Becoming Spiritual Decathletes: Part 9

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Pastor Mark Mikels – August 24,


(“Connecting With Christ” Series
– Part 48)

(Mark 15:25-34)

Intro … Our examination of Christ’s Spiritual Decathlon is nearly
over. Today we see him take on Decathlon Challenge #8. I’ve called it

Christ’s Eighth Great Challenge … “DARKNESS ENDURING”

Two Scriptural phrases form the focus for this most incredible
spiritual challenge …

“Darkness came over the whole land” – Mark 15:33

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Mark 15:34

Here’s the larger passage in which those phrases are found …

It was the third hour when they crucified him. The written notice of
the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. They crucified two
robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who
passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So!
You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days,
come down from the cross and save yourself!”

In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked
him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save
himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the
cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also
heaped insults on him.

At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth
hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi,
Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you
forsaken me?” (Mark 15:25-34)

In these verses is reported (without question) the most difficult of
all the incredible challenges that Jesus undertook during those final
eight days of his earthly life.

For a period of time, in the carrying out of his earthly mission, he
was separated (physically, emotionally and spiritual) from the Father

No connection with the ONE to whom he had retreated for fellowship and
comfort all the days of his life.

No sense of the Father’s nearness, no encouragement from the Father’s
love, no strength provided by the Father’s grace, no hope even in the
Father’s rescue. Thus the agonizing cry … “My God, my God, why have

you forsaken me?”

Darkness fell – not only upon the land – but upon his soul as well.

And enduring that darkness for as long as it lasted became his task!

And in that task he laid out a pattern for each of His Own for as it’s
expressed in …

Today’s Key Reality …


Who of us has not experienced something of the “Darkness of Heart and
Soul” that circumstances can bring upon us?

Tragedies happen; hopes are dashed; people disappoint; plans go
horrible awry; feelings of panic set in and we can feel forsaken by all
– even by

our God.

After all … the words Jesus uttered on the cross were first expressed
by King David himself in Psalm 22 at a time of great darkness in his
life. Here’s just a bit of the rest of that psalm …

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me,

so far from the words of my groaning?

O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,

(I cry out) by night, and (I) am not silent.

Those are words of desperation … those are words forced through the
lips of one whose heart is so weighed down that it can barely function.

It was not a stretch for Jesus to take David’s words as his own as he
suffered there on the cross.

The truth is … Days of Darkness come to everyone.

The question is … How can we endure them?

I suggest to you this morning that we endure the darkness the

same way Jesus did, by wrapping our hearts around the truth of …

Today’s Key Conviction …

God is at WORK in the DARKNESS –

Something AWESOME is taking place!

The darkness is never for nothing – the darkness is never unproductive.
Days of darkness come because we live in a darkened sin-filled world.

But as Jesus once said,

“Be of good cheer (take heart), I have overcome the world.” (John

Consider with me this morning now, some of the awesome work that God
has done and will do in the darkest of times.

Consider with me first of all what was happening …


1. SUBSTITUTION was happening!

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree …

On the cross of Calvary, Jesus was being put in our place. As righteous
Judge of all the universe, the Father was allowing His own sinless Son
to offer himself as a substitute for the sinful human race.

The apostle Paul would express it this way … (2 Corinthians 5:21)

“God made him who had no sin to become sin for us”

In the midst of that horrible darkness, the Father himself was
orchestrating this incredible substitution – the innocent for the

He was arranging for all of man’s sins to be placed upon His own dearly
beloved Son! In the extreme we could say, he was literally overseeing
the transformation of righteousness into wickedness.

In the Father’s eyes, his Son was now the very incarnation of evil

He couldn’t bear to even look upon him, let alone have fellowship with

In that darkness – during those dark hours – an incredible substitution
of the sinless for the sinful was taking place.

Now that “substitution” all by itself would be enough to cause the
Father to draw back in horror and disgust from His formerly spotless
Son. But there was more happening in that darkness than just

2. JUDGMENT was also happening!

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree

so that we (he) might die to sins …

You see, Jesus didn’t just become sin – as abhorrent as that would be.
Jesus needed to “pay for sins” – he needed to be “punished for sin” –
he needed to endure the righteous judgment of God upon sin.

