and the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
These three examples armed themselves with the same way of thinking as Jesus in the midst of their suffering (yes even Moses –notice Hebrews 11:26 that Moses considered the reproach of CHRIST greater wealth). Notice four similarities between these three examples:
- They had a greater treasure
- This was not the reward to come. This was the immediate joy of knowing Christ. They saw their actual suffering as more to be desired than the absence of suffering.
- They saw their suffering as comparatively light
- Light means not burdensome,and momentary means temporary. They were not paralyzed by their suffering.
- Light and momentary means we look forward to the reward and we look back to Christ who suffered fully for us so that our suffering would not be heavy (God’s wrath) noreternal.
- They looked to the reward (Romans 8:18-19, 35-39)
- They hoped in what theycould not yet see (Romans 8:23-25)
- Biblical hope is not wishful thinking. It is a faith-filled, confident assurance of what is to come – what we cannot yet see.
- Suffering produces hope (Romans 5:3-5; 1 Peter 1:6-9)
When we arm/equipour mindsinsufferingwith the same thinking as Christ, we:
- Look tothe glory of God
- Delight in God’s Word
- Delight in the salvation of God’s people
- Increase in sanctification
- Experience the Immediate, continual, here and now treasure of Christ
- See our suffering as light and momentary
- Look tothe reward
- Hope in what we cannot yet see
This requires the Holy Spirit. This is a supernatural mindset, only available in Christ. This is a war, because Satan is seeking to accomplish something in your suffering. He is prowling around like a roaring lion seeking someone, in the midst of their suffering, to devour (1 Peter 5:8-10). Satan works against the mindset of Christ by:
- Moving our eyes from God’s glory to man’s glory.
- Moving from delighting in God’s Word to drifting from God’s Word.
- Moving from delight in salvation of God’s people to apathy.
- Moving from sanctification to continuing in sin.
- Moving from the immediate treasure of Christ to the deceitful treasures of this world.
- Moving from an eternal view of suffering to the pain and loss I’m experiencing here and now.
- Moving from seeing the reward to come to seeing the rewards I’m losing.
- Moving from hoping in what I cannot yet see to doubting what I cannot yet see.
Therefore, put on Christ, and know that the gospel declares that what we cannot do in and of ourselves, Christ will do in us (1 John 4:4; Philippians 1:6;2:13; John 6:39; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Jude 24-25)
Donald Greyhouse was the formerminister of Tenth Presbyterian Church. He lost his wife and was struggling to ease the pain that his young daughter felt by the loss of her mother. One day, they were driving,and a large moving truck passed them. When the dark shadow of the truck passed over them, Barnhouse turned to his daughter and said: “Would you rather be run over by a truck, or by its shadow?” “By the shadow of course,” his daughter replied, “that can’t hurt us at all.” “Right,” Barnhouse responded, “If the truck doesn’t hit you, but only its shadow, then you are fine. Well, it was only the shadow of death that went over your mother. She’s actually alive – more alive than we are. And that’s because two thousand years ago, the real truck of death hit Jesus. And because death crushed Jesus, and we believe in him, now the only thing that can come over us is the shadow of death, and the shadow of death is but my entrance into glory."
This is what David says in Psalm 23 – though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death – I will fear no evil. He is with us, comforting us. Preparing a table for us. Goodness and mercy arefollowing us all the days of our life and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
In your suffering. Don’t look at your loss,look at what you cannot lose. Read Revelation 21:1-7; Revelation 22:1-5; Isaiah 65:17-25. Suffering should remind us that we are sojourner’s, and our response should not be despair and fear, but rather a joyous God - glorifying hope that thrusts us into worship. As Paul said, we are sorrowful, yet always rejoicing (2 Corinthians6:10)
Choose some of the verses above to memorize either individually, with another believer, or with your family.
Questions to ponder:
- Why was it important for Christ to suffer in the flesh?
- Of the list of eight ways to arm ourselves with the mind of Christ, which one resonated the most with you?
- What other Scripture can you think of that talks about the importance of arming or equipping your mind, thoughts, and purposes?
- What is the difference between a worldly definition of hope and a biblical definition of hope?
- In the midst of your own suffering, where do you see areas of your thinking that need to be sanctified?
- Summarize in your own words what it means to have the mindset of Jesus in suffering.