In class yesterday, we talked about how seminary life can seem at a distance from front-line ministry, and shielded from its demands. Students can easily miss the cost. We need to be jolted by the reality of “suffering for Jesus.” Aren’t some sufferings inevitably bound up with following Jesus, and expressing his kingdom courage and compassion? Isn’t this what the “sufferings of Christ overflowing into our lives” (2 Cor. 1:5) is all about? On the apostle Paul’s lists of sufferings, most of them could have been avoided by avoiding Christ!
I read to the class a section from J.H. Jowett’s sermon on the sufferings of Christ. (Jowett was a Congregational preacher at the beginning of the twentieth century in England). I think it’s worth blogging:
Now the range of our possible sufferings is determined by the largeness and nobility of our aims. It is possible to evade a multitude of sorrows by the cultivation of an insignificant life. Indeed, if it be a man’s ambition to avoid the troubles of life the receipt is perfectly simple: let him shed his ambitions in every direction. Let him cut the wings of every soaring purpose, and let him assiduously cultivate a little life…. Cultivate deafness and you are saved from the horrors of discords. Cultivate blindness, and you are saved from the assault of the ugly. Stupefy a sense and you shut out a world…that is why so many people, and even so many professedly Christian people, get through life so easily, and with a minimum acquaintance with tribulation. It is because they have reduced their souls to a minimum. Tiny souls can dodge through life; bigger souls are blocked on every side.
God calls us to cultivate significant lives and that means sharing the sufferings of Christ, but also hearing his promise of comfort that overflows (2 Cor 1:5). And this challenge is not just for my students!