Suffering in God

What does it look like to walk with God through suffering? Quite often, when a major crisis or trial hits, we are thrown off balance by it. It tests the reality of our faith when we encounter it.

Are you going through a blistering trial right now?

Have you felt alone or discouraged in your situation?

Hebrews was written to a community of believers who had become discouraged at the looming threat of persecution and had begun to ask, where is God now? Their confidence in Christ had begun to waver so that they suffered from a loss of vision, and a consequent loss of hope.

The writer knows that if he is to help this community regain confidence, they must understand how it is that their confession of faith is relevant to what they are facing.

He seeks to give his readers a vision that can restore their confidence in Christ and help them rediscover the tremendous resources available to them. He does this by embedding their story in the larger narrative of God’s speech, which climaxes with the Son. He retells their story, but relating it to the redemptive journey of Christ that uniquely equipped him to advocate for them in the deepest of waters. By relating their story to the redemptive journey of Christ he also reminds them of their true identity.

The imagery of the wilderness is significant to understanding the larger plot theme of Hebrews (eschatological exodus). The word “archegos” is one who goes on ahead of others and leads the way (trans. “pioneer,” or “captain”). Archegos is used of Jesus two times in Hebrews. The first instance is Hebrews 2:10, which is related to the larger problem of humanity in a state of exile. Jesus is the representative leader of humanity who enters into suffering by becoming human and enduring temptation and suffering. He is then cast as the Divine Warrior who comes and rescues we who are held in bondage to the fear of death through Satan’s power (Heb. 2:10-16). This imagery harkens back to God leading people out of Egypt and delivering them from their enemies whose aggressive pursuit evoked the fear of death.

Jesus is the true Champion (archegos) who has overcome death and established the new covenant. He is the True Israel, who succeeded in opening the way of entrance into the Land (glory). His fulfillment of the types and promise of the new covenant are the evidence that God is faithful to His promises – and that eternal rest is a certain reality for those who persevere in hope.

Though we must journey through the “wilderness” that He passed through, we have a model of what overcoming faith looks like in suffering.

The second use of archegos is an exhortation to turn our gaze toward Jesus, the archegos and perfecter of faith (model), who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at God’s right hand (Heb. 12:2-3). The vision is a vision of Christ who learned obedience through what He suffered and, having achieved the Rest, is bringing many sons and daughters to glory, where we too, will cease from struggle. Since He has drawn near to you, you can now draw near to Him for grace to persevere through your struggle (see Heb. 4:14-16), that you may image His likeness in your sufferings.

This is our vision and our mission – to testify to His mission, even in suffering.

About the Author

Jeffrey Monk

Jeffrey Monk

Jeffrey J. Monk serves on the adjunct faculty in New Testament, bringing a unique combination of scholarship and practical experience, including as a pastoral counselor. He is a Ph.D. Candidate at Westminster Theological Seminary, and has been a counselor at Redeemer Counseling Services in NYC since 2007. Jeffrey is a teaching assistant to Dr. William Edgar in Cultural Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary where he has taught both NT Greek and Biblical Theology II. He is a contributor to the Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary ed. by Tremper Longman III.


0 #3 Jeffrey Monk 2014-01-13 17:12
Quoting R. Todd Mangum:
Someone once said of suffering and hardship, "it's a shame when it happens to you, but when it happens to me, it's a TRAGEDY!" Really appreciate the maturity and wisdom of your reflections here, Jeff.

And, hey: great debut blog!! :-)

How true those words are, this side of the consummation. Thanks for those encouraging words, Todd.
0 #2 R. Todd Mangum 2014-01-11 10:34
Someone once said of suffering and hardship, "it's a shame when it happens to you, but when it happens to me, it's a TRAGEDY!" Really appreciate the maturity and wisdom of your reflections here, Jeff.

And, hey: great debut blog!! :-)
+1 #1 Chris French 2014-01-03 15:04
Hebrews has repeatedly steadied my soul through a now-seven-year trial. Just this morning I was struck again by the book's future orientation ("...the world to come, of which we are speaking..." [Heb 2:5]). The distinguishing mark of the saints in chapter 11 is that they believed God's promises about future blessing. Here's the definition of faith the book leads me to: Faith is our response of trust and obedience to God's words in the midst of trials and suffering because of the expectation of future reward/joy based on God's trustworthy promises. God will deliver on his promises. Guaranteed.

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