Now I rejoice in what I am suffering 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 Lord’s people.
— Colossians 1:24-26 NIV

a passion worth hearing about

Have you ever seen someone who is absolutely consumed with passion? Whether it be work, school, starting a business or starting a movement, we all know those people who just won’t stop doing whatever it is they do because it’s their sole desire. And usually, if someone is that impassioned about something, I’m willing to lend them my ear so that I may learn of what it is that they so eagerly long for. The person who penned these words, the Apostle Paul, is one of those people. He murdered many of the first Christians before being blinded by God and called to repentance. He was then sent on a mission to proclaim the Gospel and plant churches all across Europe and Asia only to be arrested, stoned and kicked out of many of the cities he went to. And while writing these words he was under Roman imprisonment after being shipwrecked in the Mediterranean. For one man to go through all of that, one must say that he’s at least worth lending an ear to. So what is it that he so eagerly wants to tell the Colossian church?

Enter Colossians 1:24-26, where Paul writes that he is suffering under Roman imprisonment and is “filling up [his] flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions”. He’s not saying that Christ’s sacrifice was lacking in any way, but rather Paul is saying that his suffering is the continual fulfillment of Jesus’ promise in John 16:33 that there will be trouble in this world. It also demonstrates his willingness to be obedient to Christ’s command in Matthew 5:12 “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” And he says he is doing it all for the sake of the church whom Christ died for.

worth it

But is Paul suffering just for suffering’s sake? How does his suffering contribute to the mission of the church? Paul explains that he has willingly become a servant to the church and that by suffering and persevering in the face of imminent persecution, torture, and death, he demonstrates just how worth it Christ is. He says that he continually suffers so that he may “present to [the church] the word of God in its fullness”. What constitutes the fullness of God? Paul calls it “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people”. In the very next verse, he says that this mystery that is now accessible is Christ himself. He’s no longer inaccessible. He came down from His throne because He wants to be with you. He wants to convince you of His love for you. He ultimately wants your whole heart. Nothing less.