“They shall mount up on wings as Eagles” Isaiah 40:31
Having a very close and intimate friend lets us know all about ourselves inside and out without criticism. When we have such a friend they deserve our intimacy in return. Walking the path of their life, experiencing everything they have experienced. This may mean feeling their suffering as well as their triumph.
When I first came face to face with these two verses of mystery quite a few years ago, they stunned me to paralysis before them. What could I make of them? What was this depth of meaning? I’m speaking of Philippians 3:10, Colossians 1:24.
I thought Christ’s suffering on the cross was all-sufficient. However, here before me was just two verses that seemed to question my understanding of Chris’s sufficiency in His suffering. I buried these verses in my heart and locked them in a small acacia box placed in a particular room of my memory. And I kept returning to study their meaning over time.
Over much time of research and study, I recognized the meaning of Paul’s statement about suffering. I found facing my fear of such sorrows was at the root cause of my initial lack of understanding. Simultaneously, joy welled up inside. I understood that personally entering in Christ’s suffering was the way of entering into a deeper relationship with Him in a mystic, supernatural intimacy that is difficult to describe.
We know Christ suffered and died on the cross for our sake to take our sins and sin nature upon Himself, that we may have His righteousness imputed to us.
As that is certainly true, I would like to point out our fellowship in Christ’s sufferings and our fellowship even in His death. Paul says in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” What imposing thoughts! We must work them out, think them out, and pray them out.
Paul put it another way in Colossians 1:24: “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”
I do not pretend to understand that fully. Still, I know that there is no higher statement of the doctrine of the believer’s union with His Lord. The apostle interprets his own sufferings in the flesh and in the body as, in a sense, filling up what remains of the anguish and the afflictions of Christ Himself. Paul is bearing that in his own flesh. The result of the mystical union is that he enters into this supernatural fellowship of the sufferings of Christ.
One thing I am concerned to emphasize. That is, the more deeply we realize the truth about this union between our Lord and us, the more we shall know something of the fellowship of His sufferings.
In this world, He was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah53:3). That was because of the sin of the world. And because He saw the enmity of the human heart against His Father, it hurt Him, it grieved Him, and He suffered. There is no more delicate test of our relationship to Him and our union with Him than the extent to which you and I know something of His suffering.
He suffered the things ordained of the Father. This for the sake of saving His elect from eternal separation from His Father, now our Father also.
However, He did not suffer to take away what we must suffer in our personal lives for His sake (“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33). We must take upon ourselves those things we shall suffer for His sake, that we may enjoy a closer fellowship in union with our Savior. [“And so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” -Phil.3:11]
I speak not only of “holy service.” I am speaking of all things in our life outside our control, be they physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. We always remember, however, that we are never alone in our sufferings. The Triune God is in and around us like a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wings. This is true through all eventualities, regardless of what the Liar or our emotions say to us.
As we are in Christ, so shall we escape the eternal grip of the grave. Such a Friend is a forever Friend! [“I no longer call you servants…. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15]
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7
“That you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life.” – Philippians 2:15,16