Partakers in Suffering

Jan Hus was bound to the stake with a sooty chain wrapped around his neck. Wood was piled to his chin. Hundereds of men, women and children thronged restlessly.

Hus was given one final chance to save his life by recanting all his "error and heresies". A pause fell over the meadow, then Hu's voice could be heard clearly: "God is my witness that... the principal intenion of my preaching and all of my other acts or writings was solely that I might turn men from sin. And in that truth of the Gospel that I wrote, taught and preached in accordance with the sayings and expositions of the holy doctors, I am willing gladly to die today."

An audible murmur rippled. The signal was given. The executioner set the pyre ablaze. From the smoke and flames that shot upward into the summer sky, Hus's voice could be heard once more, this time in song; "Jesus, son of the living God, have mercy on me."

In the midst of the billowing flames, witnessed by an incredulous crowd, Master Jan Hus sang these words three times. He died singing

Hus is one of the many leaders in the great history of God's great church whose willingness to follow Christ into the blaze of suffering should stand as an inspiration to all Christ followers, especially as we contemplate this the most holiest of weeks. As our hearts and minds are turned toward the Passion of Christ and Good Friday it seems right that we contemplate our own relationships to the call to "co-sufferer" that is so prevalent in God's instruction to the church found in His word.

It's interesting to note the conversation in Matthew 20 between Jesus and the sons of Zebedee, James and John when they expressed their desire to be given places of honor next to Christ in Heaven. He clarified that those positions were not His to give but responded to their request by asking; "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?" This question carries with it significant implications of suffering when you look at it in light of Christ's words to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane found in Matthew 26:

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

It's clear from this reference that he was calling his followers to the "cup of suffering" that he would endure and it becomes even clearer when we view the instructions to the church from Peter (1 Peter 2, 3, 4), Paul (Romans 5 and 8, 2 Corinthians 1, Philippians 3, and others) and James (James 5). And in this regard they were not disappointed as each of the disciples endured persecution and even martyrdom save John the Beloved.

The call to suffering as followers of Christ is nothing more then the call to follow Christ. We see clearly in His life and His work the spiritual responsibility to endure hardship for the sake of the glory of God and the salvation of His people. This is the road Christ walked and to follow Him requires us also to trod that path. Fortunately for us in the United States, thus far, we have not been called to the level of suffering endured by Jesus, the disciples or Jan Hus but that does not mean we are exempt from the responsibility of sacrifice for the glory of our King. The needs of others require us to endure at times heartache, mistreatment and sacrifice so that the face and heart of Christ will be revealed through our lives. At times we are led down the path of pain and suffering so that we may show others the grace given to God's children to endure brokenness and yet not deny Christ.

This holy season graciously calls us to examine not simply the suffering face of our Savior but to reflect on our own willingness to endure for the sake of Christ. It provides us the opportunity to ask ourselves the questions posed by Oswald Chambers:

Are we partakers of Christ’s sufferings? Are we prepared for God to stamp out our personal ambitions? Are we prepared for God to destroy our individual decisions by supernaturally transforming them? It will mean not knowing why God is taking us that way, because knowing would make us spiritually proud. We never realize at the time what God is putting us through— we go through it more or less without understanding. Then suddenly we come to a place of enlightenment, and realize— “God has strengthened me and I didn’t even know it!”