On Easter Sunday, I preached a message about olives. Not your typical message by any stretch of the imagination, but something I felt strongly about after diving into the text. I was preaching on the fact that Jesus went to Gethsemane to pray on the night before his crucifixion. Gethsemane in Hebrew means “oil press”. And since it was located on the Mount of Olives, it was literally the olive oil press. You can listen to the sermon below by skipping to around the 30 minute mark of the video.
One of the things I wanted to tease out a little more was about how when we are pressed by the circumstances of life, like an olive in the oil press, what is truly happening is that we are sharing or taking part in Christ’s sufferings. We are actually identifying with him in the oil press.
“That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
Paul wants to identify with Christ in his sufferings. What does that mean? It means he believes that as he suffers in this life, he is becoming more like Christ. Now, this is the opposite of how we believe. We believe that if we are suffering, God must be against us. Paul says, no. If you are suffering, you are becoming more like Christ through your suffering.
This concept is so foreign to us. Every time I suffer from something – a sickness, a setback, a broken relationship – God is working in me. He is trying to produce something through me. I may try to fight it. I may want the suffering to end, but God is doing what is best for me in that situation. He is a good father and is trying to get me to produce something for him. The question is what is He trying to get me to produce?
“For our light and momentary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that is far beyond comparison.”
1st Corinthians 4:17
God is trying to produce glory in us. As we suffer, no matter how small or how big the suffering actually is, as we suffer, God is producing glory for himself in that suffering. Paul says all of our suffering, in view of eternity, is light and momentary. It is small compared to eternity. But, it is not meaningless. Our suffering, like Christ’s at the cross, has purpose. God is doing something in us. He is wanting to produce a glory that is beyond comparison through us.
Not to go back to the verse in Philippians, Paul gives us hope. He believes that if we are partake in the sufferings of Christ, we will also partake in His resurrection. If we become like Him in our sufferings, we will as be like him when we are resurrected. To put it another way, if our sufferings produce glory in us, God is going to redeem those sufferings when he resurrects us. In a practical sense, when we have suffered well, God uses that to encourage others and to breath life into other people who are suffering as you did.
And just like the oil press and the infamous third pressing I talked about in my sermon, God will use every single drop of suffering in your life if you allow Him to. Not one moment of your suffering will be wasted. He will redeem every moment. He will use every moment to touch another life. So if you have found yourself in a place of suffering or you have suffered in your past, look for God to use that and hold on to the promise that if we join with Christ in His sufferings, we will also join with Him in His resurrection.