“He makes tactical retreats in order to win strategic victories.” – John Piper (pg. 33)
Wouldn’t the forces of evil celebrate when Jesus broke breath on the cross? They certainly would have. But that is the thing with God, His ways are higher than our ways – and His way to victory is through apparent defeat. “What an unlikely route to victory” Piper exclaimed. (pg. 34) Indeed it is. And these ‘tactical retreats to strategic victories’ is more apparently seen in Joseph’s life. He was first, disowned by his family, second, sold as a slave, third, wrongly accused, fourth, locked in prison. Joseph’s life is nowhere near to our definition of blessed. But little did we know, Joseph’s misfortunes were ordained by our Sovereign God to raise him as an authoritative figure. God raised Joseph up (in Egypt) to deliver Israel through famine. What looked like a lost life, was a divinely ordained ‘tactical retreat to a strategic victory’.
Piper notes: “But that is God’s way — even for his Son. He emptied himself and took the form of a slave. Worse than a slave — a prisoner — and was executed.” (pg. 34) “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Php 2:9-10, ESV) But most importantly, this is also what God desires from us; that we suffer along with Him to Glory. “And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” (Rom 8:17, NLT)
Albert Barnes writes, “It does not mean that we suffer to the same extent that he did, but we may imitate him in the kind of our sufferings, and in the spirit with which they are borne; and thus show that we are united to him.” In other words, suffering with Christ is not a matter of degree or likeness to what Christ suffered for us. It is also not about repaying our gratitude to Him. But suffering with Christ is a practical demonstration of our unity in Him – that we think like Him, and be like Him; that we are thinking like Him, and being like Him.
Suffering with Christ is not about seeking conflict with non-believers, or with people who believe differently than you. Suffering with Christ is about those setbacks in life that comes with seeking righteousness, and holiness. In other words, this suffering is about pursuing godliness in a godless world. This suffering is about seeking and serving Christ, the Church, and His Kingdom in a world that despises Christ, the Church, and His Kingdom. The Apostle Paul echoes these sentiments in his letter to Timothy. I suggest reading the entire second chapter of his second letter. But I’ll quote a few scriptures from it here, to paint a brief picture of what I am saying. And I quote: “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus… Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead… as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal… Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” (2Timothy 2:3, 8-13, ESV)
But why are we talking about something so somber as suffering during Christmas? Because trouble never takes an appointment to visit us. And if, we are truly of Christ, we ought to be ever expecting of such suffering. (Jn 15:19) We celebrate the birth of Christ, because He comes to adopt us in His family. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Gal 4:4-5, ESV) And since, we are adopted, we become His. And since we are His, we are also bound to suffer for His cause. But the crux, and the matter of all these points I am making is to tell you this: Yes. If we are Christ’s, we are bound to suffer. But we shouldn’t fret. Because, this suffering in God’s way, is the unlikely route to victory. “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.” (1Peter 4:12-13, ESV)
Note: All of Piper’s quotations are from “Good News of Great Joy”
Read previous entries in this Series:
(i) Introduction: What Christ wants this Christmas (ii) December 1: Prepare the Way (iii) December 2: Mary’s Magnificent God (iv) December 3: The Confidence of Redeeming Hope (v) December 4: A Big God for Little People (vi) December 5: What He Willed to do (vii) December 6: Peace to those with whom He is pleased (viii) December 7: Messiah of all (ix) December 8: Christ is Central in Christmas(x) December 9: Two Kinds of Oppositions (xi) December 10: Our Treasure (xii) December 11: Why Jesus came (xiii) December 12: Replacing the Shadows (xiv) December 13: Christ, the Real Thing, the Perfect Priest (xv) December 14: Making Transformation Real (xvi) December 15: Abundant Life