10 Lessons about Trials from the Passion of Christ

The Cross Preceded the Empty Tomb

On Sunday, we celebrate the victory of Christ’s resurrection. We remember His triumph, and we thank God for the hope that brings in our lives on a daily basis.

But remember, there could be no resurrection without the crucifixion. The empty tomb is a powerful reminder of the hope we have in Christ’s victory. But the cross shows us how to bear difficulties until victory comes.

From this Easter to last Easter, perhaps you’ve lost a loved one, faced difficult illness, encountered family challenges, lost your job or your home.  In the space of a year, surely every one of us have had times of trial.

During trials, it’s easy to lose perspective. Fear and anxiety can grip our hearts and cause us to lose focus.

And that is why we must look to Christ for an example. Consider Christ’s focus during the last hours before His crucifixion—what we call “the passion of Christ.” In the hours before His death He was in such intense agony of soul that he shed “as it were great drops of blood.” Judas betrayed Him. Peter denied Him. The Pharisees falsely accused Him. And the disciples abandoned him.

Jesus knows suffering. And from His example, we see how to endure trials.

In this post, we’ll see ten truths to remember during trials. Each of these truths we see in Christ’s life in the hours before and during His crucifixion. Each of these can serve as an anchor point for our perspective during difficult times.

Here they are—ten truths to remember during trials:

1. Remember God Is in Control

The calmness with which Jesus continued the Passover meal with His disciples just before He went to the Garden of Gethsemane is a lesson in itself. First Corinthians 22:44 tells us He even “gave thanks” as He distributed the elements to His disciples.

And when he had given thanks…—1 Corinthians 11:24

When difficulties enter our lives, we can face them with calm—even grateful—assurance when we remember God is in control.

2. Remember Others Are Learning from You

Christ could have been consumed with fear of the pain He would soon endure. But He remembered His disciples, and He purposefully seized the moment to teach them the meaning of His crucifixion.

… he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.—1 Corinthians 11:24–25

You and I must likewise remember during times of difficulty that others are watching and learning from us. Spiritual leaders cannot afford the luxury of despair. As Dr. David Gibbs once told me, “Your greatest sermon is you in the valley.”

3. Remember to Examine Your Heart

Christ never sinned, so this point is more of an application to what we need to do than it is an observation of what He did. But even as Jesus was sharing the Passover meal with His disciples, just before He distributed the bread and the cup, He instigated a moment of heart-examination among the disciples.

And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?— Matthew 26:21–22

To this day, serious Christians take care to examine their hearts before partaking of the Lord’s table.

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.— 1 Corinthians 11:28

But we don’t have to wait for the Lord’s Table for this self-examination. Trials themselves are powerful motivators to examine our hearts, confess sin to God, and ask God to cleanse our lives. Don’t get so caught up in the trial that you neglect to let it do a purifying work in your heart.

4. Remember to Pray

From the Upper Room, Christ went to the Garden of Gethsemane where He prayed passionately.

And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed…And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.—Luke 22:41, 44

Why in our times of greatest need do we neglect the powerful resource of prayer? We have access directly to the throne of grace! We can worry, or we can bring our needs to the One who understands, cares, and helps.

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.— Hebrews 4:15–16

5. Remember to Surrender to God’s Plan

As Christ drew near to the sufferings of the Cross, He prayed that there might be another way…but even as He did, He submitted to the will of the Father.

Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.—Luke 22:42

The Father’s plan in Jesus’ suffering was our redemption—I’m glad Jesus surrendered to it.

God has a plan in our suffering too, and that plan is our conformity to the image of Christ.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.—Romans 8:28–29

In the midst of our pain, we sometimes forget that God has a purpose and that He promises to use every aspect of our lives for our good and His glory. Surrender to His plan. As Amy Carmichael once said, “In acceptance lieth peace.”

6. Don’t Let the Action or Inaction of Others Cause You to Quit

From the inaction of the disciples (sleeping when they should have been supporting Him in prayer) to the wrong action of Judas (outright selling Christ for personal gain), Jesus was abandoned and betrayed.

And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him.—Luke 22:46–47

Sometimes during trials, we become frustrated by either or both of these responses of others. We dwell on the inactivity of some: “No one cares about me.” “No one tried to help me.” And we dwell on the wrong actions (or perceived wrong actions) of others: “Everyone is talking about me.”

Yet, in spite of both inaction and wrong action from His disciples, Jesus went on. He hurt, yes. But He continued toward Calvary.

Don’t let the responses of others derail you from receiving God’s grace during your time of trial.

7. Remember to Accept God’s Timing

From the garden, Christ could have said, “Let’s get this over with. Skip Gethsemane, the trials, the scourging, the hours of torture. Let’s just get to the moment of death on the cross.”

But every part of Christ’s suffering was prophesied in the Old Testament. From His scourging (Isaiah 50:6) to the mockings He would see and hear (Psalm 22:6–8) to the crucifixion itself (Psalm 22:13–18), even minute details were recorded in Scripture. I’m thankful He accepted God’s timing in the duration of His suffering.

Hebrews 12 tells us He was able to do this by looking to the future joy that would come of it:

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 the throne of God.—Hebrews 12:2

When we’re experiencing trials, we sometimes forget that God has a purpose not only in the situation itself, but also in the timing of it. Like Christ, we must remember to accept both the time of suffering and the duration of suffering.

Are you a “fix it” person? I am. In fact, I think we all are to some extent. We want to make God’s ways work—now. We want to seek His wisdom and get answers—immediately. But sometimes we must simply trust God. Job 23:10 promises, “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

8. Remember to Forgive

After a mock trial and a punishing beating, Jesus was hung on the cross. And yet, His first words after the cross was set in the ground were words of forgiveness:

Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.—Luke 23:34

Trials invariably bring with them the need to forgive others…which is only possible in light of God’s forgiveness for us.

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.—Ephesians 4:32

9. Continue Your Witness

Incredibly, even in Christ’s extreme pain on the cross, He cared for the eternal soul of the man next to Him.

And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.—Luke 23:42–43

Our tendency during suffering is to become so wrapped up in ourselves and in our pain that we forget that every person around us still has an eternal soul. If we will rely on the grace of God during trials, His grace can actually magnify our witness. Remember to reach out with the gospel to those around you.

10. Determine to Finish Your Race

I’m thankful that Jesus endured to the end, paying the price for all sin.

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.—John 19:30

We sometimes grow weary in the struggle, but we can finish our race when we look to Jesus for strength, grace, and patient endurance.

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 the throne of God.—Hebrews 12:2

Are you in a season of trial right now? “Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:3).

And remember, there is an end. One day we will see Christ face to face. What a joy it will be to stand before Him when our faith becomes sight.

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:—1 Peter 1:7

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