“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.” (Colossians 1:24)
In Philippians 3:10 Paul had written that he longed to know Christ in the fellowship of His sufferings. Paul knew there is a sacred camaraderie that is born through mutual suffering. As he endured the rejection, persecution, and injustices that Jesus Himself suffered, it connected him to Christ’s heart in a profound way. After suffering these things, Paul felt nearer to Jesus and experienced His comfort as never before (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). It was as if Jesus came to his side and whispered in Paul’s ear, “I know exactly how you feel, for I have suffered in the very same way.” Note how, in his deepest distress, Christ appeared to Paul to comfort him (Acts 24:11; 27:23-25). Yes, when we endure hardship and heartbreak, we are drawn closer to the heart of Jesus, who suffered them both during His troubled earthly sojourn.
Soldiers know exactly what I’m talking about. After witnessing first-hand the painful cost of freedom – paying the price themselves in body, mind, and soul – they reach a level of camaraderie that only other soldiers can know. They experience a sacred bond with other soldiers who have suffered likewise. And, they will be disturbed to see their civilian counterparts – so rich with freedoms they’ve never had to earn or defend – burn their flag and ridicule their nation. Soldiers will tend to feel it’s not right that so few should pay the price for freedom that benefits so many, while those many remain clueless to its cost. “There’s a lack of suffering on the part of Americans. If they knew how costly freedom was they wouldn’t be so eager to embrace socialism and slavery.”
Courageous & Selfless
Here in Colossians 1:24, Paul looks at the church of Jesus Christ, so rich with the blessings He has purchased with His own blood. He sees a similar lack of camaraderie between the church and her Lord, a camaraderie and fellowship that can only be born through mutual suffering. On Paul’s part, he is happy to share in Christ’s sufferings. He is glad to take on more than his share of those hardships and adversity that bring him closer to the heart of Jesus. For they yield a deeper friendship with Christ.
Of course, suffering for Jesus Christ, was part of Paul’s calling. That’s what Jesus said about Paul when he first believed. “For I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). Paul knew that every Christian couldn’t do what he did or endure the persecution he suffered. Only a few, strong of faith and full of the Spirit of God, could reach that deeper fellowship with Christ. In addition, I suspect, that most soldiers understand that most Americans can never stand guard over America’s freedoms. Furthermore, only a few courageous and selfless men and women will ever really know the true cost of such freedom and the camaraderie their suffering attains.
Is there a camaraderie, a deep friendship between you and Jesus Christ? Are you willing to draw nearer to Christ, though it means sharing His sufferings?
Dear Lord Jesus, as You yearn for my friendship and nearness, please create a hunger in my heart for Yours. Draw me, dear Lord, closer to Your heart – even though it requires me to share Your sorrow and grief. For how can I call You my friend and be oblivious to Your love for humanity and the pain their suffering causes You?
And, Lord Jesus, don’t let me be oblivious to the cost of freedom or to the burden soldiers bear to protect our nation. Please bless the men and women of our Armed Forces. Especially, those who are deployed to the most dangerous places on earth. Please, Almighty God, arm them with strength and courage for their hazardous duty. Grant them success in all their missions. Protect them from every danger. Use them to crush the oppression of the wicked, establish Your justice in the earth, and bring them all safely home into the arms of their families and loved ones. Amen.
–https://www.flickr.com/photos/marine_corps/6963905682/ (By Marines, Licensed under US Govt Work)
–https://www.flickr.com/photos/soldiersmediacenter/45380285464/ (By US Army, Licensed under CC by 2.0)