Rejoicing in Suffering—Colossians 1:24
“Now I rejoice in what was suffered 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)
This is an interesting verse. Paul just finished an extraordinary explanation about Christ’s supremacy over absolutely everything. Then finishes with a marvelous statement about the completeness of our reconciliation. Then he makes a claim about his suffering completing what is still lacking in Christ’s suffering. This statement warrants a closer look to understand what he is saying.
Paul was in prison at the time of this letter. However, his suffering did not begin there. Throughout his missionary journeys Paul faced many obstacles. He was beaten, he was persecuted, he was ridiculed, people attempted to kill him and he was even shipwrecked. From the very first moments he believed he faced extensive suffering for the sake of Christ.
Paul was set apart for the gospel (Romans 1:1). This was his mission and calling in life. The impact of the gospel was evident in the growth of the Church. Paul’s suffering was not meant to bring to completion in what Christ did for us, but his suffering was for the sake and the benefit of the Church. He went on to explain in the very next verse, “I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness” (Colossians 1:25). This is the reason he suffered so greatly, so the Church would have fullness of understanding. He understood this, which is why he was able to rejoice in the circumstance!
Suffering Has Blessed The Church
It seems counter-intuitive to say that suffering blesses the Church, but we see it in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Corinthians 12:7-10).
Paul had a revelation from God that was unparalleled to any other. It was so awesome that a messenger of Satan tormented and stirred up trouble everywhere he went. Its job was to silence Paul through suffering because Paul’s preaching and letters were disarming this kingdom. However, even in suffering God’s power is perfected and strength is found, He told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:9).When Paul understood this, he was able to rejoice!
Suffering will Happen in Life
Suffering as believers is guaranteed in life. It might not be as drastic as the persecution the early Church faced or even the saints throughout the centuries. It probably won’t be as severe as our brothers and sisters around the world face, but the truth remains that it is a common element in our faith, so we must be prepared.
First, our suffering shows we belong to God. Paul said it like this, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (Philippians 1:29).
Secondly, our suffering should be because we belong to Christ not because of behavior. Peter said it like this, “It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (I Peter 3:17).
Lastly, our suffering shows we are blessed; this is not a new thing to the people of God. Jesus said it like this, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).
Given all of these things, we can take a cue from the Apostle Paul and rejoice in suffering because we know it is for the benefit of the Church. No matter what you are facing today, I pray that you are able to rejoice in the situation and praise the Father who has counted you worthy of suffering for His wonderful name!