While on vacay, I read John Piper's new book, Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ, which by the way is available for free download at the Desiring God website. It covers ground I've covered before, but far more eloquently and powerfully, between Piper's steady exegesis and remarkable biographical blurbs of three saints who suffered greatly for the sake of propagating the message of Jesus as Lord and Savior.
I particularly like Pastor Piper's explanation of what it means to "fill up afflictions": not that Jesus' afflictions were inadequate, but they have been as of yet inadequately made known to the ends of the earth. And, as I have come to believe as well, suffering is not just a consequence of spreading the word but is itself an important and in fact necessary conduit.
Of course, I am tempted to leave it like that: read the book, blog about it, recommend it to others, and be fuller for it . . . but not really have it grip me as the truth should. Having recently read Mark's account of Jesus' earliest days, when by sheer force of authority he called people to leave their vocations and their loved ones and follow Him, I am challenged to consider whether I too would leave job and family to be spent, time and talents and belongings and even my very life, to make Him known to those who do not yet know of it.
At the very least, I am reminded of the need to daily die to self, and to its ambitions and comfort- and glory-seeking ways, to willfully and gladly subordinate what I think to be best for what truly is best, which is to follow Jesus and trust that even and especially suffering that I bear along the way will be part of a great story of redemption and salvation. Easier said than done. But, thankfully, truth-tellers like Pastor Piper, and martyrs like those profiled in his most recent book, have gone ahead of me, and found the road, however hard and costly, to lead to life.
"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." - Colossians 1:24