What is there in your life that you value the most? What would you willingly suffer for? Family, Home, Way of Life?
In this series from Colossians we have seen Paul’s acknowledgment of the reality of the faith of the Colossian Believers (Col 1:3-8), His prayer for them to have the strength that comes from God and to understand His mercy (Col 1:9-14) and his brief, but densely packed and powerful summary of the Gospel (Col 1:15-23). Once he has done all of this, he moves on to show them the value of it from his own personal example as he tells them;
Colossians 1:24-25 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God,
Paul, as he writes from prison, where he is incarcerated for his faith, tells them that his suffering is a cause for his rejoicing. The reason that he is rejoicing in his suffering is because they are being benefited by it. Paul was called by Jesus on the Damascus Road and when he was converted it was said to the man who commissioned him that Jesus was going to show him how much he would have to suffer for Him (Acts 9:15-16). But Paul is not the only one who is called to suffer for Jesus Christ. He said to the Disciples in Luke 9:23, “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” All of us who name the name of Christ are called to suffering on His behalf. I know that many preachers today try to promise prosperity and blessing to all who claim to follow Jesus, but that flatly contradicts what the Bible teaches. Sure there are blessings, sometimes material blessings, but that is not what defines our relationship to Jesus.
Suffering and Salvation are often paired in the Bible. The Apostle Paul told Timothy, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12) There are reasons why Jesus deems it necessary for His servants to suffer. Reasons that should make us rejoice in our suffering as well. The letter that Peter wrote to the Believers in Asia Minor that we call 1 Peter, was written to saints who were suffering persecution that was far beyond what most of us will ever see. Read that letter looking for exhortations to suffering Christians and you will see it properly. He gives them at least three reasons for their suffering and we can see others in the New Testament as well. I have found at least five.
- To strengthen them in their faith and their relationship with God. 1 Peter 5:10 “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”
- To increase our hope as we await His return and our rest from the suffering of this life. 1 Peter 4:13 “but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”
- To obtain a good testimony before God and men. 1 Peter 2:20 “For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.”
- It also benefits the other members of the Church, (as we saw in Colossians 1:24) particularly the preaching of the Gospel as those who are being called see the commitment of those who preach it. 2 Timothy 1:8-12 “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”
- Finally we see in the Letter to the Hebrews, that it increases our compassion for others. Hebrews 10:32-34 “But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: 33 partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; 34 for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.”
Suffering, suffering well, suffering with integrity, suffering in faith; these show the world that we are serious and that we really believe and value the message of the Gospel above all else. It is God’s way of showing men the value of the message that He has commissioned us to carry to them. Do you value the Gospel and those who need to hear it enough to suffer for them? Do you value them enough to rejoice in that suffering?
Audio from this message is available by clicking on the link below.
Suffering for the Gospel – AUDIO