“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 his body, that is, the church.” – Paul (Colossians 1:24)
Why did Paul write this?
The Scriptures say that the death of Jesus was sufficient. So what is Paul talking about?
What’s lacking in the sufferings of Christ is that millions of people don’t know Jesus suffered for them.
In 2019 the person of Jesus cannot suffer for the Margi of Nigeria, the Bedouin of Arabia, or the Dinka of South Sudan. That piece of history has passed. And the very suffering of Christ has been passed to us, the church.
When you go to the unreached and stand before them having endured trials and hardships just to make Jesus known among them, you can say, “In me behold the love of God, as I sacrifice to come to you and preach to you, and risk my life.” (Piper)
When you go to that unreached people group and risk everything. You are making the sufferings of Christ complete. You show people the incarnational Christ in you and through you, they will see Jesus suffer for them… (I stop here as tears fill my eyes. This has been our greatest honor in life. To have the opportunity to suffer some small discomfort together as a family is an unimaginable joy.) This does not mean the suffering will be easy.
The pain still burns and the wounds still bleed, but we suffer for Christ with His own strength. When my two-month-old baby was vomiting blood, I was scared out of my mind. I thought I might lose my son. But, I found strength in my wife as we both found strength in Jesus. When gunfire erupted all around our home we fell upon the will of God as we dropped to the floor.
For LOVE we endure and show others the sufferings of Christ made evident in our lives and in the lives of our families. What a great blessing to be given anything by Christ. Even hardship if it comes from Jesus is a blessed and wonderful gift.
Robert (Bobby) Lane is a long-time SWO staff member who now serves as a church planter and missionary in N’Djamena, Chad (Africa). He’s now spent over a decade serving with the IMB (International Missions Board). He specializes in linguistics and training indigenous pastors to faithfully plant and shepherd new churches.