International news has taken a dark turn in the past couple of days for the cause of Jesus Christ. It was reported on Saturday that ten aid workers were shot dead in Afghanistan last Friday. Today the Toronto Star reports that Christians in China are being attacked by mobs, who have the unofficial backing of the Chinese government.
There have in fact been more martyrs for the cause of Jesus this year already than in any year in history! Allowing yourself to be identified as a follower of Jesus is enough to get you killed in dozens of countries all over the world. I am tempted to say that I am fortunate to live in a country where I am free to follow Jesus but sometimes I wonder. Am I really that fortunate? Would I be better off if I were truly challenged in holding my faith. Does living in a country that lulls believers to sleep realy make them fortunate?
The gospel is communicated clearly through blood, sweat, and tears. We must never forget that there is no trial as magnificent, no throne as lofty, no show of triumph as distinguished as the cross on which Christ has subdued death and the Devil. Paul writes,
Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
Col. 1: 24 – 29
Paul says he is ‘filling up what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings?’ Was Jesus sacrifice insufficient? Absolutely not. What Paul is getting at is that when we suffer for Jesus’ sake, He suffers too. When we are mocked or worse – beaten or killed for representing Jesus on earth – He is right there beside us as we suffer. We are continuing the suffering of Jesus. He is suffering too.
During WWII a Christian aid worker who refused to be separated from Jews who were being tortured by Nazi’s in a prison camp was forced to watch is son be murdered right in front of him. The Nazi soldier asked him, “Where is God now?” The Christian replied, “He is right here weeping for his son.”
The patience, and compassion of Jesus Christ being demonstrated before the world is their ‘hope of glory,’ Paul says.
In Christianity Today this month is an article by Ajith Fernando (he wrote a book called The Call to Joy and Pain: Embracing Suffering in Your Ministry) entitled, “To Serve Is To Suffer.”
In it he talks about the true nature of suffering. “If the apostle Paul knew fatigue, anger, and anxiety in his ministry, what makes us think we can avoid them in ours?”
The New Testament is clear that those who work for Christ will suffer because of their work. Tiredness, stress, and strain may be the cross God calls us to. Paul often spoke about the physical hardships his ministry brought him, including emotional strain (Gal. 4:19; 2 Cor. 11:28), anger (2 Cor. 11:29), sleepless nights and hunger (2 Cor. 6:5), affliction and perplexity (2 Cor. 4:8), and toiling—working to the point of weariness (Col. 1:29). In statements radically countercultural in today’s “body conscious” society, he said, “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16); and, “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”
People who are unfulfilled after pursuing things that do not satisfy are astonished to see Christians who are joyful after depriving themselves of physical things for the sake of the gospel. Submission to God’s rule and worship of Jesus Christ in the midst of of suffering makes God look glorious!