Connect with Skip Heitzig - Week of December 8

December 8, 2017

A Reason for Every "Ouch!"

By Skip Heitzig

Ouch is a common expression of pain. It announces to the world that you're experiencing some sort of suffering. And when you experience suffering, you typically think about little else but your pain and how to get rid of it. But I want suggest to you that there's a very real purpose and reason for the suffering you experience.

Let's read Peter's words to persecuted, suffering believers in 1 Peter 3:18-22: "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient…. There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism…through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him."

There are four different things in these verses that marked the path of Jesus' suffering and also apply to us: His crucifixion, His resurrection, His proclamation, and His exaltation.

First is Jesus' crucifixion: "Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit" (v. 18). Now, if ever there was anyone who suffered and died an excruciating death for doing nothing wrong and doing everything right, it was Jesus Christ.

Peter was essentially offering a perspective check: as much as we might suffer, most of us will never experience anything like what Jesus experienced. And what good was His suffering? "That He might bring us to God." The very worst thing that happened—the death of God—became the very best thing that could happen—reconciliation with God. Suffering in the hands of a loving God can bring great benefit.

That's because Jesus' crucifixion and death led to, number two, His resurrection (see v. 21). His resurrection ensures eternal life—our permanent state. As Paul said in Romans 8:18, "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." In other words, if you're a believer, this world is the closest you'll ever get to hell—and it's temporary! The coming glory of heaven is permanent, and it's all because of Jesus' resurrection and victory over death.

The third thing that marked the path of Jesus' suffering was His proclamation: "[Jesus] went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient" (1 Peter 3:19-20). This is one of the most difficult verses to understand in the New Testament, but let me simply convey what I think it says: while Jesus physically died and His body remained in the tomb for three days, His spirit was very much alive and preached a sermon to spirits—namely, demons—in the spirit realm.

I'm guessing Jesus gave them an announcement of His victory over death, something like, "Satan no longer has the kind of power and grip he once had on the world; I've made sure of that by what I just did on cross." For believers, this means that God has power over our suffering—over whatever it is Satan uses to block our greater good.

The fourth and final mark of Jesus' suffering was His exaltation: "[He] has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him" (v. 22). Jesus ascended, He's exalted, He's the supreme authority, and one day, He's going to bring you with Him to heaven.

So yes, Jesus suffered, and yes, His suffering led to a painful death, but after His crucifixion came proclamation, resurrection, and exaltation. The very worst thing that happened became the very best thing that could happen. And what happened in the life of Christ happens for the follower of Christ: your suffering is all for a glorious reason. I encourage you to renew your trust in the Lord today, knowing that He'll weave together all the elements of your life, both good and bad, into a purpose far higher than you can fathom on this side of eternity.

Copyright © 2017 by Connection Communications. All rights reserved.

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