Rejoice in Suffering
Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. Colossians 1:24 (NIV2011)
“Come to Jesus and all your problems will be over. You’ll be healthy and wealthy.” That mindset is one of the false teachings of our day. For some Christians, coming to Jesus brought more problems; some even fear for their lives because they became Christians. When problems come or when we are suffering, many of us think we did something wrong.
Paul wrote that he rejoiced in what he was suffering for the sake of the church. That’s difficult enough to understand, but then he added, “I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24). Nothing can be lacking in what Christ did for us. His atoning work on the cross was complete (Hebrews 9:24-27).
So what was Paul saying?
As we present the gospel to others we’ll embody—incarnate or “flesh out”—Christ’s suffering as we suffer in our own bodies for the sake of the gospel. And we do so with joy! Like Christ, we endure the pain because of the future joy promised us. We fix “our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV2011).
God commissioned Paul to present the mystery hidden for generations, now being disclosed: Christ is in us. Understanding the mystery enables us to endure suffering (Colossians 1:26-27). We are not alone. Ever.
Paul’s teaching goal was to ultimately present everyone fully mature in Christ (v. 28). And that included accepting the “growing pains.”
Do you believe the false teachings that deny suffering, or do you rejoice in it for the sake of others?
Paul refers to hope in verse 23 and in verse 27. How would you explain the hope “held out in the gospel”? For more on hope, see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and Titus 2:11-13.
Contrast those who hope in the resurrection and those who don’t as described in 1 Corinthians 15:19-20, 30-32. What’s the advice for those who believe this life is all there is?
Compare Peter’s words in 1 Peter 4:12-13 with Paul’s in Colossians 1:24. Can you describe how suffering has helped you to become a more mature Christian?
For related devotions, see Trials and Passion under Dig into Words.
Nancy J. Baker