Season 3 - Week 6
“Nothing is wasted”
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
“How are you doing now?” my friend asked as we walked in the park.
The friend was the author Adrian Plass, and the incident under discussion was still fresh. After a decade spent trying to start a family—through special diets, healing prayer, numerous rounds of IVF treatment, and an agonising two-year wait on the Australian adoption list—my wife Merryn and I had brought our dream of parenting to an end and moved to England to start our lives again. Merryn’s faith had been sorely tested through the ordeal, and I had left a good career to make the move. But we were now trying to be positive about the future.
“On the whole, we’re doing okay,” I told Adrian. “Merryn has a good job now and doesn’t cry about the past as much. I guess we’re trying to focus on the upside of being childless and the opportunities it brings. You know, like having the freedom to travel.”
“I understand that,” Adrian said, “but that will only take you so far.” We walked a little further before he explained what he meant.
“Think about Jesus hanging on the cross,” he said. “The crucifixion was a dark, barbaric event. There was no ‘upside’ to it. And Jesus never tried to find one. Instead, he did something else entirely. Sheridan, have you ever noticed how many people Jesus ministered to while he hung on the cross? He ministered to his mother. . . .”
“You mean, when he put her in John’s care?” I said.
“That’s right. And he ministered to the thief crucified next to him, and to the people who crucified him. By his attitude and behaviour he ministered to the Roman officer who came to believe in him, and he ministered to us—forgiving our sins through his sacrifice. All of this was done in the middle of Jesus’ suffering, before things came good at his resurrection.”
I hadn’t seen it that way before.
“There may be some benefits in you and Merryn being childless,” Adrian said, “but other times you’ll find it difficult and lonely. If you follow Jesus’ example, out of your suffering will come opportunities to serve people in ways you otherwise never could have.
I didn’t realise it then, but Adrian was doing for me what the writer of Hebrews did for his embattled readers. In the midst of their suffering (in their case, persecution), the writer invites them to reflect more deeply on Jesus to find hope. If they did the same, they too would see their suffering redeemed into righteousness, peace, and rich service.
Jesus suffered unjustly, but treated his hardship as training in tenacity.
Adrian’s wisdom would be quick to bear fruit. Based on his words, I would write Merryn’s and my story into a book which would later help others start again after their own broken dreams. Our suffering would begin to be redeemed.
“For Jesus, crucifixion was a mission field,” Adrian said, wrapping up our walk in the park. “And with him, the fruit of our suffering can be service to others too.”
It’s a lesson that continues to give me hope every day.
With Jesus, nothing is wasted.
Not even our own little crucifixions.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,”so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
Sheridan reflects that seeing his own situation in the light of Jesus' death and resurrection changed his perspective. "With Jesus, nothing is wasted" - in other words, all this is worth it because we know what happens in the end.
We can run this race marked out for us with perseverance (or tenacious hope?) because Jesus has already reached the finished line. Read the beginning of Hebrews 12 to yourself as a reminder.
Sheridan's story is just one example of how faith gives us tenacious hope. Perhaps you can think of others.
Matt & Beth Redman's song, Blessed Be Your Name, is a declaration of intent to praise God on the good days and the bad. In other words, it's a statement of tenacious hope; whether we feel like it or not, God is good, God is worthy of praise, God is faithful.
Looking back at Hebrews 11, Abraham was tenacious because he knew what God had promised. Moses headed tenaciously into the desert towards the promised land because God had already shown that He was faithful when he rescued the Israelites from Egypt. Joshua and his army walked round Jericho knowing that God was powerful because their ancestors had told stories of what He had done before.
Let the things that you know about God be the foundations of your tenacious hope.
"Most High glorious God enlighten the darkness of my heart. Give me Lord, a correct faith, a certain hope, a perfect charity, sense and knowledge, so that I may carry out your holy and true command"