A major turning point in the story of the Gospels is when Jesus began His final journey towards Jerusalem. Rather than staying in one region, He moved steadily southward from Galilee down to the capital city so He could observe the Passover feast. For Jesus, this was a momentous expedition. “When the days drew near for Him to be taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). The days were drawing near for the end of Christ’s ministry, and the end of His life. Jesus would not return from Jerusalem this year but would be arrested by His own people and killed on a Roman cross.
Jesus knew that suffering and death awaited Him; He tried to explain it to His disciples several times. And yet, He did not flinch and He did not run. He “set His face” towards the pain that lay before Him, and He marched forward anyway. “For the joy that was set before Him, [He] endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2). Christ has given us a noble example to follow.
It is natural for us to avoid pain. We go out of our way even to avoid inconvenience, let alone suffering. But if you take the easy road and try to skip out on necessary difficulty, you will end up useless and small. Everything that is worth having requires sacrifice. Every good thing, from children and a solid marriage to a career or an education, comes at the price of hardship and self-denial. If your only goal is to live a painless life, you can achieve it, but it will also be a life of petty insignificance.
And beyond self-discipline to achieve your goals, you must be prepared to face adversity, discomfort and evil. Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and saved his own skin, but he could not complete his mission until he returned to confront the wicked king. It might be easier to knuckle under your abusive boss or domineering mother, but you will never grow beyond that fear until you face it. Compromising what is right in order to get out of a tough situation harms your soul, but you probably knew that already.
So what pain have you been avoiding? Financial struggles, difficult tasks, moral crossroads, and especially bad relationships – all these things bring us to the point of decision. There is almost always an easy way out. But Jesus taught us to set our face towards suffering and willingly endure the pain. Don’t run – consider what you’ll think of yourself tomorrow. Set your face like a flint and do what needs to be done.
Tyler Warner is the senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Trussville. CCT currently meets on Sunday morning at 9:30 am, in the Cahaba Room of the Hilton-Garden Inn on 3230 Edwards Lake Pkwy. Listen to Tyler’s verse-by-verse Bible teaching at CalvaryChapelTrussville.com or Sundays at 2:30 pm on WXJC (101.1 FM).