by Chad Ashby
There are many reasons we drift.
And pain. If you’ve had kids, you know that one way babies deal with pain is by drifting off to sleep. Sometimes, we deal with pain and suffering the same way.
The author of Hebrews knows that. That’s why, when he’s addressing “those who are to inherit salvation” (Heb 1:14), he pauses mid-sermon to warn us, “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Heb 2:1).
It’s sad, but often we turn our brains off when we hear the word salvation: “Oh yeah, salvation. The cross, Jesus, etc. etc. I know it all by heart. Wake me up when you get to something that’s actually going to help me in my struggles, in my suffering, in my daily life.”
But we cannot drift away, because the preacher has something intensely practical to tell us: What feels like suffering is actually salvation. Suffering–being brought low spiritually, physically, emotionally, in every way–is the means by which God saves us.
How can this be?
Our salvation is wrapped up in the fate of one particular man: Jesus Christ.
When your star quarterback goes down after a hard tackle, everyone holds their breath–because the fate of the team hangs in the balance. And, when you see him lifted up from the turf, waving to the fans and running to the sideline, you breathe a sigh of relief. Why? Because the captain is up, and the team’s fate is secure.
When it comes to what he suffered, Christ our Captain went down–hard (Heb 2:10). Crucified. Buried in the ground. And the whole cosmos held its breath. The fate of the universe, the fate of those who were to inherit salvation–our fate–hung on our Captain. But he got back up. God raised him up forever.
What is important to realize is that this suffering was not a detour in the plan of salvation. The preacher tells us in Hebrews 2:9, “Jesus, the son of man, was crowned with glory and honor because of his suffering.” Suffering made Jesus our glorious King. This is what was foretold hundreds of years before in Psalm 8. The king who would rule over every created thing, to whom God had planned to subject the entire universe, would wear a crown of suffering.
On that dark Friday, what the Roman soldiers meant as humiliation, God meant as exaltation. When they put a crown of thorns on his head, when they put a robe on his shoulders and a staff in his hand, when they bowed down and mocked him in salute, when they beat him, whipped him, stripped him, nailed him to a cross and suspended his dying body between heaven and earth, they meant to lay him low.
But that moment of intense humiliation and suffering was his coronation ceremony.
We do not look away from the cross. The head of Christ beams with glory and honor because of his suffering. The truth is posted above him for all who have eyes to see: King of the Jews. He did not become king after the suffering of death–but because of it. He was made for a short while a little lower than the angels because the cross was where he collected his crown (Heb 2:9).
Brothers and sisters, the same is true for us. God has foreordained before the foundation of the world that you and I should rule the cosmos with Christ. We are “those who are to inherit salvation.” But for a little while, we have to stoop below the angels. For a little while, we have to endure suffering.
Because we have to stoop to pick up our crown.
“For a little while.” It’s not forever. When we come through the other side, when we emerge from the grave, we will be crowned with Christ because of our suffering–not despite it. Paul tells us in Romans 8:17—“[We are] fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
I don’t know what temptations you are facing today. Tempted to apathy. Tempted to doubt. Tempted to despair. Tempted to take matters into your own hands. Tempted to give up. Tempted to drift away.
Brothers and sisters, do not let suffering cause you to drift away. Christ is proof. However you may feel today, know this much is true: What feels like suffering is actually your salvation.
If you’d like to hear the whole sermon click here.
This article first appeared on chadashby.com