“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”
God wants us to finish the ministry where Christ left off. However, this will involve affliction.
“and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ”
Paul wanted to “fill up” in his physical body the afflictions Jesus did not finish. This has nothing to do with the salvation suffering of Christ (Heb. 2:9; I Peter 1:11; 5:1). It has to do with the suffering of service for Christ. Christ’s suffering for sin lacked nothing. He finished all the suffering necessary for our sin. The suffering of Christ upon the cross was totally sufficient for salvation. God’s justice was completely satisfied in Christ’s death for our sin (Rom. 5:1).
However, God allows the believer to enter into the suffering for Christ (II Tim. 3:11; I Peter 1:6-8; 4:11,12; 5:9). The phrase “fill up” is a very strong term in the Greek. The word means to fill up in turn. We are to fill up in turn the deficiencies of the sufferings of Christ.
God wants us to fill in the place of Christ’s sufferings during his life before the cross.
We need to face whatever is necessary to advance the cause of Christ. God wants us to take our turn at bat. Jesus came up first. Now it is our turn.
The more Christians suffer here the more glory they will receive hereafter,
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Cor. 4:17).
Christians will differ in heaven. Christians who suffer more here will receive more glory there. They will have more coming over yonder unless their suffering is due to sin. That is another category of suffering–chastening. Every time a Christian suffers does not mean that he has sinned. We may never know why we suffer until we get to glory.
“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29).
One of God’s gifts to us is suffering. When we go through a particular siege of suffering and look back upon it, we say, “I would not want to go through that again, but I thank God for the experience.” Maybe we endure a siege of sickness or surgery. Or, maybe face a financial or career crisis. It could be a crisis with one of our children. You may have prayed, “Oh God, don’t let her marry that young man” but she did anyway. Then there is the suffering of fear of old age. They wonder whether their children will care for them. Will they end up in a nursing home? There is the haunting fear of senility and decrepitude. There is the suffering of young folks. Will they ever make anything of themselves? They are not skillful, brilliant or strong. They hide their suffering by the way they dress and act. They hide suffering by rebellion. All suffering is in God’s divine design.
Will you willingly step up to bat and fill in the gap for Christ in our generation? The Christian life is not easy. We will pay a price. God wants us to do it for the sake of others.