“For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Here’s an important principle that radiates from the pages of the New Testament: If we do what Jesus did, we will experience what Jesus did. Put another way: If we walk the path Jesus did, we will receive what Jesus did. This is at one and the same time incredibly challenging and also incredibly encouraging.
The challenge is twofold. Doing what Jesus did is really hard. In fact, it is sufficiently difficult that we cannot manage it on our own. There’s a new sitcom on CBS called “Living Biblically.” It’s about a guy who, after experiencing a couple of life-shaking events, decides he’s going to get his life in order by striving to do just what the title says. He’s going to do everything the Bible says.
The first episode was humorous, but theologically pathetic. The writers rather lazily swiped at low hanging fruit for easy laughs and reflected that neither they nor their main character understood the Bible at all. They even included an embarrassingly shallow Catholic priest. Hopefully they will put him in more significant situations going forward. The preview for episode two, though, didn’t give me much confidence. The bigger point is that none of us can accomplish such a thing and end up anywhere other than a stifling legalism without the Spirit’s help.
The other part of the challenge is that when we lean into His help and begin to do what Jesus did with some success, we will begin to be treated like He was. More to the point, Jesus wasn’t treated very well. If we start looking like Him at all, neither will we be. There’s a reason Jesus told His followers to count the cost. He didn’t want anyone to sign up for His path unless and until they realized what it would entail. It would not be an easy ticket to a better life. It would lead to a more abundant life, but the path to that end would be littered with challenges and hardships.
This is where the encouragement here kicks into gear. If we do life as Jesus did, we will receive the help and support from the Holy Spirit that He did as well. Jesus made clear that He was able to do all the things that He did only because of the indwelling help of the Father through the Spirit. When we set ourselves firmly on the same path, we can expect the same thing to happen in us. We can expect that our God will empower us to overcome any obstacle that stands in our way. We can expect Him to multiply our ministry. We can expect Him to strengthen us to stand firm against the fiercest storms of life and to keep pushing forward toward the kingdom no matter the amount of persecution we receive along the way.
As Paul says here, if we walk the path of His sufferings in pursuit of His kingdom, we can fully expect to receive the encouragement He received along the way as well. If we do what Jesus did, we will get what Jesus got. That won’t always be fun in the moment, but it will always be good. It will always lead to life. Start following so that you can start living.