Pursuing your Purpose in the midst of Pain
No great accomplishment comes by accident. No athlete wins gold at the Olympics before putting her body through rigorous training. No amazing feat is a coincidence. There is often a season of struggle, hardship and pain right before you reach your full potential. The higher the purpose, the greater the pain.
The people of Israel had to go through the desert before they entered the Promised Land. David was appointed king, but had to tend sheep and fight off bears and lions before he wore the crown. They had to embrace a season of struggle before they experienced real success.
Jesus is our greatest example. Looking back at his life, we clearly see the purpose of his birth. He came to die. The cross was his goal. His paramount purpose was also his greatest pain. When Jesus first began to tell his disciples about the hardship, pain and death that awaited him they could not understand it. The first believers did what I would have done; they tried to keep Christ away from any kind of suffering. Peter pulled Jesus aside and told him that it will never happen (Matt. 16:22). Jesus firmly rebuked Peter and in no uncertain terms told him to keep quiet. Jesus had his mind made up. He knew the plan of God for his life and he would not allow anything to divert him from accomplishing it.
Later, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus is under deep distress. He knows the hour has come. He is at the threshold of the greatest moment in his life. And he is full of fear. Imagine if you were allowed to stand next to him in his darkest hour. You would see him crumple down as his strength fails him. His facial expression clearly demonstrates a weight of pain beyond description. Pushing himself to his hands and knees Jesus grabs hold of a big rock, pulling himself up, only to lay down flat upon the boulder. His agony grows deeper as drops of blood begin to form on his forehead. Mixing with his sweat and tears, the blood flows down his cheeks, dropping on the cold hard stone underneath him. In the midst of the greatest struggle you have ever witnessed, you hear Jesus whisper: “Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me.” (Mark 14:36)
Knowing what you know today; on the cross Jesus became the atoning sacrifice of our sins. Because of the cross we can be forgiven and have a relationship with God. Knowing all of the above, what would you say to Jesus as he is struggling in the Garden? Surely you would encourage him. With confidence you would tell him that it will all be worth it in the end!
But Jesus disciples still didn’t understand his highest purpose in life. As a mob of priests and soldiers come to arrest Jesus, Peter pulls out a sword and does his utmost to protect his Master. But since Peter is not a great swordfighter, he misses the man’s head by a hair and manages only to cut off his ear. Jesus immediately tells Peter to put his sword away and goes on to heal the wounded soldier. (Sometimes I have secretly hoped that Peters aim would have been better. It would have been cool if Jesus would have put back the servants head the same way he healed his ear.)
It is interesting to compare the difference between the first disciples reaction to Jesus suffering to that of you and me. The early disciples only saw the Pain of the cross. We live in the Purpose of it. Peter could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. We live in that light.
You may be going through a hard time in your life right now. You have been pursuing the plan of God for your life and have hit a rough patch. Maybe the words of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane ring true in your own life. Perhaps you have been on the verge of giving up. Some have even entertained suicidal thoughts as a way out of your current situation. The reason you lack hope is that you only see the Pain Perspective. Like the early disciples, you want to do everything in order to avoid what is ahead of you. But God wants to give you another way of looking at your situation. He wants to give you a Purpose Perspective. He desires to help you see beyond your current struggle. He encourages you to keep your eyes on the light at the end of the tunnel.
Jesus embraced the cross because he saw Gods plan behind it. He realized that it will not be easy, yet he obeyed God. Jesus did not focus on the agony; instead he kept his eyes on the purpose behind the pain. “For the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross.” (Heb.12:2)
I want to encourage you in the midst of your struggle. Keep your eyes on the joy set before you. Keep your eyes on Jesus. That will give everything its proper perspective. When you focus on your God given purpose and goal, you will endure the struggles of life. Your current sacrifice will seem like a small price to pay for the glory that is ahead of you.
Take heart. With God, the purpose is always greater than the pain!
Pastor Pekka Perho
For a message along these lines, listen to “The First Day of the Best Days of Your Life”