Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions. (Colossians 1:24 NASB)
Paul saw his ministry or service to Christ as his ultimate joy in life. Notice, he says he was “made a minister.” Paul viewed himself as a minister as something he became because of God and not originating in himself.
Every Christian is a minister, a servant, a slave to Christ, and a slave to righteousness. We are made to become this in Christ. We do not regenerate ourselves, we do not save ourselves, and we certainly do not put ourselves into service for Christ. No, everything that we have and everything that we are is by the grace of God. We owe everything to Christ!
Paul was one who certainly understood the grace of God in his life and it completely changed who he was and the grace of God will completely change who we are.
Acts 9:1-22 Complete Change! – Paul received grace he did not deserve and it changed who he was. We who believe in Christ have received grace we did not deserve and it should completely change our lives. So, when Paul says he was made a minister he knows what the true source of his ministry is: The Grace Of God!
And then he says in verse 24 of Colossians chapter 1, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings.” This great persecutor of the church who was told that he would suffer for Christ’s name, now says that he rejoices in those very sufferings.
He has joy in his sufferings for Christ. Rejoice – present tense verb (ongoing action, ongoing joy). A joy that is not extinguished by any circumstances or anything because his joy is rooted in Jesus Christ. Paul is writing this letter while in prison but yet in the midst of his imprisonment, He still finds joy in Christ.
It is a sad reality that we face today that a majority of Christians and even some pastors have completely lost the joy of serving God. The reason is that Christians think that they find their joy in what they want or in their preferences or in making sure everything goes as planned or even in their spouse or their children or their job.
Our joy in the Christian life is only found in Jesus Christ and nothing else. Paul had joy in his ministry because his ultimate joy was in Christ. Paul was rejoicing despite his imprisonment. How could this be? Because Paul knew that his joy in life was not measured by personal circumstances. While they can be discouraging they should not and cannot rob us of our joy. While some may have looked upon his imprisonment as a colossal failure, Paul saw it and rejoiced over it because his imprisonment had come as a direct result of his ministry to others.
He said his sufferings were “for your sake.” They were for the sake of the Colossian believers. If you ever find yourself suffering for the sake of Christ’s name or for His body then Paul says you can rejoice in that! In light of all this, why are so many Christians joyless? What robs Christians of their joy?
We are robbed of our joy when we take our eyes and our focus off of the Great Shepherd. When we become self-centered, think that we deserve better than what we are getting, or we think that we don’t need to serve others. What is worse is when Christians think that everything and every decision must be filtered through their preferences.
When we become more focused on things or room sizes or styles of worship or what the preacher is wearing of whether the bulletin was to our liking or this or that person didn’t speak to me or some decision didn’t go the way you thought it should; when we focus on those things more than Christ and His people and His Kingdom, we lose our joy.
If you feel that your joy has been lost the solution is simple: Humble yourself and approach ministry like Paul who considered everyone else as being more important than himself and served them with all of his might to the point of suffering for it.
Paul says, “I do my share on behalf of His body which is the church.”
Do we do our share on behalf of the body? On behalf of Christ’s body? What are you holding back? Are you sitting back not serving and being willing to toil and labor for Christ until you get what you want? This isn’t a country club where you pay your dues and if you put in enough time and years you get everything you want.
No, those among us who have been here the longest and have been in service to Christ the longest should be the best examples of humble service to Christ and on behalf of the body.
Growing in Christ and longevity in the church does not put anyone in your debt. There are no special classes of Christians. Nobody owes anything to anyone because of who they are or how much they give or what their family name is or what position they hold in the church.
NO, RATHER WE OWE EVERYTHING TO CHRIST!
We are nothing without the grace of God and until we figure that out and walk in it we will never experience any real or true and lasting joy in the church and in our lives. Our mindset should be that we are willing to go through or endure and do anything for Christ if it will advance His kingdom and uplift and edify His body.
Are you holding back something or some part of your life from Christ?
For a lot of people, the reason they hold back is to avoid the suffering and the toil and labor that comes with serving Christ. We in America don’t much like suffering. We tend to avoid it at all costs and think that if someone is suffering or facing adverse circumstances then they must be in sin or failing much like some probably thought about Paul when he was in prison.
However, the opposite is true. Paul says that he rejoices in his sufferings and they are exactly what one should expect when serving Christ and His church. The removal of self in ministry means that you serve to the point of suffering or even exhaustion from your labor not ever thinking of ourselves but instead of Christ and His body to whom we serve. As we serve Christ, as we serve the body, as we deny self and serve others, our joy grows!
John MacArthur outlines 5 reasons why suffering should actually be a cause for joy.
1. Suffering brings us closer to Christ
2. Suffering assures us that we belong to Christ
3. Suffering brings a future reward.
4. Suffering can result in the salvation of others.
5. Suffering frustrates Satan (MacArthur, 1992. p.75).
We fill up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions when we suffer for Christ. He is in heaven and yet the world still hates Him. Because He is not here, the world will put the target on our backs and if we live for Christ we will be targeted. But Paul says that when these things happen we can say, “Now I rejoice!”
The early church saw it as their highest privilege to suffer for Christ.
They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.
What do we do when suffering comes? What do we do when hardship comes? What do we do when diseases come? What do we do when trials and tribulations come? What do we do when we might even face death for the cause of Christ?
And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
Keep preaching and teaching Jesus as Messiah! Jesus as Lord! Jesus as the Christ! Preach the good news of the gospel of which we have all been made ministers! Because in this we find our true joy in Christ!
MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Colossians & Philemon. Chicago, Illinois. Moody Publishers. 1992.