The meaning of the fellowship of Christ’s suffering can be seen in Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.
IT’S WORTH CONSIDERING
When Saul met Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), Christ asked him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Have you ever wondered about that? Saul had definitely been in the persecution business, but he had been persecuting Christ’s people, not Christ. Why then did Christ say that Paul had been persecuting Him?
There’s only one conclusion that we can draw, and it fits with what Saul would later teach (as Paul) regarding the Body of Christ. True followers of Christ comprise the Body of Christ, and Jesus is the Head of the Body. As with our human bodies, when we are injured, what the members feel, the head feels. The actual pain we encounter is never experienced at the site of the injury. It is felt in the brain located in the head. The brain transmits the pain to the wound so that the injured member can respond appropriately. It’s the same with the Body of Christ. What we feel, He feels, but as the head, His suffering is even more intense than ours.
In intercessory prayer, the believer shares Christ’s suffering regarding a particular need in His Body. In his book, Prayer: Key to Revival, Paul Cho (a convert from Buddhism and pastor of what was the world’s largest church in Seoul, South Korea) gives an example of what this looks like in real life. In Africa, a minister was preaching in a large crusade. During the night he woke up in tears. As he began to pray, he heard himself saying a strange name over and over again. The pain he suffered was intense as he continued his prayer. After several hours, the burden lifted and the intercession was complete. The next day the newspapers told a strange story. During the night a Christian village had been massacred. The name of the village was the same name that the minister had been weeping over the night before. Christ suffered the pain of His people; but He was able to find someone willing to share in His suffering and intercede in the spirit.
AS I SEE IT
In Philippians 3:10 Paul said, “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering.” Paul was willing to fellowship with Christ in His suffering as well as enjoy the resurrection power of Christ. I’ve heard and read several interpretations of what it means to share in the fellowship of Christ’s suffering, but none of them come close to the example given by Paul Cho. I wonder if it’s the whole Eastern vs. Western thing again. By this I mean that in the Far East, believers live with real pain and suffering on a daily basis. In the West, we tend to intellectualize the concept since we don’t like to deal with pain and suffering.
If Pastor Cho is correct, it gives us something to think about, and it shows just how far removed we are from the life of believers over there. Are we really willing to share in the fellowship of Christ’s suffering as conveyed in his account? If we are, what needs to be done in our own lives to get us to the place where God would trust us with such an important task?
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