Free files for youth pastors:
Have you ever seen an episode of “Veggie Tales”? I heard one of my favorite preachers tell about an episode designed to teach children about Christian suffering. He explained the one where the deliriously-happy veggies come up against the gruesome garlic demon, Beelze-bulb and his henchmen, the Ginsu Warriors. When asked to renounce their faith in Jesus, the vegetables shook their heads and sang together “No, We are His Cheeseburgers.” Then the Ginsu Warriors sliced and diced the vegetables, as the episode ended with a cold-stiff-dead Larry the Cucumber lying lifelessly in a jar of vinegar reeking with the stench of the pickling process and Bob the Tomato splattered against a wall with only the remains of his seeds and ketchup. You’re right; you’ve never heard of this episode because Christian shows for children don’t deal with real suffering. They merely deal with moral truths such as how to have faith that God will work everything out to be good and how to be nice to everyone. Suffering is the silent subject.
In Genesis 35 – 50, God records the life of Joseph as it was filled with unjust suffering. Joseph, the great grandson of Abraham, is the favorite son (out of 11 others) of Jacob from his favorite wife Rachel. In a deep sleep, God gave Joseph dreams that his family would bow down to him someday. The burning jealousy of his older brothers led them to throw him in a hole with no water, to fake his death, and to sell him to a traveling band of Midianites for 20 pieces of silver. The nomads turned around and sold Joseph to Egypt where he served in the household of Potiphar who was one of the Egyptian empire’s most powerful men. God blessed Joseph with success, and that caught the wandering eye of Potiphar’s wife. She wanted a piece of the hot-Hebrew-hunk, but all she came away with was his coat as Joseph ran from her advances. He was punished by being thrown behind bars for sin he did not commit. In prison, God used him to interpret dreams of fellow inmates which God sovereignly used as his ticket out. Pharaoh woke up in a cold-sweat from a troubling dream, and Joseph was the only one around who could interpret it correctly. Pharaoh was so appreciative of Joseph saving the future of Egypt from the coming famine (theme of his dream) that he exalted Joseph as the highest ruler in the land, just under himself of course. This is a story of not only suffering to glory, but of suffering for glory.
The Spirit of God has recorded Joseph’s story to prepare His OT people for Jesus and to point His NT people (us) to Jesus. Like Joseph, but even more so, Jesus is hated by one of His own “brothers” who sells Him out for pieces of silver. He then is severely punished for sin that He did not commit, but His willingness to go through the suffering ordained by God was rewarded with a position of ruling over a kingdom. This time not merely the Egyptian Empire, but the entire created order: the cosmos. As we are in Christ, our story is the same. Peter says that Christians will suffer for doing right (1 Peter 3:14). This Christian life will be filled with suffering more so than glory. But our suffering now will bring glory later. If we are willing to suffer for the name of Jesus now, we will rule and reign with him for all eternity (2 Tim 2:12).
I want a heart like Paul who said that his ultimate desire is to, “know [Christ] and the power of His resurrection, and share in His sufferings.” We hear a lot of talk about relationship with Jesus today, but doesn’t it normally just sound like another friendship? Shouldn’t our relationship with Christ be one as a faithful patriot to a Kingdom, a servant to a King? The more we are willing to live for Christ with a willingness to suffer for Him, the more we deeply fellowship with Him. Because we are living in a sin-cursed, Satan-ruled world, Christians will especially endure suffering because we are the threat. In our suffering, we can’t forget Joseph’s words of faith saying that whatever is meant for our harm, God will use for His good (Gen 50:20). Whatever happens in the life of a believer works towards his or her good, and the good of God is that we might fellowship with Christ by being transformed into His glorious likeness as He was through faithful suffering. So even if you never turn into ketchup for Christ, be willing!