SCRIPTURE: Colossians 1:24-29, NLT
24 I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. 25 God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. 26 This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. 28 So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.
No one can participate is the atoning suffering of Christ. What Jesus did on the cross, He did alone and it was sufficient. Nothing can be added to our atonement. The suffering that Paul speaks of is that of bearing the reproach of the cross which we the church are to do. Jesus never denied who He was: When Pilot asks Him if he was a King, He did not deny it. When Caiaphas asks Him if He was the Son of God, Jesus did not deny it. Jesus taught in Matthew…“Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven. The truth is: if you acknowledge Jesus publically today, you will suffer and rightly so. It is in this sense that we suffer with Christ.
Jesus said in John 16:33… ” I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
James said in James 1:2… Dear brothers and sisters,when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
Paul was in prison when he wrote Colossians. This was one of the last four letters that he wrote before he was executed by Nero. Dying men don’t blow smoke. Paul is not trying to sound like a preacher, he is sincere, he meant what he said, “I am glad when I suffer for you or in your behalf.”
How can this be possible? How can a man rejoice in suffering without being sadistic? How can you be glad when you are on death’s row?
FIRST: PAUL UNDERSTOOD THAT SUFFERING WAS A PART OF HIS CALL
Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord!” he replied. 11 The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. 12 I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.”13 “But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! 14 And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.” 15 But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. 16 And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”
Ministry and Missions is not for sissies. You must gird on the armor and prepare for battle because taking on the name of Christ is sure to make you a target. Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12, Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. Professing Christians that do not suffer persecution are not living a godly life in Christ Jesus. They are compromising to avoid the flack. There is nothing in the N.T. that teaches believers will be spared from suffering, that is believers individually or the church as a whole.
Paul said in verse 25 of our text, “God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you.”Proclaiming the “Entire Message” is never popular, not even in the church. Some preachers have given themselves to Western minded wishful thinking. The church had better be prepared to suffer and you individually had better be prepared. Just think of the things Paul suffered to get the message to the Colossians and others. The great majority of this suffering came from the Jews, his own people. If you have the idea that being a servant, a messenger for Christ is easy, you best rethink the subject. There is going to be some degree of suffering if you enter the ministry of proclaiming the message: you can count on it.
So I think Paul rejoiced because he understood that suffering was a part of his call.
SECONDLY: I THING HE REJOICED BECAUSE SUFFERING HAD ENRICHED HIS FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST
I keep going back to Philippians 3:10…I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! Paul understood that suffering creates a bond like nothing else on earth. We have been in the ministry for 45 years and most of that time serving as a pastor. The one thing that I have learned as a pastor is that suffering with families through tragedy creates a special bond. I have spent nights at hospitals. I even slept in my car in my younger days. I have drove to Birmingham with little or no money in my pocket and stays with families for hours as they watched their sons and daughters depart from this world. I even booked a flight to Pittsburg to be with a family during a time of crisis. I don’t regret doing any of these things. I don’t have great wealth in terms of money but I am a wealthy man in friends and most of those enduring friendships were created by the bond formed when you suffer with them or along side them.
When you are willing to sacrifice and suffer for me, just to be with me when my world is falling a part, I am not going to forget the sacrifices you made. I know that your presence, your standing with me at great cost, is a gesture of love. Paul rejoiced because the more he suffered, the greater his love for Christ and the greater his fellowship with Christ. You know our Pentecostal brothers have a way of expressing things differently and also a boldness that I lack. I heard about one such preacher who had been hit with a series of back circumstances; he stood in the pulpit weeping and said, “Bring it on God, I can take it.” I’ve never been that bold. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember passing the slightest test when it comes to rejoicing in suffering. For some reason, my first response is not to rejoice. This is one reason I know that I am no where near Paul in spiritual growth.
So Paul was glad to suffer for Christ sake and the Colossian’s sake because he knew that it was a part of his calling and he knew that it would enrich his fellowship with Christ; but there is a third thing I wish to discuss before we conclude…
THIRDLY: PAUL UNDERSTOOD THAT SUFFERING IS A VITAL PART OF OUR SANCTIFICATION
Romans 5 is helpful at this point…Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. 3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
To the Colossians Paul said “We gladly suffer,” literally he was saying that he glories in suffering, exulted, rejoiced in suffering and in Romans 5 he tells us why we can glory in our suffering. The key is found in verse 3 “Know or Knowing”. If you know why you are suffering, it helps you glory in the suffering. If you are in the dark and you do not know why you are suffering, you will have a harder time glorying in it. Notice the sequence in Romans 5…
Trials and suffering produce endurance [blisters produce callouses]
- Endurance builds strength of character
- Character produces confident Hope
- Hope never disappoints
The secret we share in the gospel message is that Christ lives in us and that is our Hope of glory [Col. 1:27]. Our sanctification is achieved as Christ works out of us becoming visible to the world. This has not been achieved yet but it is our hope, our only hope of glory. According to Isaiah the prophet, Jesus was not physically attractive. Isaiah said, There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. On the mount of transfiguration, the inner circle of the disciples saw the glory come out of this less the attractive man. I’m not saying that Jesus was ugly but many believe that He would be hard to pick out of a crowd based on His appearance alone. He was attractive but I think it was His love for the Father and people that made Him irresistible to so many.
Note what Paul says in verse 28, “We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ.” The NASB says present every man complete. In verse 29 he says, “I work and struggle [to this end, the Colossians sanctification] so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.“
I am a 64 year old parent and grand parent. My children are all in their 30’s for a couple more months. I can remember when they were in high school. I was not that mature as a parent in those days. I wanted them to be popular and successful in sports. I don’t think I drove them or put pressure on them but deep down I wanted them to succeed in these areas. Somewhere along the way everything changed and I will give credit to God’s amazing grace. I can tell you exactly what I want for my children and grandchildren, it is to grow and mature in their faith, to become complete in Christ. I want them to have that strength of Character that Paul talked about in Romans 5. I want them to take responsibility for their mistakes, to tell the truth, to work hard and to pay their debts. I never pray for God to make them wealthy, I just want them to be mature in Christ. To be like Job, a person of integrity. What do you want for your children? What one thing would you ask for in their behalf if you knew it would be granted?