I know that many of us at Hope Church have been struck and moved recently as we've been following the Lord Jesus in Mark's Gospel as He approaches the Cross. His resolve, His courage, His faith and His humility all shine out in the enveloping darkness. He is betrayed, arrested, deserted, mocked, tried, lied about, and sent to a criminal's death. In all of this, reflects the Apostle Peter, 'Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps' (1 Peter. 2.21).
'Christ suffered for you.' By God's grace, we rightly understand the Cross as the suffering of Jesus for us. 'Christ for us' is the heart of the message of the Cross. He made atonement for our sins. But Peter here focuses on another aspect of Christ's suffering: it is our example. The whole New Testament is clear, we will suffer, if we are true disciples. Peter's message is that when we suffer, we have an example. It's Jesus Himself. Jesus trusted in His Father's will, and in His Father's justice. Because He trusted, He could suffer. Because He remembered who was in ultimate control, and that His own life was to be one of submission, He could embrace even the most appalling suffering.
This is our example. Can we do it? Will we? Do we have the faith and the courage to look on our trials as those sent in loving wisdom by our Heavenly Father? And will we seek His strength to keep honouring the Father, as Jesus did? Frustration is not an option, neither is complaining. Self-righteous anger at our suffering never achieves God's will (compare James 1.20). Only humble, persevering trust through suffering shows that we're following Jesus' example. And if this is the path we commit to, we will find the Spirit's ample help.
Some words from the peerless John Flavel on this subject:
'Christian patience, or the grace of patience, is an ability to suffer hard and heavy afflictions, according to the will of God. It is a glorious power, that strengthens the suffering soul to bear. It is our passive fortitude: 'strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness' (Col. 1.11); that is, strengthened with the might of power of God Himself.
God hath several kinds of burdens to impose upon His people. Some heavier, others lighter; some to be carried but a few hours, others many days, others all our days; some more spiritual bearing upon the soul; some more external, touching the flesh immediately and the spirit by way of sympathy; and sometimes both kinds are laid on together. So they were at this time on Christ. His soul full of the bitter sense of apprehension of the wrath of God; His body filled with tortures; in every members and sense grief took up its lodging. Here was the highest exercise of patience.'
John Flavel, Sermon on Isaiah 53.7, in the series 'The Fountain of Life.'