Are you counted among those who are suffering? Have you suffered in the past? Do you see imminent suffering in the future? Maybe it is relational – a marital difficulty or betrayal, an angry sibling, a misunderstanding in-law. Maybe it is financial – loss of hours or a layoff, a bad business deal, a poor investment. Maybe it is personal – poor health or a chronic illness, a mind that never seems to rest, an unending sense of despair. I don’t know what it is today in terms of your own story; however, I do know that suffering hurts! There is nothing easy or simple about going through struggles. Unbearable pain. Stale solutions. Simplistic answers. Worn platitudes.
Sometimes when we are under the heavy travail of pressure-filled circumstances and bear the daily burdens of life, the gospel falls on deaf ears and a calloused heart. Someone may try to help us by quoting a Bible verse, tell us “God understands,” or share a personal story of misery. Yet, we fail to see any relevance to our current problem – and even worse, maybe mumble under our breath, “Yeah, if you believe that stuff.” If that is where you are, please know that you are not alone. Many people feel the same way. The line is long throughout history of individuals who struggle in their struggle. We do not have to look past the Old Testament to begin a very long list of folks similar to you like Moses, Elijah, Job, and Asaph. My guess is, you are also like them in that, you did not wake up one morning and determine you wanted a hard heart toward God in your suffering.
Friend in suffering, the resurrection provides hope.
The Resurrection Is Central To Our Hope!
As Paul concludes his letter to the Corinthians, he discusses the resurrection. Paul understood that the Corinthians needed to think right about the resurrection if they were going to live right. That is no different for you today either. If you hope to make it through this time of intense pain and confusion, it is also necessary for you to see the significance of the resurrection. There are four key ideas related to the resurrection from 1 Corinthians 15 for you to remember in the midst of your suffering.
Paul declares the resurrection of Jesus. He reviews with the Corinthians all that took place after the death of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-11). He uses a variety of evidences to make his case but initially starts with the ultimate foundation of the Scriptures. He reminded them that Jesus died for their sins, was buried, and rose again according to the Scriptures. Jesus was seen by Cephas, the disciples, by over 500 at once, James, all the apostles and Paul as well. Paul makes it clear that many who saw Jesus were still alive even as he wrote the letter.
Why is this important? Simply stated: it is a reminder to you of the reality of the resurrection. Paul declares it to be true because it is true. It was prophesied and reported in the Scriptures, plus he refers to hundreds and hundreds who recognized its truth as well. Today, you need to contemplate this as well. Under the shock and awe of constant pressure, it is so easy to doubt whether or not anything you’ve believed in the past is true. You have honest disappointment and can’t get past the thought, “If God is real and truly loves us, then why would God allow me to be so disappointed?” Friend, Paul reminds you today that it is true. He saw the resurrected Jesus. Hundreds saw the resurrected Jesus. It is true.
Paul explains the importance of the resurrection of Jesus (vv. 12-19). The resurrection of Jesus essentially changes everything. Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we can have confidence in the resurrection of the dead as Jesus taught. In fact, if there is no resurrection, then our whole faith collapses – which means there is no hope. Without a resurrection we lose confidence in the gospel, our faith, what the apostles have written, our salvation, and life after death. All hope is gone if we place our faith in a Christ without eternal benefits. Paul exclaims that we would be most pitiful or utterly foolish if that were the case. But it’s not.
Paul provides the benefits of the resurrection of Jesus (vv. 20-34). Jesus in His resurrection is the first of all creation to be resurrected similar to Him. Jesus conquered death in the resurrection; his victory is shared with all of us who follow Him. Death was passed universally to all men through Adam’s sin; life is provided to all followers of Christ in Christ. Paul explained that death is the final enemy of every person and death’s defeat demonstrates Christ’s ultimate victory. This reality serves to motivate the follower of Christ. Again, if this were not true, and if we did not have hope of a future resurrection ourselves, then why not act like one without a relationship to Christ that says, “Let’s just eat and drink, do whatever we want, since tomorrow we die?” Rather though since it is true, we live today in recognition of the realities of the resurrection and with hope for life after death with God.
Paul switches our focus from here and now to a future day (vv. 35-58). Paul finishes his discussion of the resurrection by transitioning our gaze from this life to the next life. He briefly explains how Christ provides everything we need for eternity. Where we are made after Adam, as Christ-followers, now we bear Christ’s image. As we face death, we will be changed from an Earth-bound person to a Heaven-bound person. Death loses. He exclaims, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (vv. 57-58).
Friend, God desires for you to transition your focus from the here and now where you feel your suffering, live in your suffering, and think about your suffering to focus instead on Who Christ is, what Christ has done, and what Christ provides for you. Christ’s resurrection means that you have hope of change – both now and in the future. Your hope now is in your life in Christ. Because the gospel is true and our faith is grounded in the Scriptures, our hope today is not worthless; instead, our hope is in the power of Christ to help us persevere even in the darkest of hours. Your future hope is in your life in Christ too. When this life is over, eternal life wins. You move from this life to the next in Christ’s victory.
Sin has lost its power over you. Death has lost its sting. The grave no longer wins. The glorious hope of the gospel means that you are in the middle of transition even now in your suffering from this life to the next life. Jesus’ physical resurrection proves that you in time will experience the same victory Jesus found. Jesus felt His suffering. Jesus lived in His suffering. Jesus thought about His suffering. However, Jesus kept the end in mind. Jesus was not overwhelmed by his current struggle because He knew Who God is, what God has done, and what God provides. He knew the Father and could respond to His suffering victoriously. You know Jesus through the gospel and can respond to your suffering in victory.
Life is hard. You may not feel like persevering. Jesus persevered though, and you can in Christ. Let me suggest a few beginning steps:
- Meditate on the truth of the resurrection. Jesus wins. Death has been defeated. We don’t have to live for this life but instead can live for a guaranteed future life.
- Begin your day by looking toward the east and consider the sun’s declaration of the glory of God. Remember that someday Christ will return in the clouds. Ask God to help you remember His long-term plans for you that include victory over all suffering.
- Reflect on your position in Christ. Enjoy Christ. Don’t overanalyze your situation and concerns. Take time to enjoy the fact that you are forgiven, loved, and have the presence of Christ in your pressure-filled circumstances.
- Spend time in God’s Word. Not long, just time. Read a psalm. Spend time in Ephesians. Read about Jesus in the Gospels.
- Pray. Tell Christ about it. Instead of telling yourself about how bad you have it, how much you don’t understand, and how bad you feel, turn your thoughts to Christ. Tell Him. He’ll listen. He loves. He cares. He provides grace.
The resurrection made an impact in history – your history, my history, the world’s history. Please take advantage of the resurrection to your benefit even in the midst of your suffering. Take a moment to grasp a breath of hope from Christ and the resurrection in your suffocating circumstances. Have hope – your faithfulness to Christ is not in vain.