“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 that Jesus did not finish. This kind of affliction has nothing to do with the salvation suffering of Christ (Heb. 2:9; 1 Peter 1:11; 5:1) but with the adversity of service for Christ. Christ’s suffering for sin lacked nothing, for he finished all the affliction necessary for our sins. The suffering of Christ upon the cross was entirely sufficient for salvation, for he completely satisfied God’s justice by giving his life for our sins (Rom. 5:1).
However, God allows the believer to enter into suffering for Christ in service (2 Tim. 3:11; 1 Peter 1:6-8; 4:11,12; 5:9). The word “fill up” is a very strong term in Greek; it means to fill up in turn. We are to fill up, in turn, the afflictions of Christ during his ministry before the cross.
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, but 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” (2 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 pain 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 perhaps 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 distress of old age. They wonder whether their children will care for them. Will they end up in a nursing home? There is a haunting fear of senility and decrepitude. Again, there is the anguish of younger people. Will they ever make anything of themselves? They think that they are not skillful, brilliant, or strong. They hide their suffering by the way they dress and act. They hide anguish 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 our Lord and others.