Suffering for outsiders
Pain is both a motivator and a deterrent. Physical, mental, emotional pain…it doesn’t matter the type, because pain is, well, a pain to deal with. Usually, it’s the desire to avoid pain that leads to us promptly finishing a given task or ensuring that we do not do a particular task. We don’t like pain, and we’re willing to go to great lengths to make sure we don’t experience it.
There are very few things in life we willingly suffer for. Since our default is to avoid pain, it is a significant decision when we are willing to endure pain and suffering. Even then, the only people we may willingly suffer for would be a family member or an incredibly close friend. However, most everyone understands our motivations when we do choose to endure pain for those close to us.
But that’s where the gospel turns things upside down. When we accept the truth of the good news – that Jesus loved us enough to die in our place – we see others differently. After Paul became a believer, Jesus gave him the task of spreading the gospel message. As he describes his calling to the Colossians, Paul mentions that he suffers…but notice who it is he’s suffering for.
This gospel has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and I Paul, have become a minister of it.
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I am completing in my flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for His body, that is, the church. I have become its minister, according to God’s administration that was given to me for you, to make God’s message fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to His saints.
God wanted to make known to those among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Since the implications of Christ’s death and resurrection was a mystery hidden for ages and generations, no one fully understood it. Even the disciples had to have Jesus explain it to them. This means that everyone else would have trouble grasping this mystery, also. As the gospel message was explained and spread throughout the world, some people “got it”; they understood and believed, and yet some people didn’t.
It’s amazing to think that Paul was willing to suffer for something that the outsider Gentiles didn’t understand. In fact, some of them would never understand. They would fight against the message and the person delivering it. On several occasions, they even attempted to “kill the messenger”.
However, because the message was so big and so important, Paul was willing to take the chance that he would suffer for it. In fact, he did suffer a lot of pain. But he also found joy in his pain – because he knew that he was doing the job God gave him to do.
Looking a Paul’s example, each of us should pause and ask the question –
Am I willing to suffer in order to do the job God gave me to do…even if everyone doesn’t understand the gospel message or my motivation to share it?