The Christian Life as Tragedy
You are probably familiar with the genre of writing known as tragedy. Some famous examples of this form of writing are William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth. One definition for the writing form known as Tragedy is, “any literary composition, as a novel, dealing with a somber theme carried to a tragic conclusion.”
The life of a Christian disciple is aptly described by these words, but only insofar as it relates to our experiences on this earth. What most eyes fail to see, even Christian eyes, is that when the final curtain closes on this earthly life, there opens an entirely new curtain into realms of life in the Spirit. This present life is only the precursor to much greater things to come.
The shortsightedness, unbelief, and carnal desires of many Christians lead them to view this life as the main event, if not the only event. Although a great many Christians speak of life after death, heaven, and ages to come, they do not actually put any stock in such notions. They live as if there is no tomorrow, as if this present life is all there is. Having such a mindset, they are very much intent on enjoying their good things now. I have shared previously the plethora of books put out by a myriad of Christian authors that promote the pursuit of worldly success, pleasure and prosperity. One very evident fact that stands out as I contemplate the prosperity message is that it is advocating something very different than a life of tragedy and suffering. No doubt, many would question whether it is appropriate to describe the Christian life as tragedy. The Bible reveals that such a description is very fitting. The apostle Paul stated:
I Corinthians 15:19
If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
Paul’s statement is easily understood. Paul knew that Christ’s invitation was to “come and suffer.” There is a cross for every disciple who would follow in the steps of Christ.
I Peter 2:21
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…
The life of Christ is given to the church as a pattern of all who would follow Him. The life of Yahshua was described in the following manner:
He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and well acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
From a temporal viewpoint, the life of Christ was a tragedy. Yahshua had formerly existed in the likeness of God, and shared in Yahweh’s glory. Yet He emptied Himself and took on the form of a bondservant. His life had been scripted for Him before He ever came to earth. This fact is quite easily defended by the myriad of prophecies that were spoken hundreds of years before His birth.
Yahweh had foreordained everything that was to occur in the life of His Son. The story Yahweh wrote for His Son was one of tragedy and suffering.
This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.
Yahweh was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief…
Yahweh wrote the life story of His Son before He was born of a virgin. The story was one of persecution and much affliction. Christ came to His own, and His own people received Him not. He was rejected, and persecuted by the one’s He came to save. Yahshua was accused of having a demon, of being illegitimately born, of being a Samaritan, whom the Jewish people despised. Christ was born in poverty, and His life ended in shame as He was cruelly beaten, scourged, and crucified between two thieves.
This is the story that Yahweh wrote for His beloved Son, and it is truly a tragedy. If Christ’s life had ended at the cross, it would be the saddest story ever told. But it did not end there.
Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Yahshua every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Yahshua Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Christ arose from the dead, and He has been seated at the right hand of God. All power and all authority has been entrusted to Him. Yahshua is now clothed in glory, and the angels in heaven bow before Him in worship and adoration.
What this entire series has been seeking to emphasize is that there is a pattern to Yahweh’s work among mankind. Christ’s life reveals this pattern. There is humility before exaltation, and suffering before glory.
Before honor comes humility.
I Peter 4:13
To the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.
First there is suffering, then there is glory. Yahweh has stamped this pattern upon the entire creation. There are none who can overturn this order that has been established by the counsel of God. All must pass through suffering on their way to exaltation as sons of God. Even as a play opens with Act One, Scene One, so too has Yahweh ordained that our pathway to progression as mature sons in His image must begin with sorrow. He has called this opening experience of our lives, “the first things.”
And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.
This pattern is declared everywhere throughout the pages of Scripture. It is an inviolable principle. It is appointed unto mankind to experience mourning, crying and pain. There will be sorrow and suffering in this age, but those who embrace it, and walk faithfully with the Father, will find that it is merely the precursor to far surpassing and glorious things to come.
Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.
II Corinthians 4:17
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.
These last two passages were written by the apostle Paul. His life on this earth was also a tragedy. Yahweh was the author of those experiences Paul was required to pass through. At the very time that Yahweh made His call on Paul’s life known, He declared:
He is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.
People of God, the Spirit expressly declares that God has a predetermined path for each of our lives. The plan He has designed for you and I could very aptly be described as a tragedy, for He promises that the only way to life is by following an “afflicted path,” and no man can be Christ’s disciple unless he takes up “his cross” and follows in the steps of Yahshua. The following words summarize the experience set before those who accept Christ’s invitation to follow Him.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
Yes, these words are written for your sake, and mine. Whenever a man or woman surrenders their life to follow Christ they will be led into much tribulation. Christ promises no disciple ease and comfort and blessing in this life. What He promises is that they will experience the same sufferings of which He was made a partaker. Yet, as they yield themselves to follow in His steps, they will be laying up for themselves joy and riches and honor and glory that is far beyond compare.
