To a degree, I sense that most people come to God with an idea that the Christian life will be an easy-going, problem-free, never-have-a-bad-day kind of life. If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you know that’s not completely accurate.
Godliness is the exact opposite. Life with God may not always be the easiest path, but it is rewarding. Romans 6:23 tells us that “…the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In the letter written to the Colossians, Paul prepares them to manage a life that isn’t always fair.
“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,” Colossians 1:24
Paul makes two significant statements that pertain to us, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings,” and “I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s affliction.”
Paul’s viewpoint on difficulties caused him to see the redemptive value in his sufferings and this allowed Paul to rejoice within them. How much different would life be if we were able to rejoice even amid our struggle? This will be the focus of our conversation today.
Paul’s second statement, “I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s affliction,” means that Paul is picking up where Jesus left off.
- Jesus dealt with opposition continually during His earthly ministry.
- He was persecuted and accused of doing the works of the devil.
- He faced many troubles leading up to his crucifixion.
Jesus taught His disciples how difficulty would be a part of their lives. “33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
In Colossians 1, Paul highlights two experiences all followers of Jesus will encounter in life, affliction and suffering. The term affliction refers to an internal struggle where someone feels trapped or hemmed in by their desires.
The word for suffering carries the meaning of a contest between two people. It includes physical and nonphysical opposition. The word is unique in that it’s not directly negative unless it’s used apart from faith. The idea is that as people living by faith, our suffering produces something positive.
Both factors are used in your transformation. God is equally invested in the process as He is the outcome.
Whereas we focus primarily on the outcome, God uses the process to produce beauty from ashes. If we have the correct perspective on our struggles and afflictions, we will see God in the fire with us and working to refine us.
The process helps us;
- To not repeat our mistakes.
- To avoid the same traps.
- To make the right decisions.
- To remain faithful to God.
Be committed to the process and don’t shortchange your struggles or difficulties but know that God is at work. If we only focus on the pain, we may crumble under the weight of our circumstances.
How do we endure and persevere beyond the difficulties in life?
Paul gives us the answer to this question in verse 29, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” God does not always deliver us from difficulty, but He gives us the energy to withstand the pressures internally and externally.
The word translated energy means vigor at work, operative, active and efficient. It’s divine energy that is effective and active. Don’t manage your troubles with your own strength when God has provided you with divine energy to outmatch your trouble.
How do we tap into God’s strength?
We do so by not fighting our circumstances but take each moment as presented and trust God is at work perfecting us.
Here Paul pairs energy with a favorite word of his, dynamis, which is translated “powerfully,” and means to be able, and achieving power. Dynamis is an unmatched, effective power.
With these two words paired together, he emphasizes the effectiveness of Christ power within you to accomplish what it is needed to accomplish.
Maybe you have been praying for God to remove your circumstances or relieve the struggles you’re facing, and you feel He has been silent. God isn’t ignoring you; God is busy at work in your life.
Even if you can’t see or understand what He is doing, trust that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purposes,” Romans 8:28.