What is Lacking in Christ’s Suffering?

What is Lacking in Christ’s Suffering? June 3, 2022

I very much believe that through the sacrifice of Jesus we are given everything we’ll ever need. He is our righteousness, now and forever. 2 Corinthians 5:17,


Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.


He provides for us from his limitless resources. Philippians 4:19,


And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.


We are already adopted as children of God and are co-heirs with Christ for all eternity. Romans 8:16-17,


The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ


The work of the cross is complete, salvation established. John 19:30,


So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.


If all the above is the case, what did Paul mean by this? Col 1:24,


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


Is he saying that the sacrifice of Jesus is somehow incomplete? For me, Paul’s meaning can be understood from the context of the verse. 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.


It is in the service of others that Paul bore what was lacking in the affliction of Christ – not that the affliction itself was insufficient. Paul is not speaking of any fault in what Jesus did, but of playing his part in its outworking. In his sufferings, beatings, and ultimately imprisonment, Paul was following his calling to minister to the church. The cost of following Christ was part and parcel of his fellowship with Christ and belonging in Christ.


If we return to the Romans 8 verse to give it a little more context, the dynamics of suffering for Christ’s sake start to become clear. Romans 8: 16-19,


The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.


We are co-heirs with Christ if we suffer with him – i.e. if we serve others, and demonstrate the love of Christ in us through sacrificial service.


Sacrificial service can take a million different forms. Last night I was speaking to a friend who is currently looking out for a highly inconvenient person. In order to stop them from taking their own life, he has given (and continues to give) his time, company, energy, and money to keep them off the streets and help them become established in a community. It has cost him dearly, and there are nights he has barely slept from worry for them, but his love and commitment to a person who doesn’t always make it easy to support them echoes Paul’s experience – he fills up in his flesh that which is lacking (that which needs to be outworked) in the affliction of Christ.


Another friend is going through a hard time with her husband. It takes a lot of love on her part to soothe the parts of him that are raw and wounded, but she bears with him. In our love for each other, we serve Christ, suffer with Christ, and fellowship with him.


Service is rarely convenient. It requires the sacrifice of time and energy at the very least, and sometimes we take some damage in the process. When the love of Christ leads us to take a hit for someone else, that is part and parcel of discipleship.


Please be aware – this is only for the mature. From the mouth of a manipulative person, especially one in leadership, this kind of teaching can be used to coerce people into service that is not required of them by Christ. The balancing principle to such a notion is the importance of personal boundaries. We are not to give of ourselves to the point we have nothing left, are not able to be there physically and emotionally for our loved ones, or cause lasting damage to ourselves. Self-harm is not a spiritual discipline.


If however you are mature enough to draw your boundaries, you are in the privileged position of being equipped for sacrificial service, through which you fellowship with Christ. In loving others this way, we feel and partake of his compassion. It is an honour to be able to serve in this way.


As Paul expressed in Romans 8, if we suffer with Him we will also be glorified with him. These present sufferings (those embraced for the good of others) cannot compare to ‘the glory which will be revealed in us’, in Christ. In sharing Christ’s sufferings, in living a life of service and love, we plant ourselves deeply in the glory of Christ.


Who is God asking you to serve? As a teenager, compassion led me to befriend bullied classmates, which resulted in me becoming included in their number. I believe that was part of suffering for the sake of Christ. Perhaps the same could apply in church, or at work – who is left out? Who doesn’t matter? What could you do to include and look out for them? Are you willing to pay the price of the rejection of the in-crowd, to reach out to someone who is marginalised, lonely, or difficult?


Who do you know who really needs financial help? After the pandemic, many are in danger of losing their homes or cannot afford to eat in the current financial crisis. If you have enough, and especially more than enough, could you help a family in need instead of booking that extra holiday?


These are just examples. I pray the Lord will speak to each of us, soften us with compassion, and help us know whom he would have us serve for his sake.


‘I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.’


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