REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, first posted on June 30, 2016, is provided by Ulysses Wang who pastors Renewal Church in Sunnyvale, California. Pastor Ulysses is a graduate of New York University (BA) and Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.).
Devotional Thought for This Morning
“The Sufficiency of Christ’s Work”
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….
Here we have a problematic verse. We know that Christ was completely obedient to the will of the Father. We also know that His suffering for us on the cross was wholly sufficient for our cleansing and justification. The author of Hebrews wrote, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (10:14). So what then could be “lacking in Christ’s afflictions”? Uncomfortable choice of words indeed.
We need not question the sufficiency of Christ’s work; however, upon deeper examination we come to understand that it is not that Christ’s work was insufficient, but rather, that the experience of suffering was to be continued in His body – the Church. N.T. Wright put it this way: “Just as the Messiah was to be known by the path of suffering he freely chose – and is recognized in his risen body by the mark of the nails… so his people are to be recognized by the sufferings they endure…” Suffering, rather than always serving as an indication that something is wrong, can sometimes be an indication that things are very right. In fact, the opposite can be true – the absence of suffering, normally our desired state of affairs, could very well mean that we’ve failed to “take up our cross.”
We don’t like this. No one likes to suffer. Now, I am not saying that we should go out looking for suffering, but unless we understand this biblical paradigm, we will surely do all we can to avoid it—even if it may be the road we must take to accomplish the will of God. To quote Wright again: “If all these ideas sound strange to modern ears, this may not be so much due to the distance between Paul and ourselves in time and culture as because the church has forgotten how to apply to itself the fact that it is the body of the crucified Messiah.”
Now again, this doesn’t mean we go about our day with martyrdom on the top of our to-do list (otherwise you might as well cross off numbers 2 and following). It’s not your fault you don’t live in a country where it is illegal to believe in Jesus. However, Paul’s teaching still applies. To quote Wright one last time: “Finally, we would be wrong to think of suffering only in terms of the direct outward persecution that professing Christians sometimes undergo because of their faith. The church must, it is true, always be ready for such persecution… But all Christians will suffer for their faith in one way or another: if not outwardly, then inwardly, through the long, slow battle with temptation or sickness, the agonizing anxieties of Christians responsibilities for a family or church…, the constant doubts and uncertainties which accompany the obedience of faith, and ‘the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to’, taken up as they are within the call to follow Christ.”
Prayer: God, help me to internalize this truth, that suffering – taking up my cross and following after You – is a necessary part of the Christian life. Help me to rejoice when I suffer for doing good, for great is my reward in heaven. Give me courage to persevere in the face of persecution and endurance to hold on in the midst of suffering. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Nehemiah 9
Lunch Break Study
Read John 15:18-21: If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.
Questions to Consider
1. What does it mean that “the world hates you”? How should Jesus’ statement help to inform our worldview?
2. Are there any areas of your life where you’ve been avoiding suffering, possibly too much so?
1. When we live with kingdom values, we will inevitably clash with the values of this world, which is controlled and shaped by “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2).
2. Maybe we avoid sharing the gospel because we fear rejection, drawing an ethical line in the sand because we are afraid of upsetting our bosses, or miss out on the will of God because we idolize creature comforts for ourselves or our families.
“I have accepted this proposal. Christians are meant to have the same vocation as their King, that of cross-bearers. It is this conscience of a high calling and of partnership with Jesus which brings gladness in tribulations, which makes Christians enter prisons for their faith with the joy of a bridegroom entering the bridal room.” – Richard Wurmbrand, who spent 14 years in prison as a Romanian pastor.