Suffering With Joy
Read Colossians 1:24-25
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known…
What was the purpose of Paul’s suffering?
It is getting more and more difficult to be a Christian who remains faithful to the Gospel and teachings of Scripture. The social pressure to abandon historical Christianity is becoming greater and greater. Many believers are starting to recognize the cost of following Jesus. We are realizing that suffering for our faith in Jesus Christ is not a far-fetched idea. It is likely.
Naturally, this is causing some anxiety among the church. We’ve read that Jesus said, “if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). But if we are honest, we were all probably hoping that persecution was a thing of the past or something that wouldn’t happen to us. But this is not the case. Followers of Jesus Christ are not of this world. Therefore, this world hates us (John 15:19).
But we can take comfort in this. We are not alone in this suffering. In fact, we are in really, really good company. All of the apostles suffered for the sake of Jesus Christ. In fact, in today’s verse, Paul wrote that he rejoiced in his sufferings. Why? Because he understood that his sufferings had a purpose.
First, Paul recognized that he was suffering just as Jesus Christ had suffered. He knew that he was taking the heat that was intended for Jesus. When he wrote “I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions,” he didn’t mean that any part of Jesus’s sacrificial suffering was lacking. We know that Jesus’ sacrifice was more than sufficient and that our own suffering doesn’t earn us our salvation. What he meant was that Jesus’ sufferings were not enough for those who hate Him. His death on the cross did not satiate His enemies. The enemy’s thirst for blood has not been quenched. Satan and his demons are no longer able to attack Jesus, so they are going after those who bear His name. It isn’t really about us, it is about Jesus.
Because of this, Paul rejoiced in his sufferings. It was a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ because suffering for Christ means that you belong to Him (Acts 5:41). Peter also rejoiced in suffering for Christ and said this, “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:14). Suffering for Christ is a blessing because that means the Holy Spirit is present with us and that means we are truly His disciples.
Paul was also able to rejoice in his sufferings because he knew he was sacrificing for others. He was ministering in Jesus’ name and building up the church by making “the word of God fully known.” He acknowledged that it was God who gave him the calling to evangelize the Gentiles. When we read about his conversion in Acts 9, we read that the Lord told Ananias that Paul was chosen specifically to make God’s name known among the Gentiles and that “he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:16). Paul could have abandoned his calling to save his own skin, but he didn’t. He didn’t stop preaching the word of God when threatened and ended up in prison and eventually martyred. But his faithfulness to God’s call on his life led to many lives being eternally saved. Even to this day as we read Paul’s letters!
Friends, we have also been called to make the name of Jesus Christ known. But we know that if we bear the name of Christ, we will be the targets of persecution. So, we have a choice to make. We can live in fear and abandon our calling to protect ourselves. Or, we can continue to boldly proclaim the name of Jesus Christ knowing that our suffering for His sake is an honor and privilege with an eternal purpose.
Lord, I admit to being fearful of persecution. I often feel misunderstood and rejected as a Christian. But, I know that You have called me to make Your name known, no matter what the cost. Please strengthen me to endure whatever suffering comes my way with joy in knowing that You are with me and that Your name is saving many lives. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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