24 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. 25 I have become its servant, according to God’s administration that was given to me for you, to make God’s message fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to His saints. 27 God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Rejoice. Fully known. His strength.
Rejoice in suffering. Not tolerate, not endure, not be a martyr. Rejoice.
I think of all of the times in Paul’s ministry that a terrible situation he was in turned into a life changing situation for someone near him. A jailer likely wouldn’t have been so impressed with Paul had he just tolerated his situation. An entire group of Roman soldiers likely wouldn’t have received the message Paul shared with them while chained if Paul was whining incessantly.
Paul said that “light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, left to die, and imprisoned. Many of those things happened multiple times! I don’t believe Paul thought these things were easy – He was just as human as we are. He had an incredible grasp of perspective. What was being achieved came with a price.
Paul, after once persecuting the church, became a servant to the church with the task of making God’s message fully known. Fully known. How many of my friends can only say that God’s message is partly known by the way I live my life? Yes, part of that is God’s timing and our understanding that we all have different roles to play in God’s master plan to bring people to Him. Part of that is being who God designed me to be. Fully. Without reservation, compromise, or concern.
His strength. Paul, known as one of the early church leaders and tasked with bringing Christ to everyone who was not a Jew, realized that he couldn’t do it with his own strength. Perhaps being fully humbled to the point of blindness while on the road to Damascus served as a lifelong reminder that God was fully in control, that there was no place Paul could go where God would not be, and that God was so powerful that He could turn an enemy into a mighty servant.
When I was a freshman in college, I worked at a discipleship weekend for youth at my home church in Texas. The weekend was powerful, and it culminated with a worship service. My pastor spoke God’s truth in a way that impacted everyone there. On my way out, I said to my pastor, “Brother Danny, God used you big tonight.” In his wisdom he said something I’ve never forgotten. He said “No, I was used by a big God.”
Paul was used mightily. We have the ability to read how he was used, and we can consider how the spark started in the Gentiles during Paul’s ministry has grown and exploded two thousand years later. I have to believe that if we could talk to Paul, he would fiercely say that he was used by a big God and that nothing good could have happened without God’s strength that worked powerfully in him. I need that reminder daily.
The challenge today is simple, but it isn’t easy. We are to rejoice, and we are to make Christ fully known to those around us. This absolutely cannot happen by using our own power. We must go to Him daily, and like Israelites waiting for exactly one day’s worth of manna, we can trust that He will give us strength for this day.
- In what ways do I suffer? How do I handle that suffering?
- In what ways do I make Christ known to those around me? Is there part of the message that isn’t fully conveyed?
- How much of today will I operate under my own strength, and how much under God’s strength?