In the British Army special forces (SAS) the soldiers are willing to face unspeakable risk, hardship and danger all for the cause, all to 'get the job done'. Yet it is not done in a vacuum - it is with incredibly high comradeship, knowing that on mission your fellow soldiers will be there for you whatever happens. They also know that the unit will equip them and back them with whatever they need.
Let us be honest: no one willingly wants to suffer ... and yet Paul, writing to the Colossians, says that he rejoices in what he is suffering for the believers!
Paul is preaching the gospel and gets beaten up - he rejoices.
Paul is telling about Jesus and gets mobbed and imprisoned - he says 'this goes with the job - being a servant of Christ'.
And Paul gives us a real head-ache when he writes: 'I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regards to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of the body'. What is he saying? Does he believe that it is the suffering of Jesus plus Paul's own suffering that brings salvation for the world?
No! He is spelling out that Jesus' death on the cross set a cosmic earthquake, making all spiritual powers and authorities shudder. Just as a physical earthquake has aftershocks, so from the cross there are aftershocks that continue to this day. The way of Christ is a way of suffering, overcoming the world not by violence or oppression, but by laying down human power and exhausting it with the love of Christ on the cross. When those aftershocks come (and they do keep coming), each one is the powers effectively wanting to nail Jesus to the cross over and over.
Yet the death of Jesus on the cross was sufficient for everyone!
Paul himself identifies fully with Christ - he is in Christ, and he lives with Christ in him. So Paul knows that when people attack him for proclaiming Christ, though they bash Paul's physical body they are in fact persecuting Jesus himself. Paul knows this intimately - because he too used to persecute Christians. When God intervened and Paul heard His voice, Jesus was saying: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me".
The way of Christ includes suffering - Jesus told us to expect it - it is yet more aftershocks, each one directed to Christ. Would you be willing to be in Christ and Christ in you such that those aftershocks physically go through your body, as one representing Christ here on earth?
Paul rejoices - for him it is simply evidence that he is indeed in Christ, and Christ in him! This is the deal he signed up to - in everything trusting that Jesus Himself would see him through and that his brothers and sisters in Christ (his 'unit') will always be in support as well. Paul knows the outcome - Christ is victorious in the end. He knows this because Christ is Risen! No matter how many aftershocks, how violent, how many believers are (tragically) killed or imprisoned ... none can change the victory outcome that is already cosmically set in history.
So Paul is on board, much like an SAS soldier - a servant to the cause. A soldier acts for Queen and country - Paul acts on the commission of Jesus the King of Kings! Paul serves the sake of Christ's body - the church - the ever increasing number of people who are saved and following Jesus. Paul will willingly draw enemy fire if required, so that the rest of the believers may be able to get on with their part in the gospel task relatively unhindered. The commission he has is to present the 'word of God' - this is presenting Jesus. The 'mystery revealed' that he writes of is Jesus and the salvation found only in Him, that is now open to all.
So we should ask ourselves:
Can you imagine being a servant of Jesus and His church - what could it mean for you?
Can you be a servant of Jesus in the King's commission - telling of Jesus, being a servant in the suffering way of Jesus? Maybe it all sounds too much - but remember we don't do this alone or in isolation. We do this as part of the most incredible brother/sisterhood - we do it with the church. One of the reasons we gather on a Sunday is because of our togetherness, our base camp to operate from.
And we operate in Christ, and with Christ in us. Remember the SAS have a fundamental bond of comradeship, and that the unit will be there for you, to equip you and do whatever it takes. This is what Christ offers. Paul writes of the glorious mystery: Christ in You, the hope of glory.