Paul says in Colossians 1:24-26:
“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 the body
to make the Word of God fully known,
the mystery hidden for ages and generations
but now revealed to His saints.”
There is so much here; I understand but superficially. What sufferings is Paul speaking of? Hunger, sleepless nights, illness, long journeys, ship wreck, beatings, stoning, prison, rejection by his own people, heartache over believers. How is it that our suffering can fill up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions? I don’t know but each of us as believers has the privilege of sharing in some aspect of the suffering of the Bridegroom, “We share in His sufferings.” (Phil 3:10) I am not yet at the point where I can embrace, rejoice in my sufferings. I am able to give thanks on the other side, but not in the midst of the trial--except, perhaps, through gritted teeth, but that is changing. Paul says he can rejoice in sufferings “for their sake, for the sake of the church, in order to make the Word of God fully known.” Here is how Paul can rejoice: His passion is preaching Christ. He has seen how his sufferings have made Christ and His sufficiency come alive to the Body of Christ. His suffering has deepened his message; given credulity to those who would immediately enter into suffering upon confessing Christ. The early church was birthed in blood and tears as it is today. The estimated number of deaths in the world last year because of faith in Jesus was 175,000.
Papa, It grieves me to see the suffering of your children across the world today but as I ponder this scripture I see that we as Believers do not suffer for naught but our suffering has meaning. It has meaning here in this country, also, even though the suffering is not as visible. How can we make the gospel fully known if we are not identified with Christ in His sufferings which includes rejection, loneliness, loss...? Phil 3:10 says: "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death..."