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In Philippians the Apostle Paul described what the Jesus way is all about — really knowing Christ and experiencing the mighty power that raised him from the dead (Philippians 3:10). That message may sound appealing, but what Paul says next throws us off: “I can learn what it means to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that, somehow, I can experience the resurrection from the dead!” (Philippians 3:10-11).
When we read this passage, our reaction may be, “Who signed me up for this team?” But that is what being on Jesus’ team is all about, sharing in his death so that we can experience resurrection life. If we want to experience the power of God’s resurrection, we must first be willing to accept suffering. Embracing the pain of the crucifixion in order to experience the power of the resurrection involves right living, not easy living.
Jesus prayed the same way we all pray when we’re faced with something bad in our lives, whether it’s a cancer diagnosis, job loss, suddenly finding ourselves a single parent. We all pray, “Please, if there’s any way, take this cup—this burden—away from me.” But life doesn’t come from removing cups. When he was praying, Jesus added the biggest “but” of all time: “But God, it’s not what I want, it’s what you want.”
That’s the key question: What do you want? I know what I want, God, but what do you want? We all know what we want: health and happiness for our family, good, strong, marriages, comfortable income, meaningfully belonging to community. But Jesus shows us passionate living: a God who becomes human and then gets crucified—for each one of us. That’s an everything-I’ve-got kind of commitment.
The amazing thing for me is that Jesus didn’t bail out. It would have been a huge temptation for me to drop the whole project, especially when everyone else did. It’s easy to do something when you’re surrounded by a group doing the same thing, but when you’re on your own—the way Jesus was—that’s another thing altogether. He didn’t quit; he didn’t run; he stuck with the future God had laid before him.
We all have times when our lives are filled with frustration, heartache, despair. Jesus understands all of that because he experienced it. But he didn’t allow those experiences to stop him. He stayed focused on who he was and the reason he was here. He was deeply tapped into the source of his life and energy—“My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work” (John 4:34). Even at his most desperate moment, when he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34), even then, Jesus kept his direction.
We have all experienced God’s absence, when we felt as though God was nowhere to be found. Jesus, in the midst of such doubt, kept his direction. Rev. Mike Slaughter once described the amazing truth of Jesus’ passion, saying, “God would rather go to hell for you than go to heaven without you.” Because we are made in God’s image, we’ve got a propensity for passion as well. God didn’t make us for tepid living, lukewarm or in the middle; we were made for total commitment.