This morning, I was reading Oswald Chamber’s entry for August 8th. He writes,
“The more one knows of the inner life of God’s ripest saints, the more one sees what God’s purpose is – ‘filling up that which is behind of the affliction of Christ’.”
The language in this passage is written very obscurely, and in the past, I suppose I’ve glossed over it without really understanding the meaning. But today, it struck me as an important passage, so I looked up this verse in all the versions of the Bible that we have in the house (KJV, NKJV, NIV, NLT, ). I took a little extra time to examine the texts well, and to be sure that I got the general message straight.
From my study, I gathered that the main idea here is that God wants to heal people and make the body of believers strong. The “suffering” that Paul refers to has two aspects. (1) The suffering that we endure from being sinful people in a fallen world. (2) The choice we make as Christians to lay down our own selfishness and personal ambitions so that we can help others who are suffering. This is suffering too, but fulfilling the purposes of others lives is what the keeps at the forefront of our thoughts.
We take part in God’s process of healing by keeping the benefit of the group above our own personal interests. This process is what builds up the 2nd Corinthians 1:3-7, which is more clear, and follows here., and this is what it means to “Share in each other’s sufferings.” This concept is in agreement with
“Praise be to God and Father of our, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”
In conclusion, the application here is this – that when we notice “problem people” in our fellowship (those people who take offense at various things, or whine and complain, or spread gossip, or simply refuse to take action when it is most needed), we need to be more aggressive in our ministry, to reach out to those individuals, whoever they might be, instead of withdrawing into our respective cliques with a disgusted attitude of blame. We should not wait for a pastor or deacon to do so. We should not fight or slander each other. We make no progress as long as we work against each other, instead of fighting the enemy together. We are the only allies we have on this earth.
Don’t hesitate to advance communication with others.
Stay focused on what God is doing in us.