Paul said that while he was following Christ he was “afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within” (II Corinthians 7:5). Yet, the time came when Paul had faithfully completed his course and he was standing at the finish line. Paul had arrived at the end of the “first things” and was poised to enter into the good things to come. He wrote:
II Timothy 4:7-8
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Who are those who love Christ’s appearing? It is those who have heeded the call to follow hard after Christ, walking the same afflicted path He walked. Of these it is written:
I Corinthians 2:9
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
People of God, this present life that you and I live exists for a brief moment. It only seems like this life is endless. There are far surpassing ages to come. Yet this is the time given for you and I to share in the sufferings of Christ. To the degree that we do so we will be able to rejoice at His appearing, for we will then share in His glory.
This present life has been choreographed by the Father. He has written up Act One of each of our lives as a tragedy. But the story of our lives does not end there. It is only the beginning. We must pass through sorrows, for a brief moment, but it leads to far greater things.
Yahweh has given mankind the parable of childbirth to help us to understand this process. Life must always spring forth out of sorrow. Yet, for those who submit to this process, the joy that follows will be so far surpassing all other experiences that the sorrow that preceded it will be forgotten.
“Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a man has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.”
This pattern is observed everywhere in creation and in the pages of Scripture. Yet, the church has failed to see it. Yahweh has testified of His people:
Who is blind but My servant, or so deaf as My messenger whom I send? Who is so blind as he that is at peace with Me, or so blind as the servant of Yahweh? You have seen many things, but you do not observe them; Your ears are open, but none hears.
How can millions of Christians go to their churches week after week and listen to the Scriptures read, while remaining oblivious to this pattern that Yahweh has established? How can they believe teachers of myths and fables who assure them that they can walk a broad path of prosperity, ease, and comfort now, and be assured all the glories of heaven in the ages to come? Are they not willingly deceived, for such falsehood appeals greatly to the soul of man?
Christ has done a marvelous thing. He has made a way for mankind to pass out of death and to obtain to the divine life He shares with His Father. He did not provide an easy path, but He said it would be worth it to follow in His steps. None who ever submit to follow Christ by taking up their cross will ever declare at the end of the road that the way was too hard, or too difficult. Instead, the testimony of the saints will be, “Is that all I had to suffer? Is there no more? The reward is far too great, and I am unworthy.” Then the saints will cast their crowns at the feet of Christ, for He alone is worthy to obtain all glory, power and honor. What tremendous grace is manifested that Yahshua would share these things with us!
Yet, Christ asks one thing. If you would be a sharer in His glory, He would ask you to first share with Him in His suffering. He invites you and I to take up our cross and follow Him.
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
Is this too much for Christ to ask? He would invite us to partake of momentary, light afflictions that we might be brought to maturity spiritually, becoming fit to share in His power and authority for the ages to come.
II Timothy 2:12
If we endure, we will also reign with Him…
If you have spent much time in the Christian religious system of this day, no doubt you have not heard a message such as this. Is it not surprising how very many Scriptures there are that proclaim this message, yet they are unobserved by the church today?
Yahweh has a plan for your life. He has a path He would invite you to walk, even as He had one for His firstborn Son. He has revealed that it is an afflicted path, but He promises to walk with you the entire way. He declares that nothing will ever separate you from His love, not even death. It is up to you and I to choose whether we will accept the script Yahweh has written for our lives, or whether we will refuse it and write our own.
Christ has said that there are few who find the path to life, while vast hordes are on the broad path that leads to destruction. Which way will you choose? The end of the path through this present life will be arrived at very quickly for each of us. Then we will see whether we chose our path with wisdom. Did we choose like Esau to despise our inheritance and birthright to momentarily satisfy the desires of the flesh? Or did we accept an evil path in hope of obtaining a glorious inheritance at the end?
Our Father knows our frame, that we are but dust. He knows that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. He will be compassionate to our weaknesses, and He will patiently guide all who will yield to accept that story He has written for their life. Yet, let none anticipate that they will receive the reward of the overcomer in Christ if they have spurned that Way God has prepared for them to walk. We will all reap what we sow. This too is an inviolable principle.