The Fellowship of His Sufferings
There are, as the word of God says, mysteries of God and his kingdom. None are more profound than an understanding of what Paul called the fellowship of his sufferings. There are many truths, which can be expounded here, but I shall focus on just one.
Jesus is and was the God man. His death was all-inclusive in that he died for the sins of the whole of humanity; but the love of God compels him to apply this truth on an individual basis. God did not just send his Son to offer himself as the eternal sacrifice of the world, and simply issue a broad proclamation to the world that it had been done. No. He sent the Holy Spirit into the world as not just a witness that these things be true, but much more precious than this; to speak to each individual heart that this is true for them. At Calvary there may be millions or possibly billions that have stood there, but they were brought there and ministered to one by one.
Jesus, however, did not just die. He rose again; and by that resurrection infused in every human heart that would believe in him that same new life with which he came out of the grave. The fellowship of his sufferings does not speak of all the tests and trials we all face from day to day. No, it is a higher calling, a godly proclamation and invitation to one and all followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus died for all; he also rose for all and sprinkled his blood on the altar of God when he rose and appeared before his Father.
His Father accepted his sacrifice for all and by so doing opened the human heart to the divine. We are in Christ in a vital union with God himself. His life is alive on the inside of our hearts. We, like Christ, have according to Paul been included in Christ when he died. (See Galatians 2:20) We have also been infused with the ability to come boldly to the throne of grace.
"So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most." Hebrews 4:16, NLT
Jesus, in both his death and resurrection, laid down his life for others. Jesus Christ’s eternal sacrifice did not end with the cross. No. He is in a vital union with each and every one of us. He carries our hurts and intercedes to the Father on our behalf. He is not just looking down and with a heart full of benevolence merely moved by all we are going through.
No, saint of God, he is in union with us. When we hurt, he hurts and feels all that we are going through because the two have been made one in him. There is nothing, which may affect us in this life of which he is immune. He feels every heart break, is moved with compassion with every tear. His heart is grieved with every act of abuse because he feels what we feel. He can do nothing less for he knew when he died for all mankind that when he rose he was for all time bringing himself into a vital connection with us.
Yet, wonder of wonders, it does not end here. No, as we are filled with his life, and begin to be filled with a hunger to know him, a remarkable thing begins to occur. Paul understood all too well the fellowship of his sufferings (See Acts 21: 27-32). The scars on his back and the dungeons in which he spent much of his life are a living record of this (See Acts 21 - 28). We followers of Christ, as we spend time with him undergo a dramatic internal change. Somewhere and somehow we go from living for ourselves to living for others.
We find ourselves alone in the night seasons crying out to God for the pain and suffering of the wounded all around us. We begin to - little by little - have the focus of our prayer life and purpose for life transformed by our vital connection to him, from self-centeredness to feeling like our Lord,
the sorrows and suffering of others. We are blessed to be changed by his great heart so that we share the fellowship of his sufferings for others.
"That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death." Philippians 3:10 ASV
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Michael is a Partner Service Representative at CBN, and has been
in active ministry for more than 30 years. He resides in Virginia
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