Suffering for Someone Else

Based on: Romans 9:1-5

A few years ago I had the privilege of meeting a brave little girl who had leukemia.  She was only 8 years old and yet, the amount of pain and suffering that she had endured in her short life was more than many adults that I know.  I am sure that many times her father wished that he could endure the pain for her.  If God would let him he would have gladly taken that burden off of his daughter and placed it on himself.

If you have ever watched someone whom you love suffer while you stand by unable to help, then perhaps you know what this father was experiencing and perhaps you understand a little about the anguish the apostle Paul experienced.

The apostle Paul certainly understood what it was like to receive good things from God.  He had seen in his own life how God had blessed him.  In the first part of his life the apostle Paul had tried to destroy God’s church, but God showed mercy to Paul and showed Paul that Jesus was his Savior. He gave Paul the privilege of telling others about their Savior Jesus.

In the first eight chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul describes how all of us need a Savior.  We have all sinned and deserve eternal punishment in hell.  Paul also describes how God loved us so much that he sent Jesus to take the punishment that we deserve.  In Chapter 8, that section right before the verses I just read, Paul describes blessing upon blessing that we receive because of Christ and through faith in Christ.

Paul says "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," and "our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Even more, "the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express," and, "in all things God works for the good of those who love him." He continues, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" and, "in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." We have the promise that “nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

All of those beautiful words of comfort come before this section that we are looking at today where Paul says, "I wish my fellow Israelites would share in those blessings." Paul wanted all of his kinsmen to know God’s grace as he had come to know it.

If any nation should have come to know Christ as their Savior, it should have been Israel.  They had God’s promises from the Old Testament prophets.  They had the temple worship that pointed to Christ.  They had God’s promise of his presence among them.  They even had Christ himself walking among them.

Even with all those blessings, the people of Israel were suffering.  They were suffering spiritually.  Just like so many people in our world today who do not know Christ as their Savior, the Israelites were burdened with their own sin.  Many people today and at Paul’s time don’t know or don’t care how they have offended God.  That means that even if they don’t feel like they are suffering now, they will suffer tremendously when God judges their soul.

What tremendous love Paul had for his brother Israelites.  He wanted them to experience God’s grace and the comfort of God’s word here in this life, and he wanted them to avoid the suffering of hell.  Paul was in anguish as he watched his fellow Israelites suffer and die spiritually.  He was even willing to take on their suffering so that they could have his joy.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone had love for their fellow human beings just as the apostle Paul had.  If only we would love our neighbor, even our enemies, as Jesus commands, then we would also be in anguish when we see them suffer spiritually and it would cause us pain to know that without Christ they will suffer forever in hell.  It would cause us grief, but there is something we can do about it.  To tell people about Jesus and to perhaps, through the gospel, rescue them from hell is the greatest display of love that we can show another individual.

Really, it takes very little time and effort to share that precious message with someone.  You simply talk about our sin and God’s love.  You say, “We have disobeyed God’s commands, and out of love, God punished Jesus instead of us.  Now we will enjoy heaven instead of hell.”

The simple message of the gospel takes very little time to communicate, and yet we often don’t think about it or for some reason, we don’t do it.  Perhaps we know that to tell others about the Gospel means that sometimes we will suffer.  Telling others about Jesus means we might suffer ridicule.  Letting our light shine might mean that people don’t take us seriously.  Spreading the Gospel has even caused Christians to lose their jobs, their reputation, their lives, and more.

Do you see a problem with that?  Do you feel like saying, “Lord, I already suffer enough on my own.  Why should I suffer more just to bring others into the church?  Isn’t it enough that I believe?”

It really goes against our nature, doesn’t it, to suffer in order to benefit someone else, especially someone we don’t know.  It takes love for others. Sometimes it happens, we are willing to suffer a little to help someone else, but think about all the times we try to avoid suffering.  We don’t show that love that God commands us to have.  To not carry out God’s commands is sin, and that means we also need God’s grace.

That’s why God did for whole world what to Paul wanted to do for his Israelite brothers.  Before God brought us to faith we were suffering with our sin, and we had no idea the suffering that we would have to endure in hell.  God looked down on the human race.  He saw the suffering that sin caused in our lives, and he knew the suffering that we would have to endure eternally as a consequence for that sin.  His love for us is so great that he did not want us to endure that suffering. But unlike the earthly father of a sick child, He did more than just wish he could take our place. He actually did take our place.  In the person of Jesus Christ, God took our place and lived a perfect life that we could not live. Then He took on himself the suffering we deserved.  Jesus Christ told his heavenly Father, "Condemn me instead of these people." And God did.

Because God suffered in our place all of those promises and all of those comforting words in Romans Chapter 8 that I mentioned earlier are all ours to cherish.  We will never undergo suffering because of our sin.  What a wonderful comfort that is for us and what a wonderful comfort we can share with those around us, a wonderful comfort that we can share with the world!

Amen.

 

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