Ministry is a call to suffering.
Paul says that he makes it habit of “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s affliction for the sake of the church.” He says that Jesus isn’t done suffering for the church. He was beat, punished, ridiculed, and ultimately crucified to purchase a people for himself. But he wasn’t done yet.
He still pays and suffers for the fullness of his church. As his Spirit dwells into our hearts, we continue to pay the price to win the lost, and to bring far off sons and daughters back to God, beautifying them for the day of the Wedding.
Paul’s life of ministry, as he exemplifies it to us, is equated with a life of suffering.
It costs something to see the harvest come in. Reaping the harvest is not free. And as Paul “rejoices in his sufferings” (v24), he knows that his labor is an extension of Jesus’ own labor.
Our sweat is not just our sweat. Our tears are not just our tears. Our scars are not just our scars. They continue to inflict the heart of God who dwells powerfully within us.
In our Christ-less self without the presence of the Holy Spirit, we would never engage in suffering. But when he came into our hearts, and began living in us, and we started serving God, it was a march to death. It is his heart and will which marches us to death.
And by our death, life is given to the world. And by our death, Christ continues to pay to receive the fullness of his bride.
Oh Jesus, let me embrace suffering as part of my call to ministry. Let self-preservation be far from me, as your self-sacrificing life becomes part of me. Let me fill up what is lacking in your afflictions as you continue to suffer and strive to win a beautiful and spotless bride.
Deliver me from the comfort and settling messages of America. Let my life be marked by giving my life for your work.