Summary: As we understand the ramifications of Christ dwelling within us, we will strive for maturity in our faith and can become all that God desires for us to be.
Discovering Your Purpose
A truck driver was hauling a load of 500 penguins to the zoo. Unfortunately, his truck broke down. He eventually waved down another truck and offered the driver $500 to take the penguins to the zoo.
The next day the first truck driver got his truck fixed and drove into town and couldn’t believe his eyes! Just ahead of him he saw the second truck driver crossing the road with the 500 penguins waddling single file behind him. He jumped out of his truck, ran up to the guy and said, “What’s going on? I gave you $500 to take these penguins to the zoo!”
To which the man responded, “I did take them to the zoo. But I had enough money left over so now we’re going to the movies.”
That guy didn’t fully understand what he was supposed to be doing. Likewise, many believers today are fuzzy about their sense of purpose. Last week we focused on the ultimate question of life by looking at the supremacy of Christ over His creation and His church. We ended with a challenge to make sure that Jesus occupies first place in each of our lives. As we come to the next section of Colossians, we’ll discover our reason for living. Colossians 1:24-2:5 answers the question, “Now that Jesus is supreme in my life, what is my purpose as a believer?”
This passage gives us six strategic statements that will help us discover what we’ve been designed to do.
1. Suffer Joyfully for the Gospel
We might not expect this first one to even be included in the list, but verse 24 makes it clear that Paul saw suffering as part of the job description of a Christ follower: “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.” Paul willingly and joyfully suffered on behalf of others for the sake of the gospel. The little word “now” does more than just provide a transition. Paul is rejoicing precisely because of what he has just written and he’s rejoicing now (at present) while in prison.
Most of us try to get rid of suffering when it comes our way. When we’re in pain, we want to relieve it. Paul was different. He found joy in what he suffered. In 2 Corinthians 7:4 he declares, “…In all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.” And he suffered far more than most of us ever will. Listen to what he writes in 2 Corinthians 11:24-29: “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?”
Before Paul’s conversion, he inflicted suffering on believers. And now he’s suffering for them. From the very moment of his conversion, in Acts 9:16, Paul was told that difficulty was going to be part of his discipleship when Jesus said: “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
When Paul speaks of “filling up in his flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions,” he is not implying that there is some insufficiency in what Christ accomplished on the cross. As we learned last week in Colossians 1:22, we have been reconciled by “Christ’s physical body through death to present us holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” His death has brought us peace with God and there’s nothing left to be done, except to respond to what He has done on our behalf.
The word “afflictions” is never used of the sufferings of Jesus on the cross, but instead refers to the “pressures” of life that Paul endured. Christ suffered in death to save the church, and now Paul suffered in life to spare it. John Piper writes that “Christ’s cross was for propitiation; ours is for propagation. Christ suffered to accomplish salvation. We suffer to spread salvation.” (Sermon by John Piper: “Called to Suffer and Rejoice,” 8/30/92).