The Scripture tells us in Paul’s letter to the Romans (6:23) that “the
wages of sin is death”.

Physical death … yes – but more than that the full wage of sin is
spiritual death or the second death which is defined Biblically as
total separation from God for ever in the lake of fire (Revelation

Thus the Father was required by the very nature of the judgment upon
his Son to turn away from him – to forsake him – to allow him to
experience the full agony of such total and complete separation and

And it was in the midst of that agony that Jesus cried out those
chilling words … “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

In the darkness there on the cross, substitution was happening; in the
darkness, there on the cross, judgment was happening.

Thirdly and finally, in the darkness, there on the cross …

3. ATONEMENT was happening!

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree

so that we (he) might die to sins and live for righteousness;

by his wounds you have been healed.”

There is the great and glorious outcome of those hours of darkness
Jesus endured … During those hours he provided for our “healing”.

He paid for our sins – he made possible our forgiveness – he made
possible our experience of full and abundant Christian Living!

God himself was working in the darkness on the cross to provide the
means whereby you and I can be saved.

Jesus endured the darkness and by so doing allowed the work of God to
come to its fullest expression.

I believe that Jesus himself was enabled to so endure because he had
his mind and heart firmly wrapped around that key conviction we shared
just a few moments ago.

“God is at work in this darkness –

Something awesome is taking place!”

And in doing that he left us a pattern for us to follow whenever “dark
days” invade our lives.

Here’s a key point … Jesus knew before he ever went to the cross the
very work the Father would accomplish in that darkness if he would
successfully endure it. I believe that that knowledge provided the
power that enabled him to endure right to the end.

That same “knowledge power” is available to us to endure any “dark
days” that we must face.

You see, the Bible does not leave us in the dark about “being in the

In the “dark times” of our lives, God is at work … here are some
things that the Bible says about His Work at such times.



(Brought to its fullest capacity – James 1:2-4)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many
kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops
perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be
mature and complete, not lacking anything.

“Faith” (the writer of Hebrews tells us) “is the evidence of things not
seen” (Hebrew 11:1). Dark days “test our faith”.

Our “faith” is that which we believe – it’s both content and
conviction. Our faith is “tested” – challenged – when we can’t “see” or
“understand” what is going on.

It’s faith – maturing faith – that enables us to say …

“God is at work in this darkness –

Something awesome is taking place!”

Dr. Raymond Edman, who was the president of Wheaton College long years
ago when Linda and I were students there, gave this counsel to the
student body – counsel developed over long years in Christian Service

“Never doubt in the dark what God has told you in the light”.

In the light my faith is to be formulated and in the dark my faith is
to be demonstrated. And in the demonstration of faith in the darkest
moments of life, my faith is brought to its greatest capacity.

Two more things are going on in the darkness of our lives …

Not only is faith being stimulated but …


(Yearnings for what is yet to be – Romans 5:3-5)

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know
that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and
character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has
poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has
given us.

In the dark times of our lives, God works to produce a genuine,
life-altering “hope” … not a “I hope I get out of this mess somehow”
kind of hope but a genuine faith-filled, yearning for the ultimate
fulfillment of God’s glorious plan. This is the kind of “hope” that the
writer of Hebrews (6:19) says can serve as an “anchor for the soul,
firm and secure”.

It’s HOPE – onward looking hope – that enables us to say …

“God is at work in this darkness –

Something awesome is taking place!”

And now just one final thing…



(God’s working personally in all of this – Romans 8:28)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love
him, who have been called according to his purpose.

By no means does God generate the darkness that enters our lives. Most
of it is the natural result of us living in a fallen, sinful world that
is populated by fallen, sinful people.

But here’s the deal … though God doesn’t generate the darkness, he
does orchestrate it.

That is, when it comes, He picks up His conductor’s baton as it were
and begins the process of turning cacophony into melody – chaos into

He works purposefully in all the dark things that enter our lives.

And when things seem the darkest, he is working His hardest.

We can trust him when darkness invades our lives even as Jesus trusted
him when darkness enveloped him on the cross!

And as a result, we will endure!

Final Thot …


“Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like
the day,

for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalm 139:12)