Lent begins on Wednesday, March 6 with our Ash Wednesday service at 7 pm. I hope you will attend and receive the ashes on your forehead, the traditional sign of joining with Christ in his walk to the cross.
The focus of Lent is Jesus’ suffering and eventual death for our salvation. Lent focuses us away from self and on Jesus, whose life becomes for us a model of how to patiently endure suffering with God’s help. How was our Savior enabled to walk to the cross knowing what great pain awaited him? The scripture reveals to answers which will be an encouragement to us also as we experience trials and troubles.
1. Jesus was confident in God’s grace and power to help him. Our Savior began his public ministry with the temptations of Satan. Those temptations were designed by the devil to make Jesus deny the purpose for which God sent him—to bring salvation to humanity. The nature of the 3 temptations makes this clear. Satan tempted the Lord to become …
· Just a provider of physical bread
· Just a miracle worker instead of
· Just an earthly king
But Jesus resisted and held firm in his mission to atone for the sins of the world.
Just before his temptation, God had spoken to him at his baptism at the Jordan River: “You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) In other words, “I am with you and you have my blessing and empowering.” With every step towards the cross, Satan stepped up his attack on Jesus. But God also infused Jesus with extra strength and grace. So, he could walk to the cross knowing the Father would bring him through to Resurrection.
Are you struggling? God will strengthen you to walk through it. The Bible says, “But God said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” God’s power will rest on you just as it rested on Christ. Don’t despair but trust in God’s power.
2. Jesus knew the reward at the end would be worth the struggle. By faith the Lord knew that our salvation would result from his suffering and sacrificial death. The cross would bring forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all believers. “For the joy that was set before him, Jesus endured the cross and despised the same of it.” (Hebrews 12: 2) Our Savior saw a great purpose in his death, which was to reconcile us to God. That made the struggle worth it.
Sometimes we can’t see what good might come out of our struggles. At the time it’s just hard. This story taken from the headlines illustrates this. There was a pothole in a neighborhood of Toronto that went unfixed for a long time. It became an irritant to the residents who had to drive either around the pothole or sometimes bump over it. Repeated requests to have it fixed went unheeded. Then one day one of the residents noticed something. He saw weeds growing out of it. Then he looked closer. They weren’t weeds, but they were tomato plants. It seems that a mischievous resident had planted tomatoes in the pothole. And since the city didn’t fill in the hole, the plants continued to grow.
Then the whole neighborhood got in on it. They staked up the plants so that they wouldn’t fall over. They bore tomatoes and nearby residents took turns picking the tomatoes. Then the seasons changed and the tomatoes died. So the residents planted different crops. This pothole-turned-community-garden was tended by the residents on a rotating schedule. It actually became the focal point for neighborhood gatherings. People got to know each other as they tended the pothole garden.
The garden made the news and soon people came from miles around to see it and meet the neighborhood gardeners. The city saw the value of it and erected barriers around it to keep cars away. It finally became an official community garden which brought people together in friendship and with a common purpose—to garden.
A terrible pothole that everybody despised ended up becoming a thing of beauty and purpose. Good things often come from bad circumstances.
If you’re struggling, God can make something beautiful out of that. If you will trust him, he’ll reward your patience with something bigger and better than you thought possible. He will bless you through your problems when you ask him to.
The cross of Christ was a terrible injustice. The sinless Son of God endured unspeakable pain and agony. The Savior repeatedly told the disciples to have faith because after the cross would come an empty tomb. After crucifixion day would come Easter and resurrection. Jesus knew this and it kept him strong through his struggles. On Easter day, the disciples saw that the Lord was right. God brought good out of evil.
“For we know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8: 28) God loves you and will bring good out of your struggles just as he did for his Son. Trust him.
--Pastor Ken Shick