“(14) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, (15) that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.“ (John 3:14-15)
John 3:14-15 helps us gain focus and perspective when suffering. Some have been abused and want the Bible to give hope that their abuser will go to jail for his crimes. Some have been deeply and painfully betrayed and want the Bible to give hope that their friend will repent and seek reconciliation and all will be made right again. Some have lost fortunes and want the Bible to give hope that they will be prosperous again. Some are dying and want the Bible to give hope that they have years left on this earth.
But the truth is we are hoping in the wrong things. I can’t promise he will face jail time. I can’t promise your spouse or friend will repent and return. I can’t promise faithfulness leads to riches. I can’t promise you healthy years. But, if those are your ultimate hopes, you are hoping in the wrong things.
But, what I can promise you is that Jesus will be exalted. If you are a Christian, that is enough. The pathway to peace and happiness is not through finding justice, reconciliation, wealth, and health on this earth. Rather, joy is found in the depths of your soul not in your outer circumstances. Might sound odd, but God-the-Father and God-the-Spirit found happiness in God-the-Son. Their pleasure was found in lifting Jesus up?!
John Pitman was committed to get Jesus up, even when suffering. Pitman was a Revolutionary War hero who got converted and became a Reformed Baptist pastor in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Pitman’s life was marked by many forms of suffering. He survived a violent war. He buried his wife and young daughter on the same day. He faced financial ruin, losing his business and livelihood. He longed to be in ministry but the door really didn’t open for him till late in life.
At the end of his life he became very ill and knew the end was near. Jesus was Pitman’s desire, and as he neared the end he wrote:
“Let us adore the rich grace of God in calling us in early life, in keeping us by his power through faith unto the present time, in still making us his care, in enabling us to bear testimony to the truth and its glorious effects in old age, and in all circumstances…Should we have a hard battle with the last enemy that is to be destroyed, it will be very short, and then we shall be more than conquerors through him that loved us, and enjoyed his presence forever…It is a blessing to be tried, a blessing to be delivered, a blessing to have a grateful heart for both.”
Then, on the day he died, he wrote:
“In a short time our glass will be out, and the sands run low; not far distant is the change to which all other changes were directed, and the afflicting portion of them will add an eternal weight of glory to the soul. Let these things animate us to run with patience the race set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of God, whose intercession is prevalent for all that love and obey him.”
Friends, we don’t need earthly justice, we don’t need need all things to be made right here and now, we don’t need wealth, and we don’t need long healthy years. But, what we do need is to see Jesus exalted. Today, as you pray, confess to Jesus areas of your life where you are not seeking to exalt Jesus. Confess if he is not your greatest desire. Believe again that there is nothing, and I mean nothing, greater than him. Believe again that your greatest joys will be found as you lift him up in your heart and life.