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.
In The Psychology of Suffering, mental skills coach Carrie Cheadle answers some common athlete questions about managing suffering and reaching full potential. Cheadle says that: “Suffering is a part of every endurance sport. Learning to deal with the discomfort, doubt and pain of race day can help you attain your true potential.” Some of the questions she addresses are: “How do I effectively control the voice in my head that’s telling me to slow down? Do I try to turn this off or control it?” “How often do you recommend we ‘train for pain’?” From experience, suffering in sports is a real thing, and almost without exception, at some point during an endurance race I ask myself: “why did I sign up for this?” Why do we choose to partake in the suffering?
A well-known Bible teacher from the past, Dr. Vernon McGee, taught on today’s passage from 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.” McGee said that as a Christian, there are areas of Christ’s sufferings that we can never identify with. We cannot identify with his unique sufferings as a man (the Son of Man), his unique sufferings as the Son of God, and certainly not his unique sufferings as the sacrifice on the cross. However, as Paul indicates in this verse which was part of his letter to the church in Colossae, there are sufferings of Christ in which we can partake.
Firstly, we can suffer for righteousness sake. 2 Timothy 3:12 says: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,”. If we choose to identify ourselves with Jesus, and allow him to reign in our lives, there will be times where what the world is asking us to do, conflicts with the righteousness that is written on our hearts because of whom lives in our hearts – Jesus Christ.
Secondly, we can suffer as we identify with Christ. 1 John 4:17 says: “in this world we are like Jesus” and John 15:18 says: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. Now some Christians behave in ways that make them a stench in the world as they judge unrighteously, or act with superiority rather than living humbly with acts of love. This is not at all what these scriptures are referring to. After all, Jesus was called a “friend of the tax collector and the sinner” and he was the “light of the world”. What these scriptures are talking about is that there will be times where, just by identifying with Christ and letting others know you are a Christian, you will be hated.
As a Christian Athlete we speak often about the accolades and the challenge of remaining a humble person in the midst of the praise. However, it is equally important to discuss the suffering that will follow if you choose to be a sold-out follower of Christ. Be encouraged by the words of godly men and women who have run the race before you. Allow the inner athlete to arise in you and joyfully accept that you have been chosen to participate in the sufferings of your Saviour.
“12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4: 12-13)