Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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Pastor's Blog

The privilege and a purpose of suffering. 8/08/10
Text: Colossians 1:23-29
23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation1 under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,
25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,
26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.
27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.


Life is about relationships:
In the relationships of life we have examples, role models which we follow in order to accomplish that which we wish to gain. For example, as parents, we understand that it is benefical to observe parents who are a little older than us so that we would learn by observing their relationship with one another as well as with their children. What is successful for them often times proves successful for us, and likewise what does not work for them often times will not work for us. This is in general, of course. The point is that we draw off of their experiences for our benefit. Growing in maturity in marriage would mean that we are growing in our understanding and experience that the marital/family relationship is in the team concept.

Young people learn somewhat in the same way as they observe those who are a bit older than they are as opposed to having their future directed by taking consensus among their peers. That may work fine sometimes, but they quickly learn to test their directions in life through the observing of the experiences and teachings of those who are mature (parents) or are growing in maturity.(those who may be a bit more mature than they) The youthful years play a major part of one growing in the understanding that life is about the team: The family at home, the church, and the community (how ever large that might be)

Christianity means relationship with Jesus. He is the example that we are called to follow, but since He is both God and man it is difficult to "match up" with Him in all things. Therefore, we draw on the examples of people just like us, like Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Daniel, David, and even, yes, Goliath in the OT. In the NT, the one we are called to model and imitate is the Apostle Paul, whose letter to the Colossians we are currently going through. We are given much insight into the life of the Apostle Paul, therefore, it is good for us to take advantage of the example that he lived as well as take heed of the words that he wrote under the leading of the Holy Spirit. They are true.

As children of the light, we have been placed in a privileged position within the body of Jesus Christ, because of the grace of God. No other reason can be found in the Bible for this place which we have been placed. As in any other privilege in life, there are responsibilities and duties that come along with it. To this point in our letter, Paul has spoken to us through the Holy Spirit of what God has done for us through His Son Jesus and now begins to shift the focus of his letter to what the life of a Christian is like in everyday life.

Now he begins to indirectly address the question which often times has troubled and challenged the Christian Church through the ages. We are saved, now what! Some have minimized the teachings concerning what the Bible says about our responsibilities and duties as a Christian to the point where any fruits or works are considered wrong, as self righteousness or simply unnecesary while others have placed too much emphasis on them to the point that they become a demand to maintain one's saved condition. Probably the two verses which have led to these two extremes are the following:

Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

James 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. {alone: Gr. by itself}
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.



The Apostle Paul begins the transition of his letter to the Colossian congregation by writing that he rejoices in what he is going through for them. As he sits in a prison in Rome, he shows them that he does not turn inward, and therefore feel sorry for himself, but rather writes to them that he rejoices that his sufferings will be to their benefit. In some way, the collective body will benefit because of his sufferings personally.

His sufferings were due to his identification with Jesus, and were not because of the things of life or as a result of his own poor choices. Everyone experiences the latter two situations, but only Christians experience persecution due to being yoked with Jesus Christ.

We must understand that any suffering which we experience does not contribute to the ransom for sin that was required by God. That is a done deal. But our call to identify/suffer with Christ in some way plays a part in the propagation/spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When God is put on display, some people will be affected and changed for the better by it.

Two of the illustrations from the Old Testament which we referred to last week show this to us.

KJV Daniel 3:29 Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.
KJV Daniel 3:30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon

KJV Daniel 6:25 Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.
KJV Daniel 6:26 I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.

Let us look at a few New Testament references which teach about suffering, and which clarify that suffering which Paul is referring to in our text is related to that which results from being identified with Jesus Christ.

1. We will experience the common sufferings of life.

1 Peter 2:19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. {thankworthy: or, thank}
20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. {acceptable: or, thank}
21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: {for us: some read, for you}
22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: {himself: or, his cause}
24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. {on: or, to}
25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

2. If we sow in the flesh, we will reap in the flesh

Galatians 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

3. As part of the body of Jesus Christ, we will suffer for our identification with Him.

John 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me.

Examples: The first Apostles suffered in the body of Jesus

KJV Acts 5:40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
KJV Acts 5:41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.

We all have a testimony of our life. John Newton, the writer of Amazing Grace, had a testimony: I once was lost, but now I am found, I was blind, but now I see. Simply said, we all can say, this was my life, this happened, now I am this.

The Apostle Paul had the same testimony of his life. We sometimes get caught up in the idea that we are only "this" and forget that we are yet growing. The subject of growth will illustrated in the next sermon, in the last part of this chapter.

Why did Paul begin his discussion in this way and how did he get to the point to where he could say what he said about suffering?

1. When he was translated into the kingdom of light, it was prophesied to a man named Ananias that he was going to suffer.

Acts 9:10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.
11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,
12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.
13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:
14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.
15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:
16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.

2. He suffered for the cause of Christ

2 Cor 2:23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?
30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.

3. He understood the purpose of suffering and desired to participate in these sufferings in a greater way.

Philippians 3:8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-
10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Paul began to teach about the actual living of a Christian life through his own example. (Note that this is the springboard that Paul uses to begin to teach of the Christian life: It is attitude, not practice. Practice will come later in this letter)

1. He understood and had come to experience that true relationship with Jesus was one of serving the other.

2. He had genuine joy in that his sufferings for the sake of Jesus was and would be a benefit to them spiritually.

Application

What does this mean to us today in our time, in our culture?

Family: Do we realize that our family relationships thrive when we willingly and joyfully (even in suffering) serve for the benefit of the family, for our church, even for our community?

We exercise this by asking ourselves: What can I do today to serve/suffer for the sake of my family? my congregation? my community?

How could I put my family, my church, my community before me, put the needs of the group before my personal needs? When we do this, we are looking to build for the future, for those who are younger than us, for those who will be drawn to worship with us, for those who will be leaders in our community.

As we think upon the grace that God has bestowed upon us, and we ask ourselves the question today, "I am yours, Lord, now what?" let us silently reflect on that which the Lord has spoken with us today concerning the privileges and opportunities that are given to us today and which will be presented to us in the near future in our relationships with our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us now and always, Amen.

Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 08 Aug 2010 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
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