We can endure sufferings better if we know there is a redeemable purpose among them. If we consider how our perseverance through trials could encourage others going through similar situations, we find the hope needed to go forward.
Paul wrote this letter to the Colossians during his first imprisonment in Rome. If you are suffering in prison, it isn’t easy to get your mind on anyone other than yourself. It is extra challenging to think of others if you are unfairly convicted for doing the work of Jesus.
And yet, these were Paul’s circumstances. He deserved a medal of honor or appreciation from the masses but received an unjust prison sentence instead.
24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I am completing in my flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for his body, that is, the church. 25 I have become its servant, according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.Colossians 1:24-27
Did he gripe? Did he complain? Were his prayers consisting of asking God, “why?” Not at all. He rejoiced in his sufferings on behalf of these other believers.
It is surprising to picture an imprisoned missionary grateful for the opportunity to suffer there. He saw that his situation was completing in his body what was “lacking in Christ’s afflictions for his body, that is, the church” (Col. 1:24).
Did Paul think that Jesus’ sufferings were insufficient? Was he, in some way, realizing what Christ could not?
Take a look at the different words used in this verse. Paul transitions from rejoicing in his “sufferings” to completing Christ’s “afflictions.” The term used for afflictions is never used in the New Testament to characterize Christ’s redemptive sacrifice on the cross.
Jesus’ sacrifice was more than sufficient to redeem the lost. Paul was referring to completing the next steps that follow Jesus’ sacrifice.
Jesus died to address our sin debt. He commissioned us to take the gospel to the nations.
Suffering in his name is not required, but it is unavoidable.
He died on the cross; we will be afflicted as we speak to others about it. But since Jesus died for us, simple afflictions as we share should be joyfully filtered as worthwhile due to the grace we have experienced and the opportunity to share what He has given us.